Golf, Guests Helped Resort Through Pandemic
By April Bourie
Throughout the long history of Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, the storied property south of Tucson has seen many ups and downs and most recently was able to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resort, a Southern Arizona treasure with beautiful casitas, a famous golf course, luxurious spa and the historic Stables restaurant, was able to keep about 10 of the 98 casitas available for guests during the height of the pandemic, according to Noel Daniel, the resort’s managing director.
“Golf kept us alive,” said Daniel. “We had several golf members that continued to play, and they even reached out to our laid-off employees by donating to an employee fund. Many of them would also order dinner for themselves from the Cantina, which was basically grab and go, just to help out the resort. The resort donated all the perishable food from the kitchen.”
The resort was also able to quickly pivot and cut expenses where necessary to keep it afloat financially. Paycheck Protection Program loans were utilized to pay employees and other qualifying bills, Daniel said.
It’s welcome news for a property with a wealth of history.
It all started in 1789 when Don Toribio de Otero obtained the property in a Spanish land grant and built a farmhouse that still stands north of the Stables restaurant – which once served as the property’s original stables. In the early days, these buildings saw Spanish and Mexican soldiers living nearby or passing through as a result of attackson the farm and in the area by local Native American tribes.
The farm was eventually passed down to Otero’s grandson, Sabino, who grew it into the largest cattle ranch in the state of Arizona by the mid-1800s. By 1959, it was owned by an investment group headed by actor Bing Crosby, who wanted to create a golf resort. That group added the first fairways and named it Tubac Golf Resort. It was very important to Crosby that the resort reflect the property’s history.
In the 1990s, the resort famously served as the location for many of the golf scenes in the movie Tin Cup, which starred Kevin Costner and Rene Russo. The resort has since ceremoniously marked the locations where those scenes were shot.
In 2002, the property was purchased by another group of investors led by current owner Ron Allred. He built additional casitas, a wedding chapel, spa and an additional nine holes of golf. Allred also added a herd of cattle to the golf course in 2006 to pay homage to the property’s cattle ranching heritage. He ensured that the historical integrity of the location came through in all of these new developments.
The resort today is also equipped with ballrooms, boardrooms and a presidential suite available for group events – all enveloped in the resort’s rich history.
Now, after a challenging year, guests are returning. “The month of April 2021 was our second busiest month in 15 years,” Daniel said. “Weddings are off the charts as last year’s cancelled weddings have been rescheduled for this year. I am optimistic that by the fourth quarter, our corporate group business will rebound to pre-2020 levels.” This is important, Daniel said, as rooms, food and beverage are the top revenue streams for the resort.
One challenge the resort is currently experiencing is employing enough staff to fill needed openings. “It’s tough because so many previous employees have found other positions or are getting enough unemployment to stay home,” said Daniel. “Our current employees are having to multi-task. For example, we have used golf course and sales employees to set up for weddings.
“But the good news is that everything is looking positive, and we are busy, “ she said. “Many hotels have had to pull back on their marketing, but that isn’t our strategy for now. We are working to create more infrastructure and increase wages in some areas to attract more employees so we can handle the business coming in.”