Tucson vs Scottsdale Which Arizona golf destination is best


Separated by 100 miles of desert highway, Scottsdale and Tucson share a common bond: they're both fantastic golf destinations. In this installment of Travel Punch Shots, TravelGolf.com senior writers Brandon Tucker and Mike Bailey debate which one is best.


There may not be 200 golf courses in Tucson like Phoenix-Scottsdale.

But no group plays 200 courses on their golf trip. They just need a good handful.

With that said, Tucson's A-list courses come pretty close to the Valley's must-plays. And the best part? It's a little more affordable. Unlike Scottsdale, there is no such thing as a $200-plus green fee in Tucson.

WGC Accenture Match Play host, the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is the newest must-play between Scottsdale and Tucson.

The Jack Nicklaus signature, Ritz-Carlton brand and WGC affiliation all make the course sound like a pricey play. But Dove Mountain still peaks out at $179 on GolfNow.com. That's more than $100 cheaper than Scottsdale's PGA Tour host, the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course. It's actually one of the more affordable PGA Tour stops, especially if you wait until May.

But Tucson has plenty more luxury golf resorts beyond the Ritz. Omni Tucson National boasts 36 holes, including the former Tucson PGA Tour stop, the parkland-style Catalina course.

Attached to Loews, Ventana Canyon Golf Club is the top multi-course facility in town with two Tom Fazio desert designs. It's also home to the Sonoran Desert's most famous hole, the boulder-to-boulder 100-yard shot on the par-3 third on the Mountain course. Along with Starr Pass and La Paloma, you can get luxury resort treatment with great desert golf.

Beyond the resort options, there are some worthy daily fees in Tucson, too. The University of Arizona home course, Arizona National Golf Club sits in some of the most fertile and scenic desert foothills landscape I've ever seen. Heritage Highlands (also at Dove Mountain) and the Tom Weiskopf design Golf Club at Vistoso are great plays for under $100 anytime of year.

Tucson even has a solid municipal golf system, anchored by Randolph North (a former LPGA host) and next door Dell Urich G.C. Both are very affordable (city resident or not), traditionally styled plays if you need a break from desert, target-style golf.

If you're choosing between Tucson and Scottsdale for summer golf, it's a no-brainer. Tucson is 1,000-1,500 feet higher than the Valley, often making summer temps 5-10 degrees cooler. Or as one Tucson golf resort exec told once told me, 'Our property's biggest summer market is Phoenix.'


While I'll admit the Tucson golf scene has quietly taken its place among the best in the Southwest, it still has a way to go before arriving at Scottsdale's level.

There are more than 200 golf courses in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, and there's hardly a dud in the bunch. There are more than 70 hotels and resorts, 600 restaurants and more than 50 nightclubs, bars and lounges. This, from a population that's just more than a third of Tucson's. At every level, Scottsdale very well might be the nation's travel golf capital, even more so than Myrtle Beach, S.C., another community that owes much of its economy to the ancient game.

You see, Scottsdale is more than just a collection of golf courses. This is where target golf in the desert started. Because water is such a precious commodity, the area went from the parkland-style golf courses it cultivated in the 1950-1970s to golf courses that used significantly less irrigated turf in the 1980s.

The result was a new style of golf that not only saves water, but created the dramatic contrast of fairways and greens we see today on great target golf courses such as the 36-holes Troon North, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, The Boulders Resort or Grayhawk Golf Club. These courses showcase the natural beauty of the desert – the mountains, the saguaros and the wildlife – creating a look that can only be attained in the Sonoran Desert.

But at the same time, if you wanted a change of pace with a few more trees, you could play Camelback, McCormick Ranch or the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale. You won't exactly feel like you're in the Midwest, but there are parkland courses.

More than anything, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area is all about golf, on and off the course. It's home to the greatest spectator hole in golf, the fully enclosed 16th at TPC Scottsdale, where tens of thousands of the most knowledgeable golf fans on the PGA Tour boo and cheer every shot.

There are golf stores and shops on every corner of Scottsdale, it seems, and bars that cater specifically to the golf crowds, like O'Donoghue's Irish Pub & Restaurant. The weather outside of O'Donoghue's may be a little warmer than it is in Ireland, but the Guinness is just right.