We tried something different from the usual Scottsdale on our Arizona get-away. Our trip to Tucson included a visit to the venerable Ventana Canyon Golf Club. the views, tranquility and conditioning at this semi-private club are stunning. Two hours southeast of the Phoenix airport on Interstate Highway 10, it’s only 30 mins off the freeway in northern Tucson at the base of the Santa Catalina mountains.
We checked into the incredible Lowes Ventana Canyon Golf Resort which allows access to the private courses. Jonathan Tisch, the CEO of Lowes, took a personal interest to build a resort which incorporated the fragile plant and animal habitat rather than spoiling that balance. None of the 3,500 saguaro cacti on the property were destroyed, and all riparian habitats are intact. Opening in 1984 it was the “first environmentally conceived resort in North America” according to Architectural Digest. Architect Tom Fazio masterfully integrated the golf courses into the ecosystem of the area.
Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club comprises two acclaimed 18-hole courses. Mountain Course is #16 in Arizona on Golf Magazines ranking, while the Canyon Course is #25. They incorporate the member clubhouse into the AAA four-diamond Lodge at Ventana Canyon providing guest access to these magnificent golf courses. A separate shop at Loews Resort makes it easier to manage tee times and shop for golf apparel. At present, the courses alternate daily between member play and resort play. The size of the well-manicured practice range is immense which allows them to maintain the excellent turf conditions on the range. We spent hours tuning up our game on the range and a well-groomed short game area.
The Canyon Course
We played the Canyon course gold tees (6299 yards) on a pleasant 65-degree day. Five sets of teeing grounds plus three combo yardages on the card provide eight course-length options. Conditioning is impeccable. The grainy greens have a meaningful impact on break and speed. Also, elevation changes and distances between holes make a cart a necessity. Despite firm and fast greens, it was difficult to get the ball to the hole going against the grain. Subtle breaks on these large greens combined with the impact of the grain caused three three-putts on the outward nine. Learning that enabled four one-putts on the back side. When Fazio added fairway bunkers, they were usually on one-side to protect a dogleg. The green-side bunkers can be steep. We found the variety of long holes and short holes refreshing as no two holes seemed similar.
We love courses that incorporate short Par4s for the risk/reward options. We found three short Par4s around 300 yards. A birdie to start the back nine at the 314-yard dogleg right Par4 Hole #10 was a good start. The front nine and the back nine of the Canyon course are separated by the Mountain course. Hence, the distance from the ninth green to the tenth tee is significant. We would never have found it without the printed directions available near the ninth green.
With four short/medium length Par3s, inevitably, there would be two long Par4’s. Regardless, after a well-struck drive and 4-hybrid, I rolled in a six-foot putt for a birdie on the 452-yard Par4 Hole #15. That was sweet. As shown above, a three-shot finishing Par5 has the green framed by the Loews Resort and the hillside. A gap wedge to three feet completed a three birdie back nine. If it weren’t for some serious tree trouble on seventeen that resulted in a triple bogey, this would have been an incredible back nine for this six index golfer. Dazzling mountain views are everywhere.
We will be back to play the Mountain course and stay in The Lodge. A mix of demanding Par4s and short, intriguing Par4s coupled with the visual splendor, tranquility, and perfect conditioning make this an easy decision.