Introduction to Tucson

In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at a selection of the best public golf courses in Tucson, Arizona.

Located in Pima County, Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, after the captial Phoenix. It is also in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, which explains its desert landscape.

Although not as high-profile as places like Scottsdale, Tucson is still a very popular golf destiantion in its own right. And with the quality of golf on offer, alongside the vibrant town center, it is no surprise.

Let’s jump into the best public golf courses around Tucson.

See also: What are the best public golf courses in Scottsdale, Arizona?

The best public golf courses in Tucson, Arizona

RankGolf Courses
1Omni Tucson National Resort (Catalina)
2Starr Pass Golf Club (Rattler/Palmer)
3Sewailo Golf Club
4Ventana Canyon Country Club (Mountain)
5Arizona National Golf Club
6Omni Tucson National Resort (Sonoran)
7Quarry Pines Golf Club
8The Highlands at Dove Mountain
9Ventana Canyon Country Club (Canyon)
10The Preserve Golf Club at SaddleBrooke
11MountainView Golf Club at SaddleBrooke
Table showing the best public golf courses near Tucson, AZ

1. Omni Tucson National Resort (Catalina & Sonoran)

Omni Tucson National Golf (Catalina), Tucson, Arizona

To kick off this list, we start with the phenomenal resort of Omni Tucson National Resort.

This outstanding venue is just under a 30 minute drive to the north of the city, located in the splendour of the Santa Catalina Mountains. 

Alongside the luxury resort, there are two top class championship golf courses onsite. First up you have the Catalina Course, with its sister being the Sonoran Course.

The latter was designed by the 2006 Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman and is a challenging desert style course. The routing takes it higher up into the surrounding hills and with a number of risk and reward shots, you’ll need your A-game to score well.

Yet it is the Catalina Course here which takes centre stage and earns the plaudits.

For many decades it was the host venue for the PGA Tour’s Chrysler Classic. More recently it also hosted the PGA Tour’s Champions Cologuard Classic and the Southern Arizona Open.

Yet these are just the pinnacle with the course having hosted numerous other tournaments over the years.

A traditional-style routing, it was designed by the celebrated Robert Von Hagge and Bruce Devlin. The layout features undulating tree-lined fairways, with over eighty bunkers and eight magnificent lakes.

The condition of both courses is exceptional, whilst the excellent design and risk/reward nature of both courses has them featuring highly on this list.

2. Starr Pass Golf Club (Rattler & Palmer (formerly Roadrunner))

Starr Pass Hotel with Golf, Tucson, Arizona

To the west of downtown, into Tucson Mountain Park and on the outskirts of the Saguaro National Park, is the stunningly luxurious JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa.

The wonderful location is absolutely perfect. You’re out of the city, but you’re also just a 15 minute cab ride to get into downtown. It couldn’t be better.

There are 27 holes of championship golf onsite made up of three nine-hole loops. There is the original Rattler and Roadrunner nine-holes, with the Roadrunner now being called Palmer.

These were designed by the legendary Bob Cupp whilst some years after, they were renovated by none other than the legendary Arnold Palmer.

And just to confuse matters, there is the Arnold Palmer signature-designed Coyote nine-hole, which was also added at a later date.

Interestingly, it’s worth noting that Arnold Palmer is given credit for having designed all three loops of nine on the official website. I’m sure Cupp might feel slightly aggreived.

Either way, what can’t be denied is that the quality of golf on offer here is world-class. Regardless of which nine-holes you decide to play, you’ll be in for a treat. Although it’s worth knowing that the Rattler & Palmer combo is widely considered the main pairing.  

Dramatic elevation changes are a constant challenge as you make your way along the foothills of the surrounding mountain ranges.

And despite the up and down nature of the course, there are plenty of opportunities to get the driver out. The semi-rough in places isn’t really penal, opening out the landing areas off the tee.

For many years this was the host course to the Tucson Open and is undeniably resort golf at its finest.

See also: What are the best public golf courses in Phoenix, Arizona?

3. Sewailo Golf Club

Sewailo golf club, Tucson, Arizona state

Located on land owned by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Sewailo Golf Club is a truly outstanding public golf facility in Tucson.

Back in 2013, when the decision was taken to transform this beautiful plot of land into a golf course, the tribe commissioned a fellow native American.

His name was Notah Beguy III and his job was to craft a top class golf course, whilst expertly using the natural environment. And the result of that painstaking work, is an absolutely stunning layout.

Sewailo is a course which blends the wild and at times, harsh Sonoran Desert landscape, with pristine lakes and lush green fairways.

From the championship tees the course stretches to 7,400 yards although with five tee boxes to choose from, all abilities are welcome. 

As the home to the University of Arizona’s men and women’s golf teams, Sweailo Golf Club is also ranked as one of the best public courses in Arizona by the likes of Golfweek and Golf Advisor. 

If you’re visiting Tucson, I couldn’t recommend this golf course more highly.

4. Ventana Canyon Country Club (Mountain & Canyon)

Ventana Country Club, Tucson, Arizona

Like Omni Tucson National Resort further up in this list, the Ventana Canyon Country Club is also positioned in the foothills of the impressive Santa Catalina Mountains.

And again, you can’t help but be wowed by the beauty of the surrounding landscape, which is littered with ancient saguaros and nestled amongst the diverse Sonoran wildlife. 

There are two Tom Fazio designed championship courses, the Canyon and the Mountain courses.

Both are hidden away amongst the 600 acres of desert landscape. It’s also fair to say, both of these courses are superb, although the Mountain Course gets my vote as the better of the two. Although on another day, you would quite happily rank the Canyon Course higher.

The condition throughout both courses is superb. They feature well-manicured fairways that can be attacked from four different tee boxes, many of which are elevated.

In typical Fazio fashion, every hole on each course is vastly different to the one which precedes it. And this is in large part due to the ever-changing terrain with fairways either climbing or descending. Some of the par 3s are simply mind-blowing.

Challenging golf but this is an all-inclusive experience well worth the high rates.

See also: What are the best golf courses in Mesa, Arizona?

5. Arizona National Golf Club

Arizona National Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona

A course which arguably flies under the radar, but one which packs a punch. Arizona National Golf Club has in the past been ranked the best public golf course in Tucson by various golf publications. 

Over in Tucson’s eastern suburbs and tucked into the Santa Catalina Mountain foothills, the Arizona National course follows in the natural flow of the land across rugged rocky outcroppings and shady arroyos. 

The layout was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr no less, a man whose name is printed against so many great golf course designs across the world.

Although Arizona National Golf Club may not be one of his greatest, it is certainly a good test of desert golf and is superb value for money. 

It is also immensely popular with the locals and there is enough of a challenge on offer across the 6,800 yards of golf to keep you coming back. The routing is fun to play and the views are stunning, with aside from mountain views, a sea of giant saguaros as well as a handful of natural springs to enjoy.

6. Quarry Pines Golf Club

Quarry Pines Golf Club, Tucson, Arizona

To the northwest of Tucson past Cortaro, is Quarry Pines Golf Club. Aside from being one of the best public golf courses around the city, it is also incredibly popular with local residents. Can you get a better sign of quality than the local vote?

Quarry Pines became the club we all know and love back in 2000. This was when an old sand and gravel quarry that existed next to the original course was abandoned. The radical decision was taken to reclaim the quarry and then to reroute 10 of the holes from the original course. 

This stroke of genius, elevated Quarry Pines from what was a very average public course, to what we have today, a top-class layout.

As you would expect with and old quarry, it has a number of dramatic elevation changes, some of which offer stunning vistas across the horizon and mountains. To add a touch of green to the largely desert style landscape, thousands of trees were planted during the transformation. 

This is a great golf course to kick off this list. Unpretentious, welcoming to visitors, good value and great fun. 

See also: What are the best public golf courses in Surprise, Arizona?

7. The Highlands at Dove Mountain

Located at an elevation of around 3,000 feet, The Highlands at Dove Mountain occupies a prime position on the outskirts of Tucson.

In fact this is one of a handful of courses located around the spectacular Dove Mountain, in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains. If you’re looking for magnificent views, you’ve come to the right place.

Part of a much larger, yet intimate gated community, this fantastic layout was designed by Arthur Hills and Spencer Holt in 1997.

Being the main attraction to the community development, inevitably means the routing meanders through a housing estate. And although this is true, it’s worth noting that the houses have been built low and discreet. Whilst secondly, there is enough wild vegetation to obscure the bulk of it.

So even when the course is right in the heart of the residential development, at no point do you feel encumbered in any way. And with the constant backdrop of the surrounding mountain range, you’ll often forget the housing is even there.

Tee boxes, fairways and greens are quite simply immaculately conditioned, and will match many of the best private courses in the Tucson area.

Public tee times can be difficult to get hold of, so be patient because the reward of playing here is well worth it.

8. SaddleBrooke TWO (The Preserve Golf Club & MountainView Golf Club)

The Preserve at SaddleBrooke, Tucson, Arizona, Website - Permission given

Approximately 25 miles north of central Tucson, heading up into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, is the wonderful Preserve Golf Club at SaddleBrooke and its sister course, MountainView Golf Club.

The course is part of an award-winning master-planned retirement community, SaddleBrooke. So popular and well respected is this Active Lifestyle community, it has received numerous awards and accolades from Arizona’s Daily Star’s “Readers Choice”. 

For residents living up this way and part of the wider community, there is a great choice of golf. 

Alongside The Preserve, which was designed by Dick Bailey in 2004, there is also the 18 hole championship course MountainView and 27 holes at SaddleBrook Country Club. The three loops of nine are called the Tucson, Catalina and SaddleBrooke. 

Unfortunately, the 27 holes at SaddleBrooke Country Club are private. Which therefore leaves Mountainview, which is a Gary Panks designed course, and The Preserve to choose from for visiting golfers.

Both courses are great and genuinely enjoyable to play. And naturally, with both layouts routed in the foothills of the surrounding mountains, you’ll find the aesthetic and challenge relatively similar.

For example, they both enjoy terrific views of the surrounding landscape. They also both weave through the natural rocky desert terrain and feature meandering rolling fairways with target greens. 

But The Preserve is arguably the better of the two whilst I believe also being the most challenging. From the tee you’ll encounter a number of hidden hazards and blind shots. Whilst stray shots are brutally punished with balls careering off into the arid desertscape. 

Yet keep the ball in play, and you’ll be rewarded with an entertaining design with some quite magnificent views. Pricey but worth it.

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