RVers love to play at Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club
Camping in Arizona is even more fun for golfers—thanks to Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club
The Spanish word Ventana means window. The "window" refers to a 15x25-foot opening in a rock that views the Catalina Mountain Range in Tucson, Arizona. The canyon is located in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, with Mount Lemmon rising to 2,791 metres (9,157 feet). The rugged foothills are a natural topography in which to build a golf course, with elevation changes, fairways at the bottom of canyons and natural desert vegetation in the rough.
Construction began in 1984 on the two courses, Mountain and Canyon. Tom Fazio and Andy Banfield were the course architects. Fazio is famous for designing two of the Pinehurst courses in North Carolina; while in Canada, he designed the National Golf Club near Toronto, which is the No. 1 rated golf course in the country. Fazio stresses two major factors in building a course are playability and challenge. The Mountain Course meets both criteria.
This is a fully serviced course with a driving range, practice area, putting greens, well-equipped pro shop and qualified PGA Instructors. With considerable distance between holes, it is a cart-only course. The carts do not have GPS, but a chart indicates the flag positions. The Golf House at the driving range has some refreshments while a beverage cart constantly circles the courses. All staff members were very friendly and helpful.
Mountain Course - Par 72, 6,898 yards, course rating 72.8, slope 143
The Mountain Course is the more difficult of the two courses from any tee. The course starts with a generous dogleg right fairway, making a good starting hole. Hole No. 3 is the Signature Hole, a par 3 at only 107 yards from the back or black tees. Regardless of what tees you select, play this hole from the back tees, as this will provide the easiest shot. The tee shot is over a cactus-filled canyon to a small green and there is little room for error. This is one of the most photographed holes anywhere in golf, a real challenge and a thrill to walk off the green with a par.
The rest of this desert course winds through canyons, arroyos and rolling hills with manicured fairways. Holes No. 4 and 5 feature the only water hazards. Fairway bunkers are long and strategically placed with grass bunkers around the greens. There are some houses along the fairways. If you miss the fairway, there is an abundance of natural vegetation to deal with, such as cacti, mesquite and palo verde trees as well as plenty of rock. If you hit into the desert, take a drop and a stroke. The front nine is a little more difficult than the back nine, but both are a challenge. What is appealing is that each hole feels isolated and the only hole you see is the one you are on.
The greens are large, tiered, undulating and 12.5 on the stimpmeter. Many of the greens are elevated and protected by sand and grass traps with high lips. Because of the mountain terrain, balls usually break towards the valley. It takes the first two holes to adjust to the speed of the greens, but the greens roll nicely.
Canyon Course – Par 72, 6,819 yards, course rating 71.7, slope 137
This course was not played, so the review will have to wait until next year.
Public and private golf days
Ventana is a semi-private course. Management has come up with a novel idea, alternating between public and private play days. On Mondays, the Mountain Course is public but on Tuesdays the course is private. For the rest of the week the courses alternate between public and private. In this manner, the general public has the opportunity to play both courses.
The Lodge at Ventana Canyon
A typical ad for The Lodge states “Golf, Tennis, Spa, Aquatics and Hiking.” The Lodge offers all these activities and more, being a prestigious place to stay with an AAA Four Diamond Award. There are 50 luxury suites with one or two bedrooms. Also included is a kitchenette, over-sized bathroom, dining area and private patio or balcony. Some units are pet friendly.
The Lodge also provides facilities for weddings, business meetings and banquets, with two restaurants.
The Racquet Club is members only, including 10 tennis courts, a pro shop and professional instruction. The Aquatic Club has two pools, with a 25-metre swimming pool, which provides swimming lessons, aerobics and competitive swimming. If more exercise is needed, there is a Fitness Club Center which includes a spa, massage, jacuzzi and sauna facilities. These facilities are a great draw for an active family.
My visit to Ventana Canyon was only for the day. There are Stay-and-Play packages offering three nights and two-round packages. This is a great opportunity to play both courses.
Ventana Canyon is a spectacular golf course with the mountains providing a constant scenic backdrop. In my opinion, Ventana Canyon compares favourably with Dove Mountain in Marana and the TPC in Scottsdale, both PGA Courses.
For more information, visit the Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club website.