Ventana Canyon Golf Club - Canyon Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.1

Golf - Resort Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
Tucson, AZ

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Ventana Canyon Golf Club - Canyon Course Review

Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club is home to two outstanding Tom Fazio courses and a 50 room boutique hotel that is perfect for a golf stay and play.  Playing golf on either course is a challenging and memorable experience enhanced by the beauty of the lush desert foliage, mountain vistas, and the Sonoran wildlife. 

Each of the two courses have their own unique personality and characteristics.  The Mountain Course winds it way up and down the Santa Catalina Mountains and has some stunning holes, outstanding desert scenery, and majestic panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Tucson valley.  The Mountain Course is the most well known, primarily because of "the most photographed hole west of the Mississippi.  The Mountain Course is a little longer from the back tees and is the hardest of the 36 holes with a rating of 73.2 and slope of 145 versus the Canyon's 71.9 rating and 139 slope.   

Ventana Canyon's Canyon Course meanders through the Esperero Canyon and leverages the natural desert terrain to add challenges, elevation changes, and scenic beauty to your round.

Both courses have excellent conditions, first class service, and top notch facilities.  The Lodge at Ventana Canyon has some excellent stay and play packages as does the four star Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.  When you stay here make sure you play both courses for a fantastic golf experience.  In fact, just riding the golf cart on what seems like a 100 miles of trails that lead up and down the mountains, twist and turn through the canyon, and wind through the cactus and desert fauna is a fun and scenic experience.  

Speaking of cactus, the Saguaro cactus are amazing - tall (over 30') and stately and all shapes and sizes some with several golf balls embedded in their arms and body!  During your round on either course you're likely to see an abundance of wildlife -  coveys of Gambel's quail, red-tailed hawks, bobcats, deer, rabbits, coyotes, and roadrunners.

The Canyon Course has two distinct nines - the front doesn't seem like a Tom Fazio design, which are traditionally very challenging.  The front nine of the Canyon Course has wide expansive forgiving and contoured fairways and more traditional straightforward holes.  Whereas the back nine seems much more challenging with some really fun (some might say tricked up) holes, steep and deep bunkers, dog legs, and forced carries.  On the back you'll find steep and deep bunkers, tough approaches, roller coaster and sloping greens, risk reward opportunities and lots of cute little bunnies watching me dribble my golf ball down the fairway!  The back has some really fun, unique, challenging, and memorable holes, for example:

  • #10 is a short 336 yard par four but it has a huge rock outcropping next to the left side of the green and two deep bunkers on the right side of the oblong and severely sloping green
  • #12 is a challenging 574 yard par 5 with a carry over a lake from the tips to a sloping fairway that dog legs right then heads uphill past berms and mounds to a green with severe left to right slope
  • #13, a short 158 yard par three, requires some target golf to nail the green with no room for error from a dramatically elevated tee box
  • #18 is a beautiful million dollar finishing wit a stunning pond and waterfall flowing from in front of Loews Ventana Resort to another pond which surrounds the back side of the green

The fairways, bunkers, and greens were in near perfect condition when we played.  Most of the fairways are ample and fair, but don't miss them.  The greens vary in shape and most are average size for the Tucson area.  But you'll find greens that are elevated, well guarded, and have plenty of slope and undulation.  They were running a good speed of around 9 to 10.  Most of the bunkers are deep and steep faced with firm sand. 

Bottom line - a fantastic Tom Fazio layout where the front nine warms you up for the back - fun, challenging, memorable, and scenic! 

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 6,299 69.9 133
White 5,822 68.1 128
Gold 6,836 71.9 139
Red 4,939 71.1 121

Course Information

Course Architect:
Tom Fazio
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Beware of water on 2 holes and the 43 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.1 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$49.00 to $225.00

Service is top notice, the facilites are excellent, and the course is well maintained. There are two pro shops, two restaurants, and a snack bar with good burgers, dogs, and sandwiches - one of the pro shops is at Loews and the other is at the Lodge At Ventanta Canyon. Pace of play is excellent and the practice facilites are great.



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.