Any must play courses in Tucson?

Are there any courses that I must check out in Tucson? Also will be attending the Waste Management. Any tips on where to best watch and/or should I follow groups?

I wouldn’t call anything in Tucson a “must play.”

Depending on your budget and/or familiary with desert golf, the better options are …

Ventana Canyon (Mountain). The Canyon course here is OK, but you really want to play the Mountain. Just a much more solid 18 holes and you get the postcard 3rd hole which is a tiny 100-yard par 3 that is essentially an island in the desert mountains.

Dove Mountain. This is the course where they had the match play the last few years before they went to Austin. It’s a beast for non-pros, but beautiful and kinda fun if you don’t get too worried about your score. Nicklaus came in and softened the greens after the first year of the tournament and they are still absolutely wild. Not many flat lies in the fairways, either. It’s a 27-hole facility and while it’s most fun to play Saguaro-Tortolita, since that was the tournament rota and you may recognize some holes, the Wild Burro nine is also pretty good, goes up more on the mountain than the other nines.

The university’s home course (not near the school) is the newest course in town and is a fun place to play, if you don’t mind manufactured lakes and waterfalls in the desert. There’s an interesting mix of holes you can go after and holes that make you work, and sometimes which are which vary depending on the wind or just how you’re hitting it–lots of “how much carry do you want to take on?” out there. Not really a desert course.

My first desert golf course was Starr Pass but I don’t love it now–they added a new nine and changed the other holes and it’s not what it was. Still a pretty spot, but it’s not a course I can heartily recommend anymore.

On the budget side, the Randolph munis are both good solid golf courses. Randolph North is more of the ‘championship’ course while Dell Urich is a little shorter and has a bit more of a modern feel (I think at various times the LPGA played at both courses).

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Gallery, end of list.

The only thing you need to do in Tucson is get out of Tucson.


Harder than it seems, the traffic is a nightmare

I wasn’t impressed with either course at the Gallery. I mean, they’re fine, but not must plays. And I’d rather play Dove Mountain, which is public.

If you have the connections to get on a private in that neighborhood, get out to Stone Canyon.

I could fill you in on some sweet courses at my parents’ retirement community just north of the city. They also have a sweet pickleball setup.

I will be in Tucson end of June and I want to play some golf on the weekend. Looks like Ventana Canyon and Dove Mountain are the top choices. As I will stay at the Westin La Paloma I will have access to La Paloma Country Club. Has anyone played the course and can recommend it?

Also, is it possible to play 36 holes a day end of June or will I risk a heat stroke?

Ventana is good. Played there a couple of years ago.

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La Paloma is worth playing if you’re staying at the resort.

I haven’t played there in almost 20 years, so I’m not as familiar with it as the other Tucson courses. It’s close to the level of Ventana and Dove Mountain, but I’d say it’s a half step below them just because it’s a little too aggressively difficult. Just classic 80s Nicklaus tough golf. Tiered greens, deep bunkers, long, tight, really hard. But it’s pretty. They have 3 nines and I don’t recall any of them being substantially different from the other. The resort area there is all built on a long slope so there’s a good bit of up and down.

Dove Mountain is also Nicklaus but it was built 25 years later and even though it can be very hard in places (some of the greens are wild and there are a lot of uneven lies) overall it’s much wider and more playable.

Ventana has that Fazio resort ‘look hard, play nice’ thing going. All three are nice desert courses, though.

As to playing 36, sure, you can. It depends on how used you are to heat, and how hot it is. End of June can be around 100 or can be 115. I’ve played 36 hole days when it’s 117, but I’ve lived out here a long time and I’m very used to playing in the heat. If you’re not, you want to be cautious.

The thing is, if you play early when it’s not too hot, the first round is usually not too bad. Then take a little break, eat, get good and hydrated. Your later round will often be on an empty course and this is kind of the key. Playing a second 18 when it’s really hot is awful if it’s 4 and a half hours and you’re waiting. But if it’s a typical desert afternoon and the course is pretty dead then you should be able to play quick with a cart and it’ll probably only be 2 hours or so and you drink a lot and you can be OK. But it helps to ask the shop how many people are on the course, because you can get heat sick real quick and just sitting in a golf cart on a hot day is a good way to have that happen.

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Thanks a lot for your insights, Matthew. That helps a lot. :+1:

Timely bump. I’m going to be in Oro Valley in a couple of weeks, and I’m looking for recommendations out on that end of town. Dove Mountain is the only course that I’m coming up with, but I don’t really want to pony up almost $200 to play it. I don’t have the connections to get on Stone Canyon. Any recommendations?

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Try checking GolfNow a week out from when you want to play. You can get a HotDeal for Dove Mountain for under $100, or even just a regular time (where you don’t have to pre-pay) for like $140.

The other stuff on the north side is definitely sketchier.

I’ve heard decent things about one of the Robson (retirement community) courses called The Preserve, but I don’t know how much public play they allow in high season (and I’ve never played the course myself).

Tucson National isn’t far, but it may not be much cheaper than Dove Mountain. They have two courses. Catalina is the older course, where they used to play the Tucson Open (and just played the Champions Tour event last week). It’s a parkland course, pretty forgettable, except for the tough 18th. The newer course is the Sonoran, which starts and ends with some mediocre holes between homes, but has a nice stretch of desert-style holes in the middle of the round. I’d only play either of those if you had a good deal.

Avoid The Highlands like the plague.

The Gallery used to offer some limited public play, which alternated between the two courses on a daily basis, but I don’t know if that’s still available. If it is, those courses are worthwhile. The South hosted the WGC for a few years and the North has some fun mountainous holes.

Otherwise … if you have a car from Oro Valley, you’ve at least got reasonable access to the westside, so courses like Starr Pass and Sewailo, even though they are further south, are options, as well.


Thanks! I’ll look into these.

Already been mentioned, but the best track is Ventana Canyon. I have family that belonged out there so have played it 20-30 times. They have two 18 hole courses (Mountain and Canyon) in which they alternate between public play and private play. Mountain is the better course, however Canyon is solid as well. I think you can book on GolfNow for +/- $100 if you have some time flexibility. Courses are always in great shape and is best value in my opinion.


Headed to Tucson for vacation this Wednesday. Staying at the Omni Resort. Have a tee time booked at the resort course (Tucson National). Reading that they just finished about a 3 week period of overseeding, just opened back up today. Worst part is it will be cart path only. I’ll be happy to be out playing though!

Never been to Tucson. Any must-do’s? Meals are pretty much already planned. Would love to go on a long hike.

I wonder if they’d let you walk…I’ve gotten in to too many arguments to count with shop guys / rangers about trying to walk during CPO…they just don’t understand how much more efficient it is

On the Tucson note – get a Sonoran Dog (El Guero Canelo), even if meals are already planned out. If you can make it out to Gates Pass for a sunset, do it.

I see @matthew823 replying now, so I’ll stop here

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If you are playing the Catalina Course, ask if they will allow you to walk instead of talking carts that are cart path only. Catalina, which is the course that used to host the PGA Tour event and (currently?) hosts a senior event, is very walkable.

The Sonoran course would not be walkable, though it has some nice holes, especially the newer ones away from the homes (IIRC 7-14 maybe?).

If they just reopened you can expect greens to be pretty shaggy as well.

Tucson is very beautiful. Lots of great hikes to be had all around as the city is essentially surrounded by beautiful mountains. I really like Sabino Canyon but also can’t go wrong with anything in either half of the Saguaro National Park (it’s divided into East and West halves, on either side of the city - the west half of the park would be much closer to where you’re staying).

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Hell yes


Very helpful, thanks! We are definitely going to look into walking since we are playing the Catalina.

Since most/all courses will be in the same process, it’s probably just easiest to suck it up and play the resort courses. First world problems I guess.

Thanks for the other suggestions. I’ll have to convince someone in our party to go out for a late night Sonoran Dog, they look incredible!