Ventana Canyon Resort: Fazio Hits it Solid
Ventana has always been one of those courses that could get away with charging a little more than the rest of the competition in Tucson. If you aren't a member or don't stay at the hotel, chances are you have never stepped foot on the Canyon or Mountain Course.
Simply put, Ventana Canyon is one of the most lovely resorts in the Southwest, much less the state. The 36 holes offer enjoyable, challenging golf, that more folks in Tucson should be able to enjoy. Tom Fazio hit it just right when he designed these two tracks.
The 18th hole is the showpiece of the Canyon Course (see related story). There's a lot more to see on this layout that winds among the Mountain Course's holes. Actually, one of the biggest challenges is finding your way around the place. The courses often intersect, with signage to show which way to steer the cart. Don't take your eyes off the road here.
You just have to love the 158-yard 13th hole on the Canyon Course. An elevated tee box offers views of mountain ranges around Tucson and takes a little yardage off that first shot. Go down a club or two because the distance isn't what it appears. There are seven traps guarding the green with half a dozen of those on the left side.
Going right isn't terribly safe, either. Huge rocks line the right and just dare you to take a poke at them. The green is inviting enough, which takes some of the edge off what could be an incredibly intimidating tee shot.
Long hitters will feast on a couple of holes, notably the 290-yard fourth. Driving the green is by no means out of the question. Rolling onto the putting surface is no easy task. The hole plays uphill and favors only the power players. Even the wimpiest among us should have just a short pitch to the green after their tee shot. There's little wonder this hole carries the 17 handicap distinction.
The 303-yard 14th is another drivable hole. If you leave it short and left, your tee shot could end up in rough that fronts the green. Even those who drive within pitching range of the green must realize that the thin green isn't very inviting when it comes to holding approach shots.
Arguably the toughest hole on the layout (and the No. 1 handicap) is the 552-yard seventh. It usually takes three well-placed shots to reach this green. Wind occasionally blow into players' faces, cutting down on length. The green is almost a perfect circle and sits there to taunt players who end up with hilly lies on their approach shots.
There's something to be said about a hole that can exact such a huge price on those who play it. Beers at the resort's Flying V Bar and Grill should be purchased for the player who tames this monster.
Trouble also lurks on the 483-yard second hole. A large grass bunker fronts this two-tiered green, throwing a wrench into many players' plans. The fairway also thins out in the landing area, sometimes forcing an approach shot out of the rough. As if this hole weren't tough enough.
Ventana is also one of the better spots in town to view wildlife roaming a golf course. Rabbits, quail, roadrunners, and the occasional bobcat and deer share the acreage. Snakes aren't incredibly rare. A recent Sunday afternoon visit turned up one of the reptiles slithering across one of the neighborhoods that snakes (pardon the pun) through the course.
We also found many of the water coolers empty or reduced to providing just a trickle as we played the first nine. That's not a good sign when you're hacking it around in 100-degree weather. The refreshment truck must have been doing a bang-up business on this warm day.
Unlike most Southern Arizona resorts, which offer specials through September, Ventana cuts off its lower rates the day after Labor Day. The resort's Golf Getaway ($140 single, $205 double) includes a premium room, one round of golf for a single or two for a double, driving range use, bag storage, and breakfast up to $17.50 (including tax and gratuity). The club advises making tee times 30 days prior to arrival.
Lodge at Ventana Canyon
7000 North Resort Drive
Tucson, AZ 85750
May 8, 2001