Ventana Canyon Golf Club - Mountain Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.4

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

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Ventana Canyon Golf Club - Mountain 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 at Ventana Canyon 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" a beautiful par 3 carved into the side of the mountain.  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.

Ventana Canyon's Mountain Course is one of the best courses in the Tucson area:

  • very scenic with panoramic vistas of several mountain ranges
  • beautiful homes dotting the hillside
  • a variety of dessert fauna with lots of color
  • near perfect conditions
  • a fantastic layout that is fun, challenging, and memorable

The Mountain Course is a typical Tom Fazo design with very demanding but fair holes, steep and deep bunkers, plenty of fairway mounding and contour, some tough approaches, and challenging green complexes.  The par 3's and the par 5's really set this 18 apart from other courses.  For example, on the front nine one of the par 3s is a demanding 230 yarder and the other is one of the best par 3s we have ever played.  Just the card and then the walk up to the tips tee box on the third hole is exciting and when you arrive and look down the mountain the view stretches of hundreds of miles across the Sonoran Desert, several mountain ranges, and a large part of Tucson - a Kodak moment for sure.  When you turn around you see a large green 107 yards down the mountain and across a deep ravine and the green is protected by a bunker on the left front and another ravine along the left side and large rock outcroppings along the right side - no room for error on this beauty.  Make sure you tee off from the back tee box and most likely you'll want to take a couple shots. 

After #3 you're probably still muttering some "wows" and "that was awesomes," when you arrive at the first of the four fantastic par 5's.  #4 is almost as visually stunning - an elevated tee box with a great view of the valley and mountains and a lush green fairway that dog legs left along a pristine sparkling blue lake to a green with no room for error.  #8 is another fantastic 517 yard par 5 with a slight uphill shot off the tee box, then back down and across an arroyo followed by an uphill approach to an elevated and well guarded green with steep and deep bunkers.   You'll finish your round with a long 589 yard par 5. 

Between the par 5s and 3s you'll find more memorable holes that demand some shot making and give you some risk reward opportunities as well as test your game with treacherous deep and steep bunkers, elevated shots, dog legs, tight tee and approach shots, and forced carries.

The conditions on the Mountain Course at Ventana Canyon were near perfect - the greens rolled true and fast and smooth and the fairways were lush and plush.  The entire course is well maintained and manicured.  The fairways are lined by the desert and a scattering of beautiful homes set well back from the fairway.  The fairways are ample with a manageable rough, but if you miss both you'll be playing in the cactus, which are very sharp!

The greens are about average size for the area and most have some gentle slope and undulation.  However, on the shorter higher handicap holes, Fazio make the greens very challenging - elevated, severe slope, tiers, and undulation.  When we played the greens were running around a 10 to 11 and they held the ball very well.

Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club is well deserving of all the awards and accolades it has won over the last few years, some of which include:  Top Public Golf Course, Best Resort Courses, and Best Resort!    If you are anywhere close to Tucson you need to make every effort to play both of these courses.  

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 6,318 70.5 139
White 5,733 67.4 132
Gold 6,898 73.2 145
Red 4,695 68.3 125

Course Information

Course Architect:
Tom Fazio
Beware of water on 2 holes and the 50 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

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


Approximate Weekend
$49.00 to $225.00

Service is top notch from the bag boys to the pro shop staff to the cart ladies. The pro shop at The Lodge At Ventana Canyon is well stocked and the two restaurants as well as the snack bar serve some good food. Practice facilities are excellent.



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.