Tubac Golf Resort: A shady walk through southern Arizona
TUBAC, Ariz. -- Tubac Golf Resort has Hollywood's seal of approval. Bing Crosby founded it, and it was a site for the filming of the movie "Tin Cup" starring Kevin Costner.
Just don't expect Hollywood-type glitz at today's Tubac. This is where golfers escape Tucson or Phoenix to bask in the shade and quiet of the 27-hole golf course and southern Arizona resort.
Tubac isn't all that far from Tucson, but a visit here takes you to an entirely different place. The 40-minute drive brings you down I-19. The Sonoran desert brown dissolves as you get closer, replaced by tall trees and green grass.
The Tucson norm of modern, target-style golf courses in mountain foothills is replaced by a course set within the largest cottonwood forest grove in the United States, with tall mature oaks benefiting from the Santa Cruz River that runs through the property. Southern Arizona actually sits at a higher elevation by a few hundred feet over Tucson, and its collection of more low-key golf courses such as Tubac, Rio Rico Resort & Country Club and Canoa Ranch G.C. lure golfers south for a more remote, low-key golf holiday.
Formerly a 500-acre ranch owned by the Otero family and the site of many historic battles throughout the United States' early history, Crosby found this green sanctuary just south of Tubac and bought the land in 1959 with a group of investors.
The resort is much smaller, quieter and spacious compared to many of Tucson's larger hotels with big parking structures and 300-plus guest rooms. Overnight guests at Tubac enjoy large accommodations and open walkways in the village center. It's a popular wedding destination, thanks to the resort's rich and preserved history.
Tubac's golf course was originally designed by Robert "Red" Lawrence and opened in 1959, and recent renovations have helped spruce up this old retreat. In 2004, a new clubhouse was built, and the club now features a full-length driving range as well as numerous putting and chipping greens. In 2006, nine new holes were plotted out by architect Ken Kavenaugh, creating three nine-hole loops, the Rancho, Otero and Anza.
The Otero nine is Tubac's original front nine and features holes set through tall oaks and cottonwoods more than any other nine. The ninth hole has been shortened since the renovations and is now a short par 4 that requires a delicate wedge shot over water.
The Anza nine begins with five brand new holes, and it's easy to tell them apart from the original, largely because of the lack of cottonwoods and tall oaks. The nine culminates with another new hole, the island green ninth that is a bit like Sawgrass, only with a white picket fence and cows grazing on the other side of the pond.
Though Tubac Golf Resort isn't meant to be a championship-caliber course as much as a pleasant walk among the cottonwoods, the back set of tees still requires some brawn. The most requested of the three nines is the Rancho nine, thanks in part to the fourth hole, used in the filming of "Tin Cup". But it also climaxes with the "Tubac Triangle" on the Rancho nine, featuring a 464-yard par 4 and a 254-yard par 3. The triangle culminates with the monstrous 651-yard eighth hole, which even Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy wouldn't be tempted to reach in two shots.
After golf, be sure to stick around Tubac before heading back. You can stay for lunch or dinner in one of their Southwestern and Spanish-themed restaurants such as the Stables Ranch Grille or Dos Silos. The spa here is small but functional, with masseuses on staff who can especially cater to the aches of the golf swing.
April 1, 2011