Ventana Canyon’s 40th: Glorious Golf is Just the Start

At the foot of the majestic Catalina Mountains in a 600-acre desert reserve, two 18-hole championship courses designed by legendary architect Tom Fazio are the first indications that this isn’t just any golf destination.

Rooted in these storied 36 holes, with prestigious awards and accolades from top golf and travel publications,  Ventana Canyon Club and Lodge has created a bespoke Tucson experience over the last 40 years and looks to keep its momentum strong, with an inviting resort pool and bar, refurbished lodge suites, a rejuvenated day spa and a friendly staff known for its customer service. Indeed, “Personal Warmth” is truly the brand here.

“This is such a great destination…and the more we can share this fantastic property we have with people, the better,” said Bill Peters, Ventana’s director of golf.

To be sure, it starts with globally acclaimed golf. 

Golfers across the country and world seek winter refuge on these sun-drenched, saguaro-studded courses and to try their luck on the signature hole – a formidable cliff-to-cliff par-3 atop a manmade cart path– arguably the most photographed hole in the West. Fazio, known for creating challenging holes at U.S. courses, including the venerable Augusta National Golf Club, designed Ventana’s courses with a mix of slick, sweeping greens and elevated tee boxes seamlessly carved into rocky cliffs. 

“Tom Fazio is really known for adult courses that are very fair, they’re out in front of you,” said Peters. “There’s nothing tricked up. He uses the lay of the land so the mountains really do take effect on how the putting greens are laid out.” 

Ventana Canyon recently hosted 40 raters from Golfweek Magazine to play and judge the holes anew. “They all said the same thing, it’s challenging, but yet very fair,” Peters said. “And that’s always a huge compliment to a golf course.” 

In fact, Ventana CEO and General Manager Kimberly Wood said she still doesn’t get a definite answer when she asks golfers which course is their favorite, Mountain or Canyon. “There are things they like about both of them. I don’t think a lot of courses can say that.”

“We’ve certainly experienced significant growth in golf groups,” added Michele Smith, Ventana’s chief marketing and sales officer. “Many loyal groups have been returning to Ventana for 5, 10, 20-plus years, and the word is spreading to a new generation of golfers as well.”

Once Ventana has you at golf, the club and its amenities are next level. 

The clubhouse, with a stunning floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, is a post-golf haven with a bar and grill, picturesque patio, and newly renovated club member rooms with private lounges, locker rooms plus steam, sauna and whirlpool areas for therapy and relaxation. Doubling as a 50-suite boutique hotel, Ventana Canyon Club and Lodge has garnered recognition for its accommodations, dining, wine list, and dedicated service. It recently refurbished each guest room with furniture from Williams Sonoma Home, new carpeting and drapes, and artwork by Diana Madaras. The club also just unveiled an expanded spa that offers massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, pedicures and more.

“From the moment you drive through the gate, you know you’ve arrived at a one-of-a-kind place,” said Smith. “We’re tucked away into this breathtaking desert oasis where we’ve created an environment that is very intimate and comfortable, like an extension of your own home. It’s  a refuge that allows you to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings and foster connections with friends, family and the local community.” 

Tennis and pickleball are also huge draws here. The club has converted its center court for pickleball and hired a highly respected pro from Southern California, Brian Branscome. Ventana’s lap pool has since been joined by an adjacent resort pool and bar that’s become a family favorite for its barbecues, movie nights and summer camps. 

Besides golfers, the club also attracts cyclists, triathletes and hikers.  “This is a great jumping off point for all outdoor enthusiasts,” said Smith.

Finally, the lodge’s boutique ambiance and rugged desert beauty provide the perfect backdrop for weddings, parties, corporate events, meetings and more. “Because of our location, unique size and variety of indoor and outdoor spaces, it’s ideal for groups and wedding parties to take over the whole property for their events,” said Smith. 

One unique event space is The Reserve, a green clearing flanked by potted fountains behind the clubhouse that can seat up to 200 people. It has hosted events ranging from morning stretch classes to a recent sold-out holiday brunch, called The Toast, that featured Tucson’s James Beard Award winners and nominees, including Don Guerra of Barrio Bread and Wendy Garcia of Yelp’s No. 1-rated Tumerico. It was a decadent celebration that honored the city’s distinction as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.


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