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With two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses and more, Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Arizona is the complete package

David R. HollandBy David R. Holland,
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort - Canyon golf course - hole 1
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The first hole on the Canyon course at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort gives you a great view of Whaleback Rock. (Courtesy of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort)

TUCSON, Ariz. - There is no truth to the rumor that one of the first holes-in-one at the Mountain Course at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort's scenic 107-yard, par-3 No. 3 was a big block right that bounced off a saguaro, hit a mound, rolled between a bobcat's legs then ricocheted off a roadrunner before going in. At least there's no video evidence.

That's what former University of Arizona golfer Allan Long recalls about his playing days, 1984-89, in Tucson. In fact, the day Long aced the hole, Oct. 29, 1985, he was told in the clubhouse that it was the first hole-in-one.

Most agree this is the most photographed hole west of the Mississippi. It is short but has a panorama that spreads for 100 miles south across the Sonoran Desert into Mexico, and the Santa Catalina Mountains form a northern backdrop. The main defense of the hole is a tiny green with a cavernous front bunker, edges that drop to desert and a rear of rocky foothills.

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort: The complete package

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is about as complete a golf resort as there is. There are two Tom Fazio-designed gems - Loews Ventana Canyon Resort's Mountain course and Canyon course - and they both come with striking Sonoran Desert backdrops, saguaros, slick greens and bold contours. Wildlife thrives here with coveys of quail, red-tailed hawks, bobcats, deer, rabbits, coyotes and roadrunners at an elevation of 3,013 feet.

A testy desert-style, target course, the Mountain Course measures 6,898 yards at par 72 and has elevation changes and perched tees. Putting is a challenge because the greens are undulating and typically fast.

The Canyon Course layout - 6,836 yards, par 72 - rolls through the Esperro Canyon and uses Whaleback Rock as a feature just left of the 10th green – part of the 336-yard beauty that includes two massive bunkers in front and right of the putting surface.

The Mountain Course's finale gives you another elevated view high above the fairway that spans 589 yards at par 5, has a minefield of four fairway bunkers and a huge sandy expanse just right of the multi-tiered putting surface.

The Canyon Course culminates with a 503-yard par 5 that includes a desert wash just in front of the green, making it a partial island with pond and cascading waterfall in the rear. The course also has two fun, par-3 beauties, Nos. 13 and 16, where you must be precise or be stymied.

"The one thing that I always enjoyed about Ventana Canyon was that is tested your ball-striking each and every time out," said Long, who is now director of event services-Ice Hall at World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"However, every aspect of your game had to be sharp there. You had to drive the ball well and hit good approach shots to score well, but that was only part of the equation. Once you got to the putting surface, if you lost focus, you could start adding up the putts in a hurry."

Golf at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort: The verdict

These two layouts are typical Fazio – demanding. For me, the test is always getting the ball close when you missed the green on your second shot. That third shot is tough.

"The courses always keep your attention, because if you let your guard down, a high number was always around the corner," Long continued. "If you were spraying the ball around, it could make for a long day - especially if you were playing from the desert all day. But a good score could be had, and if you shot a good round out there, you know you earned it.

"It was a real treat to play a course of that caliber on a regular basis - it couldn't help but make you a better player.”

Golf instruction and practice facilities at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Dave Simm, director of instruction, heads Ventana Canyon's golf instruction program that includes packages for golf schooling. There's a half-day school, full-day and three-day package, plus playing lessons and private lessons. The practice facilities are huge and have every amenity you need to sharpen your golf game.

Where to dine and lodging at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

The Flying V Bar & Grill is my favorite place to dine (try the Mixed Grill and specialty guacamole made at your table) at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, but you will really feel at home in one of the 398 newly renovated guest rooms that includes 26 suites, each with private terrace, and some offering fireplaces and Jacuzzis.

There are two Presidential Suites with a two-tiered patio and impressive views of either the 80-foot waterfall or the Canyon Course. They also include a baby grand piano, outdoor Jacuzzi and indoor Jacuzzi-tub.

And as far as more recreation – there's a tennis center with eight lighted courts and the 7,000-square-foot, full-service Lakeside Spa offering a full range of treatments, recreation and fitness facilities and classes, not to mention two swimming pools with Jacuzzis, hiking trails, bicycle rentals, croquet court, ping pong and basketball.

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Loews Ventana Canyon Resort - Mountain golf course - hole 3Loews Ventana Canyon Resort - Canyon golf course - hole 18Loews Ventana Canyon Resort - Canyon golf course - hole 10

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • I like this place

    Jake wrote on: Sep 20, 2010

    Great story. Love the information on the first hole-in-one. I got one there, too.