Many folks who choose Tucson for a golf vacation do so simply because it's not Phoenix, with the latter's sprawl and crowds. That's a fair assessment, but others in the know pick the state's second-largest city for its own merits. Located 100 miles south of the Valley of the Sun, Tucson is nestled among four mountain ranges. Chief among its attractions for golfers are 320 days a year of sunshine and a cluster of recently renovated, affordable municipal courses.
The Lodge at Ventana Canyon
800-828-5701; thelodgeatventanacanyon.com; $249–$329/night. There's no better way to start a day in the desert than with breakfast at the Catalina Room in the Lodge at Ventana Canyon, with the Santa Catalinas in full glory through huge picture windows.
520-749-3636; arizonanationalgolfclub.com; $135–$165 through April 12, then prices begin to fall for the summer. At the University of Arizona home course, you'll relish the off-the-edge-of-the-world tee shots at the par-three fourth, the wild, semiblind par-five eleventh and the par-five eighteenth, where the views extend for seventy-five miles into Mexico.
520-791-4161; tucsoncitygolf.com/urich; $41/$51 cart. This 6,633-yard par-seventy Ken Kavanaugh course sports undulating fairways and greens and a watery par-three seventeenth hole that can make or break a round. The modest greens fee is a huge bargain—albeit with muni facilities—as Dell Urich and its sister course, Randolph North, are the pulse of Tucson golf.
Omni Tucson National, Catalina Course
520-297-2271; omnihotels.com; $180 through April 30, then prices fall. If you and your buddies need relief from one too many shots sprayed into the cacti, check out this parkland layout, home of the Chrysler Classic. The long, watery par-four eighteenth ranks as one of the toughest holes on Tour.
520-797-9900; vistosogolf.com; $169 through April 30, then $99. Designer Tom Weiskopf brought a touch of Tillinghast to the Sonoran Desert, with Winged Foot–style fingering in the bunkers and squared-off tee boxes.
El Charro Café (Mexican): 520-622-1922. One of the
region's most historic yet affordable Mexican spots. Don't
miss the carne seca chimichanga.
Flying V Bar & Grill (Baja steak house): 520-299-2020. Attractive flagstone, copper and leather decor adorns this longtime local favorite situated within the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.
Desert Diamond Casino: 520-294-7777, desertdiamondcasino.com. Live blackjack, slots and poker are among the
offerings at a pair of casinos operated by the Tohono
Pima Air & Space Museum: 520-618-4800, pimaair.org. It's definitely a drag when it rains on a golf trip, but here's a decent rainy-day diversion. Ride the Morphis Simulator, climb aboard JFK's Air Force One and have a look at the supersonic SR-71 Blackbird spy plane.