Now member owned, The Lodge at Ventana Canyon remains a top Tucson stay-and-play

By David Weiss, Contributor

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Here's a refreshing little wrinkle in the hyper-corporate world of golf resorts: The Lodge at Ventana Canyon -- flanked by a pair of gorgeous championship Tom Fazio tracks -- is now owned and operated by the well heeled members of the golf club itself.

Lodge at Ventana Canyon - Canyons Course - 13th
The Canyon golf course at Ventana Canyon has a nice natural flow.
Lodge at Ventana Canyon - Canyons Course - 13thLodge at Ventana Canyon - roomsLodge at Ventana Canyon - suitesVentana Canyon G.C. - Mountain Course
If you go

With only 50 rooms, the destination feels homey and personal, not one of those joints where the friendly service seems robotic and perfunctory.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon is an all-suites property -- replete with kitchens, microwaves and dishwashers -- ranging in size from 800-1,500 square feet. The capacious views of the flagstick-studded desert terrain add up to a fine place to hang your cap for an extended weekend with some of your rowdiest friends. And Troon Golf manages the courses, so expect excellent conditioning and service year-round.

Blue skies abound in this part of the country, that is until the monsoon season hits -- as it did when our group reached the signature third hole (a short par 3 tucked into the Santa Catalina Mountains) on the Mountain Course, the highest point on the layout and a visual feast for shutter-bugging hackers. I should have brought an underwater camera -- such was the gale that swept us back to the clubhouse to play dollar canasta and drink hot toddies for the balance of the morning.

When we got back out the next day, the copious amounts of rainwater had drained nicely, revealing a saguaro-cactus forest set against mountain views with the odd handful of fairways and greens to break up the monotony of beautiful desert wildlife and vegetation.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon: Golf courses

Ventana Canyon's Mountain Course plays a little tougher than the Canyon Course, but forced carries are few and landing areas generous. Believe the locals when they advise to ignore your eyesight and trust that all putts will slope away from the mountains. Very subtle reading indeed -- no gimmies allowed.

The Canyon Course meanders through the Esperero Canyon and has a nice natural flow that does little damage to the aesthetics of the setting. In fact, I prefer my desert landscapes broken up by verdant stretches of turf -- those sand-colored peaks wouldn't look so great if they didn't frame some fabulous golf holes. The 18th is a tough way to finish -- an uphill par 5 with a dry wash in front of the green and water behind and to the right. Stay to the left and bring rosary beads for insurance.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon: Dining and activities

The Catalina Room is a fine spot to dine -- especially the Kobe meat loaf or chipotle baby back ribs -- and the Ventana Bar & Grill has a dynamite boneless fried buttermilk chicken with mashed potatoes and peppered gravy. Why dynamite? Because it will explode your poor arteries if you get too fond of it.

Not to worry. That's why The Lodge has tennis courts, a nicely appointed gym and endless Sonoran Desert hiking trails for those of you who like to burn calories after earning them.

Good news for the budget-minded -- The Lodge at Ventana Canyon is celebrating its 30th anniversary and offering some awfully reasonable packages till the end of the year. For details, visit

David WeissDavid Weiss, Contributor

David Weiss, a Detroit native, divides his time equally between the worlds of golf and music. In the former, he was west coast editor and frequent contributor to Golf & Travel magazine, and in the latter he is known as David Was, half of the writing/producing team that created the band Was (Not Was).

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment