A facelift

At del Lago



Facelifts are not limited to Hollywood actors/actresses.

Del Lago Golf Club has undergone a facelift to rival any Hollywood actor, or actress.

The course, which has five sets of tees ranging from 5,044 to 7,206 yards and plays to a par 36-36—72, has gone from looking like a rag-tag muni to rivaling any high-end country club in the Tucson area.

It takes two things to pull off a transformation of this magnitude: money and a staff that knows how to use the money. “Ownership has committed $300,000 into turning this around,’’ said Director of Golf Bailey Wherry.

Money has been spent on:  seal-coating and patching holes on the cart paths that wind through the course’s 85 acres; overseeding that cost roughly $50,000; the removal of overgrown vegetation on numerous holes (at the par 3 seventh, golfers can now actually see the green from the tee); vastly improved tees, fairways and greens; the repair of the course’s four water pumps; the purchase of additional equipment.

The ringleader, the guy helping to facilitate the improvements is recently-named Golf Superintendent Reuben Proper. Proper, 39, left Tucson city-owned Silverbell for del Lago in September 2017.

Proper brought some impressive credentials. He is a 2004 graduate of Penn State University’s Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program. Included among his stops prior to del Lago was an 8-year stint at the highly-aclaimed Wolf Creek Golf Club in Mesquite, Nev. “That was my first super gig,’’ said Proper, a native of Camp Verde, Az. “But, after a while, I was looking to get back to Arizona.”

The facelift of del Lago has not been easy.

“It’s been a real challenge,’’ said Proper, who heads a crew of 10. Perhaps the biggest challenge: getting the course’s nearly 60 bunkers back up to par.

“Bunkers are very high maintenance,’’ Proper said. “Take the bunker that runs alongside the first hole. It’s about 200 yards long. A lot of work goes into maintaining it. Not just raking it, but making sure drainage is what it should be.”

Proper and Wherry said the feedback to the facelift at del Lago has been positive.

“I get golfers telling me every day how much they appreciate what we have done, and what we will be doing.’’ Proper said. “It’s a good feeling.”

Prior to the facelift, the number of rounds played at del Lago was down. So was membership. So were outings. “Our daily play is back up to where it should be,’’ Wherry said. “We’re getting more members, more outings.

“I really believe we are going in the right direction.”

Del Lago is an outstanding sporty course playable by golfers of all levels. The facelift has been dramatic.

Burt Graeff is  a retired sportswriter from Cleveland who regularly plays golf at del Lago. He and his wife, June – along with their Jack Russell terrier, Skip – live in Vail.