March 23, 2005 - February, the area behind the No. 2 hole of the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa was the site of the volunteers' tent for the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.
When the PGA returns in 2006, the same area will be a brand-new hole, as the Omni undergoes a major overhaul to upgrade its golf course from 27 to 36 holes.
The posh public course, which dates back to 1963, will undergo its first big-time reconstruction for the addition of a true desert-style terrain. Nine new holes will be added to the landscape and will be merged with nine existing holes to create the new look.
Helping to design the new course is PGA veteran Tom Lehman.
In the 40 years since it was first developed, the Omni has been divided into three courses of nine holes each: Orange, Gold and Green. All three sport the traditional parkland feel with grass and non-desert flora.
"There are no other facilities that have both," said Omni Director of Golf Pat Miller. When done, the Omni will be the only place to offer a traditional desert course and a PGA-style course. "We are fortunate to have the terrain to make it work."
When finished, the resulting two courses will have a starkly different appearance.
It will cost the Omni between $5 million and $6 million to renovate the course. Whether that will affect the price to play at the Omni or the member fees has yet to be determined, said Rick Sample, the head golf pro for the Omni.
"We feel we're increasing the value of our memberships," Sample said. "We'll have a lot more flexibility for hosting tournaments."
The Omni is already home to the area's largest golf tourney, the Chrysler Classic, which attracts a full field of PGA golfers and large crowds.
Construction began March 15 and is expected to continue through Nov. 1. Course officials expect that golfing on the rest of the course won't be interrupted.
To make way for the new desert-style look, about 50 trees were removed from the Orange course. The Gold course, the one used for the Tucson Open, will remain intact, while the nine holes of the Orange course will merge with the new course.
Once construction is complete, the Omni will abolish the Orange, Gold and Green names for new monikers that are more suited to the terrain.
Right now, the course's irrigation systems are being installed. The Omni uses ground water, but it will change to effluent water in the near future. Eventually, all golf courses will operate on effluent water.
During the summer, workers will work in three-hole phases. Although only nine holes are being added, essentially 20 holes are being changed. All holes will undergo a change in contours. Greens will be reshaped and bunkers will be redone.
The pond on Hole 18, which doesn't have an irrigation system and was only created for aesthetic purposes, will be removed. Another pond, on hole six, will be reshaped.
Holes seven and eight will be reversed, with eight being lengthened from 525 yards to 600. Hole five will be transformed into holes three and four, while hole 16 will be intersected by a wash.
Washes pose one of the biggest challenges for designers and construction teams. Some washes for storm water runoff purposes cannot be changed. Those will either be made to interact with their respective holes as bunkers or they will be used to hit next to or cross over.
Washes need to be reinforced in specific areas to protect the course from "washouts." Several manmade sandy-bottom washes will extend through natural channels while keeping with the style and aesthetics of the course.
The Omni is hopeful the new desert course will be ready to open Nov. 1, about the time when golfing in the Northwest begins its busy season. By the time the PGA pros return, they may not recognize the course.