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FEATURE STORY Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa

Get away from it all
at the great golfing resorts of Tucson

By Rebecca Larsen,
Associate Editor

TUCSON, Ariz. (March 3, 2004) -- You’ve finished your 18 holes, and you’re sitting on the patio of your room where you’re sipping a 19th hole beverage. While you relax, you can see all the slicing and hooking going on along the fairway in front of you. Soon you’re off to the spa for a massage and a trip to the sauna. You’re at a getaway-from-it-all golfing paradise in the middle of Tucson and you never want to leave.

It’s no surprise that Tucson, with its superlative mountain and desert environment and strong experience in serving travelers, has become home to many wonderful resorts.

Here are three favorites that offer great golf played out against a backdrop of mountain scenery. All three have more than 18 holes available to their guests and are noted for their impeccable and friendly service.

But golf is only part of the story. If you are traveling with others who don’t golf, be assured that they’re going to find so much to do right outside the door of your room at these resorts that they’ll want to stay forever, too.

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort

Loews Ventana CanyonVentana Canyon is an unspoiled wild setting at the edge of the Catalina foothills. And there you’ll find Loews Ventana Canyon, with a jogging course, nature and biking trails, two pools, lighted tennis courts and a full-service spa.

There are 398 rooms at this resort – all with views. The 31 suites have furnished patios for outdoor relaxation. You’ll also enjoy great cuisine at five restaurants, including the Ventana Room which the Zagat Restaurant Survey calls No. 1 in the state for food and service and No. 2 for décor.

A host of Hollywood types have enjoyed the tranquil ambiance including: Harry Belafonte, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Clint Eastwood, Jerry Seinfeld, Lynn Redgrave, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Cruise and a batch more. And there’s a guest list of politicians and sports figures, too, that’s as long as the shaft on your nine iron.

Ventana Canyon Golf CourseYou can golf on two great courses here, the Canyon and Mountain, both designed by Tom Fazio and set in an area that has breathtaking views of rugged rocks and cactus and the Tucson skyline.

The Canyon, playing at 6,800 yards has a more classic wall-to-wall grass setting but still requires a fair amount of target golf. The Mountain, playing at 6,900 yards, is considered the more dramatic of the two courses because of its changes in elevation. It is especially famous for its par-3 No. 3 hole, nicknamed “Hole in the Wall” by Fazio. It requires a 107-yard shot through a small canyon and reportedly cost $400,000 to build. Except for a couple of pretty special spots at Pebble Beach, this could be the most photographed hole west of the Mississippi.

Other holes are memorable as well. No. 10 on the Canyon, a par-4, shares a green with No. 15 on the Mountain, another par-4. And from that green you can see the famous Whaleback Rock.

Ventana Canyon Golf CourseThese courses belong to the private Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club, but guests at this resort and at another nearby resort, the Lodge at Ventana Canyon, are allowed to have tee times at the courses.

Loews is located at 7000 N. Resort Drive; phone, (520) 299-2020; Web site, www.loewshotels.com/hotels/
tucson/default.asp. For tee times, call (520) 577-4061.

The Lodge at Ventana Canyon is located at 6200 N. Clubhouse Lane; phone (520) 577-1400; Web site, www.wyndham.com/hotels/TUSTL/main.wnt.

Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa

The Omni is the smallest of our three resorts and has an intimate feel because of its size – about 170 suites.

It does offer a European-style spa with the whole gamut of physical pampering -- massages, body wraps, facials, loofah scrubs, sauna, steam room and a beauty salon. You can use two outdoor heated pools and a fitness center or play tennis, volleyball or basketball. And there are three restaurants, including the popular Legends sports pub, featuring billiards, shuffleboard and darts and famous for its beer collection.

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Omni Tucson is located on Tucson National Golf Club, where there are 27 holes of traditional-style golf, 18 of which serve as the site of the Tucson Open, now known as the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. Tucson National boasts beautifully manicured fairways and greens, plus mature trees that line most fairways. These features are combined with more lakes than most other courses in the Southwest have.

The three nine-hole courses were built in stages. The first 18 was laid out in the 1960s by architect Robert Bruce Harris. Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin came back later to redesign the original 18, called the Orange and Gold, and to add nine more holes known as the Green. Of the three nines, the Orange and the Gold (almost 7,200 yards in total) are the most challenging, and they are where the Chrysler Classic is played. No. 9 on the Gold becomes No. 18 during the tournament and is considered one of the toughest on the PGA Tour each year.

Lots of history has taken place on these fairways. Johnny Miller won three opens in a row here – 1974-76. Phil Mickelson won two opens on this course and another at Starr Pass as a 19-year-old amateur.

The Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa is located at 2727 W. Club Drive; phone (520) 297-2271; Web site, www.tucsonnational.com.

Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort

Hilton El Conquistador Golf & Tennis ResortHilton recently acquired this sprawling resort and has invested heavily in spiffing up the property, including creating a new $2.5 million fantasy swimming pool area. The previous owners had also remodeled the 428 guest rooms and suites. The resort takes great pride in the breathtaking views available from every room.

There are two 18-hole golf courses, the Conquistador and Cañada courses, and one nine-hole course, Pusch Ridge, making the Hilton the largest golf resort in Southern Arizona. You’ll want to play all three before you leave.

The Conquistador and Cañada are actually located a few miles away from the resort hotel, but can be reached in a few minutes by car or hotel shuttle.

Greg Nash, a Phoenix designer, was the lead architect for El Conquistador’s original 18-hole layout and also designed Pusch Ridge. Nash came back to Tucson to do the renovations as well. Nash is also known for his design of the Anthem Golf & Country Club at the giant Del Webb development north of Phoenix and Club Terravita in North Scottsdale.

"Cañada" is the Spanish word for canyon and so this par-72 course (6,713 yards from the back tees and 5,093 yards from the forward tees) was true to its name.

Most of the holes on the front nine were laid out in little canyons that rolled through patches of desert.

El Conquistador course: This par-71 course is a bit longer, wider and flatter than Cañada (6,801 yards from the back tees; 4,821 yards from the forward tees). It also has fewer elevation changes and more visible housing developments.

Pusch Ridge, a real must-play short course, wraps around the hotel and pushes up into the mountains.

But there is much more on site as well – 31 lighted tennis courts, a horseback riding stable, hiking and biking trails, a wellness center with spa services and five separate restaurants, including a bunkhouse-style steakhouse – the Last Territory.

The resort is located to the north of the main part of Tucson in the Oro Valley, a spectacular setting of dramatic mountain peaks. The address is 10000 N. Oracle Road; phone (520) 544-5000 or (800) 325-7832. Web site: www.hiltonelconquistador.com.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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