Tucson's best values are no longer a well-kept secret

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

TUCSON, Ariz. - Ever since Southern Arizona became the premier golf destination of the American southwest, the Valley of the Sun has enjoyed its status as head honcho. All the while, Tucson sat quietly two hours south, slowly conjuring up golf identity of its own.

It appears "Old Pueblo's" time has come. The past decade, Tucson has seen a steady incline in its golf offerings and consequently a significant boost in its audience. John Flores, assistant pro at Omni Tucson National sees nothing inferior about Tucson anymore.

"I don't think you miss out on anything [coming to Tucson]," says Flores. "We have more traditional courses. Tucson has variety, selection and availability."

Perhaps the No. 1 reason for Tucson's surge in the golf market is its significant value compared to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

"More people go to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area than Tucson," admits Flores. "That keeps our rounds down, which keeps our prices down."

If there's such a thing as a three-figure green fee that's still considered a bargain, Omni Tucson National and Arizona National fit the bill. Omni Tucson National is host to the PGA's Tucson Open and Arizona National is rated among the best in the nation in several categories. Arizona National and Omni National's peak season greens fees are $165 and $200 respectively - eye-popping at first blush. But a quick glance up the road at Scottsdale's premier courses puts things in perspective: Troon North hovers around $300, The Boulders in Carefree is $230 per round and Grayhawk in Scottsdale is $225.

Of course, there are a variety of ways to dance around the peak rate. Omni National Resort guests receive a buy one, get one free coupon. Arizona National is just $85 after 2 p.m. during the peak season. Arizona National also offers plenty of bang for the buck on and off the course, according to Head Professional and General Manager Eric Hoffman.

"Our course conditions are always the best," says Hoffman. "We are also widely recognized as being the best in service. In 1999, Golf Digest rated us in the Top five in the world."

Regulars to Tucson golf find considerable relief to the wallet by means of the Wildcat Trail Card, something available to visitors and residents alike. The card is good at Forty Niner Golf Club, San Ignacio Golf Club, Canoa Hills and Arizona National, all owned by the IRI Golf Group. For $59, card holders receive 25 percent off at these courses and a free round the day they purchase the card. The card is good for one full year.

San Ignacio and Canoa Hills are located 25 minutes south of town in Green Valley. Both have the same price structure and are very affordable; both feature similar styles. San Ignacio and Canoa Hills sport short, tight, classic designs. San Ignacio also boasts one of the best practice facilities in the state as well. Peak prices at both top out at $72.

While the common theme in Arizona is to jack the January-April rates through the roof, Del Lago Golf Club merely gives it a slight nudge. Del Lago is one of the cheapest courses in Tucson with peak rates under $50. It's also one of the area's best kept secrets, located minutes from Tucson in Vail and is just three years old. Also rare in southern Arizona is nine separate lakes in play, which Del Lago has throughout the round.

Phoenix courses are generally more expensive and more crowded than Tucson, yet not necessarily better. The secret is getting out.

"More people are starting to find out about Tucson," notes Flores. "It's a better place to go and more travel companies are beginning to do business with us. There's a lot more interest in the Tucson's golf scene."

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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