The Golf Villas at Oro Valley: Variety is the Spice of Golf

By Kiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Tucson, Arizona - There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Tucson was considered the poor little cousin of places like Phoenix and Scottsdale, at least as far as golf was concerned.

Golf Villas at Oro Valley
The Golf Villas at Oro Valley are bring a touch of luxury to Tucson.
Golf Villas at Oro Valley
If you go

Those days are gone, however, thanks to recent advances in turf management and water reclamation, and a slew of new, world-class courses that have turned Tucson into the sort of golf and travel destination that makes a golfer's heart race and knees wobble. So many outstanding golf courses now exist in and around Tucson that one needs at least a week to play just some of the best; two weeks or more would be much preferable. Fortunately, Tucson is also home to the only condominium resort in Arizona that has received the coveted Four-Diamond rating from AAA, The Golf Villas at Oro Valley.

Opened only 18 months ago, The Golf Villas provide luxurious accommodations for golfers and non-golfers alike. The digs are so posh in fact, that they deserve more than just four Diamonds - an entire South African mine would be more appropriate.

The Golf Villas is really three resorts in one, catering to everyone from over-nighters to families, from snowbirds, to relocated business people. Approximately 1/3 of the units are unfurnished apartments perfect for work-related temporary relocations.

The second 1/3 of the units is furnished apartments for those who are in Tucson for an extended stay of one or more months (until the snow in Michigan or Ontario melts, for example). And the final 1/3 of the units is for nightly and weekly stays.

No matter which type of accommodation fits your needs, the resort offers the highest quality and quantity of amenities. The 1-3 bedroom units themselves are spacious (850-1,400 sq. ft.), and all have private patios with either golf course or mountain views (or both!).

Best of all, the units are decked out with more comfy furniture and state-of-the-art appliances than you can shake a bent stick at - king-sized beds, washers and dryers, walk-in closets, fully-loaded kitchens, whirlpool tubs, fragrant little soaps and tiny translucent shampoo bottles, and a veritable cornucopia of a welcome basket upon check-in. For a nominal fee, the fine folks of The Golf Villas will even stock your fridge according to your wishes before check-in. When you are not golfing, you can indulge in a dip in one of the two pools on the grounds, or punish yourself with a workout in the exercise room in the clubhouse. And if the on-site facilities are not sufficient to satisfy your lust for luxury, the price of your condo includes exclusive guest privileges at the neighboring El Conquistador Country Club.

The Country Club is truly the pinnacle of decadence, with its tennis and racquetball courts, Olympic-sized pool, fine dining, panoramic views of the Oro Valley and Santa Catalina Mountains, and 47 holes of traditional and desert golf.

Tucson and the surrounding area also offer some of the best historic and natural attractions that the Southwest has to offer. From the O.K. Corral at Tombstone to the markets of Nogales, Mexico, from the raucous atmosphere of casinos to the eerily pristine Kartchner Caverns, even the non-golfer can easily fill an extended vacation with memorable experiences.

The clubhouse at The Golf Villas features catalogues of attractions and local restaurant menus to help you plan your non-golfing time, and the top-notch staff are always willing to assist in making reservations.

The highlight of your stay at The Golf Villas, however, will most likely be the golf. The two fine courses of El Conquistador Country Club are a great warm-up for excursions into the surrounding area.

The helpful staff of The Golf Villas will set up all of your tee times for you up to 90 days in advance, and many courses offer enticing discounts to Golf Villa guests, as well.

The resort also offers a variety of unbelievable lodging and golf packages beginning at just $99/night in the off-season (May to September) that feature unlimited golf at several of the courses listed below.

It is not only the sheer number of courses around Tucson that makes golfers giddy, but also the variety of courses, from traditional resort layouts to stark, intimidating desert golf at its finest. Beginning with the traditional resort courses, The Omni Tucson National is one of the handful PGA Tour venues that we mere mortals can play.

The Links at Continental Ranch (520-744-7443) is unique in that it's a Scottish links-style layout in the middle of the desert. And the El Conquistador Country Club Sunrise Course, part of which you will likely see outside your villa window, is great golf within walking distance of your own air-conditioning and stocked fridge.

Somewhere in between traditional and desert layouts is the unforgettable Arthur Hills designed Heritage Highlands Golf and Country Club, with both grassy rough and cacti. Also in this mixed category are the El Conquistador Country Club's Conquistador Course, which is located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, and the Pusch Ridge Golf Course (520-544-1770) at the Sheraton El Conquistador Resort.

If playing a desert course is the main reason you've traveled into the desert, then Tucson is full of breathtaking desert holes. The first of the "big three" Tucson desert courses is The Golf Club at Vistoso (520-797-9900), ranked as the 3rd best public course in Arizona by Golf Digest. This is a Tom Weiskopf design that is both as prickly and at the same time awe-inspiring as its designer.

The next elite desert course is Raven Golf Club at Sabino Springs, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., which is ranked as the 4th best public course in the state. And the third of the big three, Starr Pass Golf Club, a Robert Cupp and Craig Stadler design, has hosted numerous local, state, and national tournaments, including the Northern Telecom Open.

When playing these desert courses - or any other, for that matter - remember to watch where you're walking, take a club with you into the rough, make a lot of noise, look around before your reach under a bush for your ball, and take the rattlesnake warning signs VERY seriously. (Who says golf isn't a dangerous sport?)

One would be remiss not to also include some of the golfing hotspots outside of Tucson, or should we say "cool spots," since temperatures year round south of Tucson are a few degrees lower due to higher elevations. 30 minutes south of Tucson on I-19, you'll find Green Valley, home to several fine courses (and the longest hole in the state, a 727-yard par 6 at Turquoise Valley Golf Course).

Another 15 minutes and you're in Tubac, where $35-$45 will buy you 18 holes and a cart at Tubac Golf Resort, site of some of the filming of the movie Tin Cup. These southern courses are indeed desert treasures, as they are generally less crowded and considerably less expensive than the more well-known Tucson courses.

Still not convinced that Tucson is a premier golf destination? Well consider that in the recently unveiled Golf Digest list of "The 201 Best Places to Play," Tucson boasts four courses, the same number as Scottsdale, twice as many as Carefree, and four times as many as Phoenix.

And none of these can claim the award-winning Golf Villas at Oro Valley as their own, either. Looks like that poor little cousin grew up, and now she's turning heads all over the nation. You might want to get to know her before her dance card fills up.

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

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