Several of Tucson’s prestigious golf resorts notably Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa and the Lodge at Ventana Canyon Golf & Racket Club have undergone multimillion-dollar facelifts. Breathtaking Arizona National GC has recently been refreshed thanks to OB Sports who has also recently taken over operations at the 36-hole municipal Randolph Park. Then you have the award-winning new tribal tract, Sewailo GC on the property of the Four-Star Casino Del Sol Resort which has enticed tourists and golfers alike.
Tucson is a “smorgasbord” of golf that rivals the best of Phoenix-Scottsdale. There are 24 public access courses plus others in the surrounding area. Why Tucson? For many reasons… it’s not as sprawling and crowded as Phoenix; the higher elevation makes it cooler and more playable in warmer months; but most of all, Tucson offers a plethora of exceptional tracks that boast value and variety where you’ll get the most bang for your buck!
WHERE TO STAY & PLAY
Casino Del Sol Resort & Sewailo Golf Club
If you’re looking for a one-stop venue, Casino Del Sol, located in southwest Tucson, an enterprise of the Pascua Yaqui Nation, will embrace you with golf, gaming, fine dining and entertainment. The palatial, gold-domed Casino Del Sol, rising majestically from the mesquite and cactus-studded desert, embodies the warmth and richness of Mediterranean decor. Since debuting its new 215-room resort tower in 2011, it has earned the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star award for its resort (the only casino resort in Arizona with that distinction), Hiapsi Spa and PY Steakhouse; in addition, AAA Four-Diamond status for the overall resort. From sophisticated fine dining to Asian fusion…from south of the border to international creations, six restaurants will dazzle you with culinary delights. The painted sky arching above the Tuscan-themed gaming area evokes visions of Vegas’s Venetion. Palm trees border a sun-drenched oasis pool scene while the AVA amphitheater hosts world-class talent and concerts including Tim McGraw, Rihanna and Gwen Stefani. The addition of the new, vastly different Sewailo (Say-why-lo) Golf Club, has raised Casino Del Sol’s status to a full-serve resort.
Sewailo, managed by Troon Golf, is a 7,400-yard championship desert oasis-style course created by Notah Begay and Ty Butler. Sewailo, meaning “flower world” in the Pasqua Yaquis language, illustrates the heritage of their people, who according to history come from the ‘Flower World’. Considering the flatness of the desert terrain, much dirt had to be moved to create the elevation and depth to make this masterpiece a constant weighing of risks and rewards. Surrounded by the hued mountain peaks in the distance, the rolling, velvet fairways and exquisite greens intertwine between desert wash areas, 14 acres of sparkling lakes and two miles
of meandering streams that are complimented by a plethora of multi-hued wildflowers, lush grasses and ceremonial plants used by the Yaquis. Sewailo has three distinct feels: it opens with lakes and streams; then the desert re-emerges on hole #5, before re-entering the flower world and its aquatic perils on hole #9, preparing you for the most challenging stretch of holes that culminate at hole #18’s peninsula green with a cascading waterfall backdrop. The fairways are generous and green complexes immense, especially the first and eighth…a 23,900 sq. ft. double green, an homage to the Old Course at St. Andrews. It’s wise to consult the GPS system in the golf carts when playing, because there are plenty of blind hazards intersecting fairways.
There are plenty of memorable holes, but implanted in your memory will be the quirky routing of the 638-yard, double dogleg, water carry #10…the #1 handicap hole that has no escape route. The fairway snakes around a large lake, to a narrow stretch of fairway, intersected by water, meandering sharply left over a hidden cluster of bunkers when you finally spot the bunker guarded green. Signature holes…it’s a toss up…the picture postcard par-3 third, which is all carry over water to a peninsula green guarded by a nest of bunkers, framed by a stone wall in front with hotel and mountain in the backdrop; or the 18th which plays alongside water on the right to a peninsula green that crescendos at the cascading waterfall and floral display. Awesome course that you’ll want to play and replay!
Westin La Paloma Resort & Country Club
Alongside the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains is the rejuvenated Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, a 497-room hotel that shares acreage with the La Paloma CC, one of two Jack Nicklaus-designed layouts in southern Arizona. Managed by Troon Golf, the facility has undergone extensive enhancements including full renovations of the greens and bunkers. Once feared as the toughest resort course in the U.S. with the Ridge/Canyon nines, today’s 27-hole layout, including the Hill nine is slightly softer, but no less scenic with mountains towering at every turn. The rugged Canyon/Ravine nines, although aesthetically breathtaking from a scenic viewpoint, are visually intimidating and quite challenging to play, measuring 7,088 yards from the tips. The formidable landscape features plenty of forced carries over canyon ravines and drastic elevation changes. Wedged into the rugged foothills, the hilly terrain funnels down to meticulously contoured rolling fairways filled with dips, ripples and hollows that wind through rock formations providing an eye-popping, exhilarating ride. Elongated deep bunkers, and mounding frame severely sloped greens, which add to this challenging duo. Play is open to resort guests, country club members and golfers participating in the Tucson’s Golf Swing package.
The Gallery Golf Club
The Gallery GC, located in Marana, just north of Tucson, is a Troon managed private 36-hole facility that is now offering public tee times on a limited basis. The Gallery North Course, designed by John Fought and Tom Lehman ranked 25th on Golf Digest’s Best-in-State ranking in Arizona”, while the South, a Fought solo effort, hosted the WGC Accenture Match Play before it moved to Dove Mountain. Entirely different, the flatter South Course pays homage to Pinehurst #2, a “shot-makers” course with large, crowned, undulating greens that feature roll-offs on all sides. Compelling panoramic views of distant mountain ranges with up-close views of the saguaro-laden Tortolita Mountains comes into play on every hole.
The more memorable, exciting North Course is a roller coaster as the nines play up and down through two boxed canyons presenting dramatic elevation changes, astounding views, forced desert carries, and up-close encounters with the desert/mountain setting and its wildlife. We were told that the North Course is a “desert museum”… it’s not unusual to spot a havalina (wild boar) or bobcat during play. Welcoming, wide-open fairways encourage you to go for it off the tee, but strategically placed greens tucked behind massive, deep bunkers or water add to the challenge. Most memorable is the uniquely designed par-3 hole #15 that demands a tee shot over desert carry to a pint-sized green fronted by a stone wall, and guarded by several green-side bunkers, one which cradles a gigantic boulder. Golfers access the green via a wooden, suspension bridge, which adds signature status to the hole.
The Gallery is a work of art inside and out. The immense and impressively designed clubhouse exudes a relaxed elegance with six fireplaces and over 100 gallery-quality works of art and artifacts that contribute to its warm ambiance. Golf isn’t the only energizing pursuit at the Gallery. The Gallery Sports Club has a 12,000 sq. ft. fitness center, tennis, basketball, volleyball courts, bocce, croquet and pool along with biking/hiking trails.
** “Tucson Golf Swing” package offers three rounds of golf, one at the Gallery, La Paloma and Sewailo Golf Clubs for exclusive rates ranging from $139-$299 depending on time of year. www.TucsonGolfSwing.com
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa
Tubac Golf Resort, nicknamed the “Jewel of Southern Arizona”, is Tucson’s hidden gem. Tubac is a small artisan community made up of galleries, studios, boutiques and cantinas, much like Sedona in the 1960’s.
Located about an hour south of Tucson lies a golf resort unlike any other in Arizona. Surrounded by mountain ranges and situated on the historic 1789 Otero Ranch, this intimate, full-service resort, steps you back in time, wrapping you in spanish colonial old world decor. A replica 17-century mission-style chapel, retail village featuring a decor and design gallery, and lodging choices that include haciendas, posadas and casitas all featuring adobe-style fireplaces. Feast like Spanish Don within the adobe walls of the original Otero Ranch Stables, complete with stone floors, flickering hearth, massive beam ceiling, and authentic “saddle” bar stools.
The 27-hole course, is not a desert-style course, or parkland-style course…it is an old school, ranch-style course complete with grazing cows. Built by legendary “Desert Fox”, Red Lawrence with an assist from Ken Kavanaugh, the Otero, Anza and Rancho nines bordered by cottonwood trees, zig-zag though mesquite groves and hopscotch their way back and forth over the Santa Cruz River. Picture-perfect is the par-3, 140-yard Anza #9, with an island green and cows grazing in the background. Much of the movie, Tin Cup was filmed here, as you’ll recognize the infamous scene on the Rancho #4 where Kevin Costner is urged to go for the green over the lake, on his second shot.
Arizona National Golf Club
This thrill-packed Robert Trent Jones Jr. creation, scored at the top of our list of favorites. Merging beautifully with the surrounding Sonoran desert scenery including forests of giant saguaro cacti, natural springs and a roller-coaster ride to incredibly high elevations exposing awesome panoramic vistas. Managed by OB Sports it has recently been restored to its original 1990’s grandeur. The course takes you on a wild ride up, down and all around the mountain presenting you with a mixture of challenges along the way. Don’t be fooled by the wide-open fairways… some are flat, others dotted with mounds and swales, and some severely sloped with lots of
visual intimidation. Your skill will be constantly tested by abundant desert carries, tight landing areas, and blind shots where hazards lurk to snatch your ball. The course pinnacles at the 513 yard, par-5, 18th tee box demanding a “nosebleed” tee shot softened by the most spectacular scenery you’ll see on the course as you make your way down the sloped fairway, to a green that’s tucked to the right of a huge pond. Many desert courses can be brutal for ladies; but Arizona National is female-friendly, giving ladies distance advantage off the tee which eliminates many forced carries.
Randolph North & Dell Urich Courses
Another shot in the arm for Tucson Golf has been the arrival of OB Sports to assume the management helm at five Tucson city courses to revitalize golf there. Randolph Park, a 36-hole municipal facility, which encompasses the Randolph North and adjacent Dell Urich courses, have a long history of hosting PGA and LPGA tournaments. Randolph North opened in 1925 and is Tucson City Golf’s longest golf course, measuring 6,900 yards from the championship tees and just short of 6,000 from the front tees. This parkland-style layout features mature palms and pines that frame the lush fairways and beautiful views of surrounding mountains.
Dell Urich, its younger rival, opened in 1996 after redesign by Ken Kavanaugh. Measuring 6,600 yards from the back tees and 5,300 from the fronts, it’s more varied layout offers rolling, tree-lined fairways with dramatic elevation changes surrounded by mountain backdrops in the middle of the city. The 17th hole is a stunning signature par-3, that demands a 130 yard tee shot over water to a compact green fronted by a big stone wall.
Besides golf, Tucson abounds with a multitude of attractions, entertainment and shopping. Walk in the footsteps of western movie legends at Old Tucson Studios with live shows and thrilling stunts. Or visit Tombstone, one of the most notorious streets in the ‘old west’. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum features a one-of-a-kind zoo displaying creatures of the surrounding desert in their natural habitats. See history take flight at the Pima Air and Space Museum, one of the largest air/space museums in the world; or experience a “live” limestone cave at Kartchner Caverns.
For more information: www.visitTucson.orgWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?