Tucson's Finest Resort Courses

By Steven Behmer, Contributor

Tucson offers its visitors several excellent resort courses. Supreme course designers, including the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio, have created some of the finest courses to be found in Arizona. Always in terrific playing shape, the courses challenge you at every shot. These championship golf holes, along with the resorts' exemplary architecture and awe-inspiring natural surroundings, are a treat for visiting and resident golfers alike.

Ventana Canyon
Ventana Canyon is among Tucson's best resort golf courses.
Ventana Canyon
If you go

Ventana Canyon is home to two GOLF Magazine Silver Medal Resorts and 36 holes of Tom Fazio-designed golf. Resort prices start at $199 and range to $495 per night. Both 18-hole courses, Mountain and Canyon, are $160 with cart. The longer and more difficult is the 6926-yard Mountain Course, while the Canyon Course is slightly shorter and more forgiving. Players are given the choice of multiple tee boxes for drives to generous fairways. A bad drive, though, will be in the desert. Also, on the approach watch out for the greenside, stroke-eating pot bunkers. When you're on the green in regulation, the smooth rolling bent grass greens will allow you the opportunity to convert a coveted birdie.

Just a couple miles west on Sunrise Drive is the Westin La Paloma. Rooms run from $189 to $305 per night. The 27-hole course, a Jack Nicklaus design, costs $125 a round with cart on your choice of two of the three nine-hole layouts, Hill, Ridge and Canyon. Any combination plays with a slope of 155 and around 7000 yards. Different possible tee shots let you determine how much desert to carry, thereby shortening the holes if you choose. Luckily, the rough will funnel an errant drive back toward the fairway. This will help for your approach to greens typically isolated by desert.

Hilton Tucson El Conquistador and Country Club offers 45 holes located on two different sites. Nine holes at the $184-a-night resort plays for $25 with cart. Just one mile west is the country club, where either the Sunrise or Sunset course can be played for $70 with cart. The Sunrise course has more changes in elevation; Sunset is flatter and more open. Long drives make it easier to avoid the desert on your approach. Then both courses require accurate approach shots to greens treacherously guarded by desert. The greens are fast, undulating, and the firmest in Tucson, so expect your shot to bounce forward a couple of times.

Starr Pass Golf Resort, with rates ranging from $119 to $239 per night, offers 18-holes of pure desert golf. On this course, which hosted the PGA Tour's Tucson Open from 1987-1996, $76 covers a round with a cart. They almost always have specials, though, so check before you play. Rough is non-existent, meaning that either a hook or slice will scamper off the fairway into the desert. This puts a premium on accurate tee shots. There are several fun tee shots, though, requiring solid course management decisions, including which landing area to play towards. For example, in 1996, not too many pros made the right decision on #4 causing it to be ranked the hardest hole on tour.

The current host of the Tucson Open is the Omni Tucson National Golf Club and Conference Resort. It has a first-class spa, and a night's stay ranges from $144 to $264. At Tucson National, $75 covers a round and a cart on any pair of its 3 nine-hole courses. The green nine is the desert course. The holes are shorter, but that doesn't mean they are any easier. The gold and orange nines comprise the layout for the Tucson Open. They're well-rounded and playable by anyone. Short par 5's and open fairways make this an especially appealing course for long hitters. With grass bunkers and new sturdier greens, good chips can make up for inaccurate approach shots. The exception is the 465-yard par 4 #18 (#9 gold). One of the toughest holes on the Tour, you'll need four good shots here to make par.

Several of Tucson's most acclaimed courses are at these highly touted resorts. Each course offers something unique and shows the true beauty of Tucson. With championship golf and first-class resorts in beautiful settings, you should have a great time in the Old Pueblo.

Steven Behmer, Contributor

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