Hold on Tucson: Phoenix offers better values than The Old Pueblo

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

For years, golfers looking for good times and cheaper golf in the desert often skipped the higher-end Phoenix for Tucson.

Ventana Canyon
Ventana Canyon is one of high-end Tucson golf courses.
Ventana Canyon
If you go

Now, though, that appears to be changing, at least from the perspective of golf packagers.

"Basically, Tucson used to be really cheap compared to Phoenix," said Lilla Trapani of Arizona Golf Packages, a private label with TravelGolf.com. "Now, when I go to book packages in Tucson compared to Phoenix, I either find them being right around the same price or sometimes Phoenix is cheaper. Golf got pretty pricey over there (in Tucson)."

The Phoenix/Scottsdale area, of course, is the epicenter for golf in the West, with famous courses like Troon North, Grayhawk and the TPC.

Phoenix is bigger than Tucson, with more than 1.4 million people compared to more than half a million for Tucson, and has the huge, international Sky Harbor Airport, not to mention more cultural and recreational opportunities.

But, Tucson has achieved success by often marketing itself as the cheaper golf alternative to the south.

"Once I started selling Tucson competitively, I would have people who wanted to do Phoenix or Tucson packages," Trapani said. "But, I would notice there's no price difference here. People are like, 'yeah let's play Tucson,' and I'd say 'well, it's really not going to be cheaper. I don't see the benefit of going to Tucson if it's going to cost the same amount."

Of course, golf was already in pricey in Phoenix, or at least at many of the higher-end golf clubs.

It will set you back $245 to play at Grayhawk and the TPC charges about $217. If you want to play Troon North during its peak season, be prepared to spend more than $300.

"Tucson's highest course is Ventana Canyon, and it runs about $200, so it's about $100 difference (from Troon)," Trapani said. "The hotels are now about the same cost, whether it's Tucson or Phoenix, so if somebody wants a hotel it's pretty much around the same price. Tucson hotels aren't really cheaper like they used to be."

Christina Coovert of Hospitality Tee Times, another Arizona golf package company, said she has also noticed an increase of Tucson golf courses and hotels, though she claimed Phoenix still had slightly higher prices.

Trapani said hotels bore the burden of more aggressive marketing.

"The Tucson hotels are the ones that really have to reduce their rates and throw out these specials to entice people to come to their area," she said. "It's not like Scottsdale, where the name kind of brings them in. The El Conquistador at (the Tucson) Hilton has gone up quite a bit. Normally, we sell rooms for roughly around $200 in the peak season in Phoenix, the lower-cost rooms, and it's the same price in Tucson. The hotels are just as nice there, but the area is not as busy, so it makes me wonder why they are that expensive."

As far as the golf courses, Trapani noted green fees at Tucson's Omni Tucson National - $200 for outside guests.

Starr Pass is another course that has increased its green fees, acknowledgedDavid Lee of Starr Pass Golf Club.

"With our new resort opening up, it's gone up to be more competitive," he said. Trapani said the increases have hurt golf packagers for business reasons.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • golf prices for phoenix and tucson

    gilbert salaz wrote on: Aug 20, 2005

    it seems to me that in the interest of capturing the tourist dollars for golf fees the powers to be have forgotten and ingnored the residents of both cities and the local golfers that support the city golf courses when the city courses are empty because all the snowbirds are gone back to cooler areas. summer prices are reduced minimal at best. we are the ones that keep the city courses going and we get no respect. as residents we should be able to get affordable golf prices, thank you for letting me vent.