By Gary Gomez: Bargain Tucson Editor
There are so many things I love about Tucson. Summer is even one of them. One of my favorite parts of summer in Tucson is getting to play golf on the fabulous resort courses for a pittance of their normal rates.
Since Sewailo Golf Club opened I have been waiting for the right time (price) to play it. It opened at just under $200 per round? It quickly settled into $149 for the balance of “season”. Managed by Troon Golf explains a lot about the price. But I have to say it is among the State’s best. Golfweek rated it in the top 25 in Arizona. Also the normal Troon experience is somewhat arrogant but the service here was very friendly and welcoming. A friendly staff member even carried our clubs to our carts as we walked toward the club house.
If you didn’t know, the Casino del Sol is owned by the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe. Sewailo means “flower world” in their native language. They hired famed Native American golfer & commentator (NBC and Golf channels) Notah Begay to design the course. He did a great job blending this course into the Sonoran Desert in consideration of the Yaqui goal of blending native landscape with lakes and streams.
Whatever your ability this beautiful course has a tee box and distance to get your attention. 7,400 yards from the championship tees (Bear Down tees) is out of my league. Although the description says 5 tee boxes I counted 7 on the score card with two combo tees (blend of two: Ruby/Jade and Opal/Copper).
The course was well manicured and very well maintained. I would say it’s in excellent condition. The only disappointment for the whole day was the parking lot was small and the clubhouse was not what I expected of a resort course, especially a resort casino course. I expected the clubhouse to reflect, give us a hint, of the successful execution of the tribes goals for this remarkable course.
One of Arizona Top 25 Golf Courses For Only $32
So what was our green fee? Try $32 for a sunset rate! We teed off around 3:00 pm with plenty of time to finish 18. I picked the Ruby/Jade tees that came in at 6,500 yds and a rating of 70.0/ slope of 126. And my sweetheart chose the ladies Copper tees at 5,200 yds. with a rating of 69.6/slope of 123.
Of course I have to give her strokes. However, that’s not working very well for me as she beat me and has every time we play. On the back 9 she even beat me in gross score? I commented on this to a marshal and he said the guys usually do better on the front 9 and struggle on the back with the opposite true of the ladies. The back 9 on the tees I played is 200 yds. longer! I’ve got to re-negotiate strokes.
This course reminds me of Nicklaus (Jack) designed courses. Tough but not tricked up. However, Sewailo has some misdirection/deception off the tee boxes and approaches to the greens. It can look like you should hit a certain direction but in reality that way can get you in trouble.
Also, the distances can be deceiving. It looks like an easy shot that falls far short or sails over. I need to get a GPS. The views and vistas are wonderful although not as dramatic as say Arizona National. But I really like this course and look forward to playing here again. My sweetheart was impressed with the bathrooms; stylish and super clean. This is important for women for sure. The cart that came around provided more than the typical choices of beer and snacks. Free bottled water was also available on the course!
Next time I may choose the somewhat shorter Jade tees (200 yds. shorter). But more than the total length, it’s the longer holes that doomed my score on that day. When championship tees are over 6000 yds. and even the Jade comes in at 581 for #10 par 5, you have to pick tees that will keep you coming back. So grab a twilight rate and really have a wonderful experience. This super rate is running till Sept. 21st when they close the course for over-seeding (3 weeks).
Sewailo Golf Club
5655 W Valencia Rd.; Tucson, Arizona
Check out the Quarry Pines on the far west side near The Cortaro Exit I-10. The Front is nothing to write home about, a warm up for the back. They recently built homes surrounding the front, but the back remains a treat. Go in summer, after 2:30, I believe you can get a real deal. Bring water and a cool, soaking wet towel. Drive a cart. I have played 18 holes in less than 3 hours when it was 105. Stay cool, Good fun! -kr
I played golf with Gary & Gini for years. They are serious golfers. NO GIMMES. NO MULLIGANS. (Damn. Elevated my handicap from a 12 to a 22.)
They have a good eye for two things golf. (1) Quality play. (2) Cheap green fees. They are now retired CPA’s but can still pinch a penny. They have recommended to me, and now you, Turquoise Valley Golf Course. I trust their judgment in such matters.
I looked on the map. It was easy to figure out why Turquoise Valley is inexpensive. It’s 12 miles south of Bisbee and 12 steps to the Mexican border. Do have the good sense to stay out of Mexico. There’s a nasty little war going on across the border. Read More
If you’re an avid golfer, you know that some of the best golf courses on the planet are in Arizona: Troon North and Greyhawk to mention perhaps the finest desert golf anywhere. You probably also know that Golf Digest and Golf Magazine rank several courses in the Phoenix area highest, such as Gold Canyon. I agree. I’ve played them. But these days I never go to Phoenix if I don’t absolutely have to. Congested, smoggy, hostile … more like L.A without the beaches.
There are several exceptional courses in the Tucson area that are highly rated. Here are my recommendations. But first, consider my criteria for THE BEST GOLF EXPERIENCES IN BAJA ARIZONA.
- I detest slow-play more than anything. I’ll play in 107 degree summer heat and have the golf course to myself, just to avoid slow-play. Generally, the cheaper the green fees, the slower the play. Thus, municipal courses are the worst: Silverbell, Del Urich, Randolph, etc. Resort courses are better. Private courses, such as Skyline Country Club are best. With luck, you’ll be staying at one of our fine resorts or have a reciprocal membership. Read More
- I love a challenge. I want the course to put up a fight. I appreciate a golf course designer who makes me think, who deliberately adds subtle complexities to the fairways and greens. I want to be rewarded for distance, accuracy, and smart decisions; and I expect to be penalized for a wayward slice or ill-considered putt. Part of the fun of golf is trying to out-smart the course. I take it personally.
- Natural beauty matters. I love desert golf because I love the desert. When I’m on the course, I want to occasionally stop, look around, and take in the beauty of my surroundings. I particularly don’t care for courses with houses or condos so close to the fairways that I have to be concerned about breaking someone’s window or worse, hitting them with an errant ball as they garden in their back yard. As with most good things in life, beauty comes at a price. Thus, the most scenic courses are the most expensive.
- Well-maintained fairways & bunkers; well-groomed greens. No poana. Also, I don’t believe a proper bunker should be comprised of gravel. I do prefer fine white sand. I do appreciate a course with yardage marked on the sprinkler heads. I’m not a pro. I don’t have a caddy who walked the entire course taking detailed yardage notes just before my round.
- I appreciate a personable, knowledgeable pro; a discerning pro-shop; and an exceptionally fine 19th hole with an expansive view of the beautiful course that just picked my pocket; really good food (not just ordinary bar stuff), and pleasant, efficient service. After that, it’s all about good golfing buddies. I’ve had some good ones – Gary & Gini; Cookie & David; Dan & Wanda; Rob & Sue. My favorite golfing buddy is Ms. Karen. I can out-drive her (usually), but she’s deadly around the greens. Our Women’s Club Champion in her younger days.
BEST BAJA ARIZONA GOLF
(In No Particular Order )
Green Fees Vary Hugely By Season & Time of Day. Resorts Offer Package Deals
- Weston La Paloma Resort & Country Club. Catalina Foothills. Three 9-hole courses. The Canyon Course is the most challenging. Members and Resort Guests Only. Green Fees: If you have to ask, you can’t afford them.
- Arizona National Golf Club. Tucson-East Side. 18 holes – 6800 yards – par 71. Green Fees: $80-$110.
- The Golf Club at Vistosa. North of Downtown Tucson in Oro Valley (30 minutes). 18 holes – 7000 yards – par 72. Green Fees: $40-$80 (a best value).
- Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain. North of Downtown Tucson 40 minutes. Three 9-hole courses. Home to the Annual Accenture Match Play. 2012 Schedule: February 20-26. Green Fees: $50-$180. Extraordinary setting. Just what you’d expect from a Ritz.
- Starr Pass Tucson Golf Club. J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa. Just 15 minutes west of Downtown Tucson but from the course you’d never know you were that close to the City. Three 9-hole courses. Green Fees: $50-$135. Wonderful setting.
- Loews Vantana Canyon Resort. Catalina Foothills. Canyon Course: 18-holes – 6800 yards – par 72. Mountain Course; 18-holes – 6900 yards – par 72. Green Fees: $50-$120. Stop occasionally and enjoy the desert surroundings. This respite will calm your mind and help your game.
- The Gallery, Dove Mountain. Private, but on occasion, the pro at the Ritz can get you on. A seriously fine golf course to rival Troon North and Greyhawk, but not Gold Canyon. Not sure any course approaches Gold Canyon, not even the best courses in Ireland and Scotland.
Other Worthy Golf Courses. Good But Not Extraordinary.
- Del Lago Golf Club. Public About 30 minutes east of Downtown Tucson on I-10. 18-holes – 7200 yards – par 72. Green Fees: $30-$90. I’ve had good and bad experiences at Del Logo. Once, slow play was so bad we asked for our money back. Got a rain check. Once, it was snowing so hard we had to quit. Got a rain check. Other times … delightful.
- Canoa Ranch Golf Course. Wyndham Canoa Ranch Resort. Green Valley. Public. Green Valley, 30 minutes south of Downtown Tucson. Lots of condos paralleling the fairways, but mostly not an issue. 18-holes – 6700 yards – par 71. Green Fees: $30-$45. A pleasant course. Not far from Tubac.
- Tubac Country Club. Tubac Golf Resort & Spa. Public. Gini says it varies in difficulty and the three 9-hole courses are unique. Cookie says some of the greens are not always in good shape. It wasn’t on Gary’s or Dan’s top 3 list. I’ve played here and enjoyed the round. Some challenging holes. Mostly flat. Lunch in the resort restaurant was mediocre and overpriced. I understand this restaurant is under new management (Spring 2011) so it may be better now.
- Torres Blancas. Wyndham Canoa Ranch Resort. Green Valley. Public. 7,000 yards. Designed by Lee Travino, my favorite pro. Played with Lee in a couple of Pro-Am charity events years ago. This course is one of Gini’s top 3 picks. She says, “Looks easy – isn’t.” I have not played it, so have no comment.
- Turquoise Valley Golf Course. Naco. 20 minutes south of Bisbee. Arizona’s only par 6. Gary, my CPA, says it’s a good course, very reasonably priced. He should know on both accounts. Wasn’t on anyone else’s top 3 list, but I’m guessing Gary favors Turquoise Valley because of the inexpensive green fees.
Starr Pass Golf Club is 27 holes of nearly perfect desert golf. Pricey in-season, but worth it. Designed by some guy named Palmer.
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3645 West Starr Pass Boulevard, Tucson