By Mary Minor Davis –
Tubac Golf Resort & Spa has deep, deep roots in the Santa Cruz River Valley.
In 1787 the King of Spain awarded a 500-acre land grant to Don Toribio de Otero. In 1853 that land was acquired by the United States through the Gadsden Purchase. By 1959, crooner Bing Crosby had a hankering to play golf on the spectacular Otero Ranch site and helped build the country club that grew into the resort.
But it’s not the oldest establishment in the area. That would be nearby Tumacacori Mission, founded by Father Eusebio Francisco Kinoin 1691.
During the Civil War, the Tubac area was briefly under the power of the Confederacy.
That’s when Sabino Otero, the 19-year-old grandson of Toribio and head of the ranch, moved the family to Buzani in Mexico, for safety. There they learned to raise cattle.
After Sabino returned in 1870, the 500-acre Otero ranch flourished and became extremely profitable, the beginning of what grew into the largest cattle empire in Arizona. Sabino became known as the “Cattle King of Arizona” on both sides of the border. At the time of his death in 1914, he owned seven ranches and his cattle were said to “graze on a thousand hills.”
Sabino’s brother, Teofil, inherited the estate, but did not share his family’s passion for ranching. Eventually he sold off the family’s land interests – except for one parcel he deeded to Tubac for a school house that still stands today – and the 500 acres originally granted to his grandfather, where the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa stands now.
After Teofilo’s death in 1941, the ranch changed private ownership for several years, always with cattle on the property. Then, in 1959, a group of investors headed by actor and crooner Bing Crosby bought the property and opened Tubac Valley Country Club in 1960.
The vision was to provide a “world-class” experience with “high-end” facilities and amenities, according to a news release from 1959 announcing the property’s acquisition. The property would soon attract celebrities such as British actor Stewart Granger, British actress Jean Simmons, motion picture producer Arthur M. Loew Jr., and western movie star John Wayne.
It was Crosby’s idea to build an 18-hole golf course. The original investors wanted to build a nine-hole golf course, but Crosby insisted on 18. They renovated the original hacienda, adding a swimming pool and creating a “lavish getaway” with personal attention for guests. Those high standards that were set 55 years ago remain in place today, said Linda Cormier, VP of hotel operations.
“This still remains our top priority today,” Cormier said. “The uniqueness of this property and the commitment of our staff to make every person’s experience unforgettable is what has made us successful.” The resort is celebrating 55 years.
In 2002, developer Ron Allred, who is credited with building Telluride into the destination it is today, purchased the Tubac resort with a group of investors and the property saw its first major growth. With the purchase of an additional 250 acres, Allred invested $40 million over five years.
This included the construction of a guest services center, 50 additional haciendas (bringing the total to 98 rooms), a 7,000-square-foot conference center, another 18-hole golf course, a full-service spa and fitness center and expanded indoor and outdoor dining and recreational facilities. They also built the 17th century mission-style chapel that has become a huge attraction for weddings, said Patti Todd, director of sales and marketing for the resort.
The Tubac resort offers a unique blend of its Spanish roots, western culture and modern-day amenities and upgrades that blend to provide an intimate retreat for tourists, visitors and business groups seeking a secluded place to connect with themselves and re-energize. Todd said that of the 45,000-plus visitors who stay at the property each year, more than half are return guests. Business groups comprise 65 percent of the bookings at the boutique resort.
Pat Buchanan, head of education leadership for Northern Arizona State University’s Leadership Academy, has booked the annual fall retreat at Tubac Resort since 2009. She said the resort provides an excellent location for approximately 80 educators, using all of the resort’s amenities and facilities.
“The Tubac staff is one of the easiest to work with in planning and implementing all of the details for our academy,” she said. “The feedback from our experience has always been extremely positive. It is hard to adequately convey how I appreciate the flexibility, the attention to detail and the kindness the staff affords us. I cannot express enough gratitude for the unique combination of professionalism and friendship that has developed over the years with the staff.”
In 2014 the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa was recognized by USA Today as one of the best Cold Weather Escapes and by Travel & Leisure, which listed Tubac among its “Coolest Desert Towns.” Cormier said while such recognition is very positive, it only serves to drive the staff to achieve a greater level of excellence.
“Looking toward the future, we know that next generations will expect a higher level of engagement and personalization,” Cormier said. “Our goal is to engage in the best hospitality technologies, to provide our guests more choices and the ability to tailor their visit from check-in to check-out. With that said, as our society develops technologically, our personal, friendly service will always be the mainstay at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa.”