Category: Tucson

January 14, 2014

Ask Travelin' Joe: Where should I play in Tucson? Savannah? Ponte Vedra Beach?

Posted at 10:03 AM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

La Paloma Country Club
Courtesy of La Paloma Country Club


Hello Joe, I'm headed to Tucson for a few days of Arizona sun and scenery. What courses give the most cacti for the money? -- Lana Neighbor, Ambler, Pa.

You have to stay at the Westin to play its on-site La Paloma Country Club ($59-$179; 520-742-6000,, but its three early Jack Nicklaus nines are well worth it. Saguaro cacti frame the fairways, while mountain vistas highlight this target-style spread. In nearby Marana, another Jack Nicklaus Signature design, the Golf Club at Dove Mountain ($79-$199; 520-572-3500,, is blanketed with exotic desert flora. The WGC–Accenture Match Play is played on the Saguaro/Tortolita combo, though Jack's favorite of the three nines is Wild Burro. And Ventana Canyon's Mountain and Canyon courses ($59-$169; 520-577-1400, embrace every manner of thorny plant, notably on the Mountain's par-3 third.

The Club at Savannah Harbor
The Club at Savannah Harbor / Dick Durrance


Dear Joe, I'm heading to Savannah, Georgia. Know of any gems off the beaten path? -- Sam R. Blair, via e-mail

Sam, maybe it's the shrimp and grits talking, but I think Savannah is one of the most charming cities in the U.S.—and great for golf. Start with The Club at Savannah Harbor ($40-$88; 912-201-2240,, a dramatic Bob Cupp/Sam Snead design that's hosted the Champions Tour's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf for the last 11 years. Most memorable is the 447-yard, par-4 sixth, with its green edged by marsh and backdropped by the Talmadge Bridge. The area's top value? A wooded Rees Jones design called Southbridge ($25-$50; 912-651-5455,, which turns 25 this year. Meanwhile, the award for easiest access goes to bargain-priced Crosswinds ($34-$53; 912-966-1909,, renowned for its reachable yet watery par-5 closer, and for the club's location five minutes from the airport.

Streamsong Resort
Streamsong Resort / Larry Lambrecht


Hey Joe, Are there any quality links-style courses to play here in Florida? -- Bill Jervis, Tampa, Fla.

That's the easiest question I've heard in eons. Streamsong Resort ($110-$235; 863-428-1000, is less than 90 minutes from Tampa and serves up two superior firm-and-fast, dune-splashed tracks that demand thoughtful shotmaking, with an emphasis on the ground game. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's Red is slightly more dramatic than Tom Doak's Blue, though I'm partial to the Blue for how seamlessly it hews to the terrain, and for stunners such as the all-carry par-3 seventh and the drivable par-4 13th. With the mid-January debut of the 216-room Lodge at Streamsong, there's no better time to go.

The Word Golf Village
Courtesy of The Word Golf Village


Travelin' Man, I'm playing the Stadium and Valley courses at TPC Sawgrass. Anywhere else I should tee it up in the Ponte Vedra Beach area? -- Mike Smith, via e-mail

Since you don't scrimp, Mike, I'll steer you to the region's trophy tracks. For a fun 36 holes, drive 45 minutes south to St. Augustine. The World Golf Village (904-201-3609, has two courses: King & Bear ($79-$169) is the only Arnold Palmer–Jack Nicklaus collaboration in existence, and the Slammer & Squire ($59-$129) is a wonderful Bobby Weed creation, with help from Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. King & Bear's back nine winds through loblolly pines and ancient oaks, while Slammer & Squire sports lagoons, wetlands and a wet-and-wild par-4 closer. My favorite combo of golf and lodging in the area is the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and its Ocean course ($75-$132.50; 888-839-9145,, a wonderfully renovated treat that trots out cross bunkers, ocean breezes and an island green dating to the 1920s.

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

For more news that golfers everywhere are talking about, follow @si_golf on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube video channel.

November 20, 2013

Best Trips: Sewailo Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz.

Posted at 1:06 PM by Pete Madden

By JOE PASSOV, Golf Magazine Senior Editor

Sewailo Golf Club
Credit: D Squared Productions


It's been four long years since a new course opened in golf-crazy Arizona. As it turns out, good things are worth waiting for. Sewailo Golf Club was built as an amenity for the Casino del Sol Resort in Tucson. In the Native American language of Yaqui, "sewailo" translates to "flower world," and this Ty Butler-Notah Begay co-design lives up to that name.

If you're looking for a cactus-lined, target-style track, you won't find it here; instead, you'll play through a kaleidoscope of year-round floral displays. White and pink roses, yellow brittlebush and purple sage from a stunning palette, while cottonwood, pine and willow trees (which are important in Pascua Yaqui tribal ceremonies) dot the course.

Still, pretty colors won't entirely ease the menace of the seven elegant yet daunting lakes and interlocking streams that dominate the layout, influencing play on half the holes. All that water makes its presence felt, most memorably on a trio of handsome but stern tests: the 145-yard par-3 third, the 620-yard, double-dogleg par-5 10th and the 390-yard par-4 18th.

Happily, it's not all punishment. Sewailo sets itself apart from its sandy competitors in town with roomy fairways and bentgrass greens, as well as a casino and mountain backdrop. Slated for a mid-December opening, Sewailo is sure to seduce parched desert-dwellers eager for a touch of the tropics.

7,282 yards, par-72; Green fees: $69-$149; (855) 765-7289;

For more news that golfers everywhere are talking about, follow @si_golf on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube video channel.

February 16, 2012

Ask Travelin' Joe: Orlando, Tucson and Riviera's best and worst holes

Posted at 12:32 PM by Joe Passov

Ocn_600If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Hey Joe,
A friend and I are planning a trip to the Orlando area in late February, and we’re considering the Orange County Golf Resort. We’re looking for a moderately priced deal for three to four days of golf. Should we consider a local hotel and play individual courses or go with a package deal at one of the resorts?
Sam Coppola
Via email

I’ll leave the Disney-flavored puns out of this answer—much as it pains me—because if you’re considering Orange County National, you’re likely a no-nonsense golfer who wants straightforward info.

Orlando boasts so many terrific golf properties that it’s hard to choose just one. Bay Hill has its Arnie aura, Disney has its PGA Tour pedigree, the Waldorf-Astoria has tranquility, Reunion has variety, and the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes has those greens—well, you get the point.

However, if you’re into golf—and value—book a package at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge. Its unwieldy name manages to say it all. Its two championship courses, Crooked Cat and Panther Lake, both have served as PGA Tour Qualifying School tests and comprise two of the best bargains in the area.

If you book an Orange County National package, you’ll have access to both courses, plus free golf (cart fee extra) at Tooth, their nine-hole executive course, pre-round range balls, locker, club storage, bag tag, and discounted extra rounds. (February rates from $302 per person, based on double occupancy and a two-night minimum; 407-656-2626,

Toss in one of the three best public-access practice ranges and short-game areas in the country and superior instruction, and you’ve got a winner. If there’s a drawback to OCN, is that it’s a tad remote, away from Orlando’s plethora of attractions and restaurants. Still, to some, that’s a plus.

Dear Joe,
I read your suggestions about places to play in Tucson. Can you recommend any condo-type accommodations similar to what I find in the Myrtle Beach area? We’re looking for a one-stop place where the group has a roof over their heads and a bunch of tee times.
Ken Gardiner
Philadelphia, PA

If Phoenix/Scottsdale were your destination, Zona Resort Suites (888-222-1059, would be exactly what you’re looking for. Tucson’s a different animal. It offers neither the quantity nor variety of prices available in the Valley of the Sun, and it cannot touch Myrtle Beach for maximum options—but then, no destination can.

I’ve got two solid outfits to recommend in the Old Pueblo, as Tucson is often called. First is Sonoran Suites (888-786-7848, Though based in Phoenix, they have covered Tucson since 1997 and operate in every desert destination. February packages start at $129 per person per night, but they offer an array of options that include 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units as well as choices ranging from value courses such as Del Lago, El Conquistador and Canoa Hills, to ultra-premiums like Ventana Canyon, Omni Tucson Nation and La Paloma.

My other pick in Tucson is the Golf Villas at Oro Valley (888-904-9158, This is pure, perfect desert, in one of Tucson’s most desirable locales, right around the corner from top tracks such as Arizona National, Vistoso and Ventana Canyon. You’re surrounded by excellent restaurants, nightlife and the towering mountains and cactus-covered slopes that brought you to the desert in the first place. February rates for two-bedroom villas start at $239.

Riviera Country Club: the Best Hole and the Worst Hole
When the PGA Tour pros renew their love affair with Riviera Country Club this week in suburban Los Angeles, they will encounter the design skills of George Thomas, a golden age architect who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie and A.W. Tillinghast. As proof of Thomas’s magical skills, check out Riviera’s 10th hole. For years, I considered Augusta National’s par-5 13th to be the ultimate risk/reward hole that the pros see every year, but these days, that honor goes to the 315-yard, slight dogleg-to-the-right 10th at “the Riv.”

Any self-respecting pro can drive the green, but the penalties for missing are so severe, thanks to the ingenious positioning of both bunkers and putting surface, that 5s and 6s are much more common than 2s.

Jack Nicklaus has stated that the 10th presents more options than any other short hole in the world. Few have the discipline to approach the green from the proper angle, which calls for a lay-up drive to the far left side of the fairway—especially when the hole location is back-right on this shallow, diagonal green corseted by bunkers. When the pin is on the left, unprotected by a fronting bunker, the temptation is to go straight at it—even if you fall short. However, that open portion of the green slopes away to the back, making a straight-on approach that much exquisitely tougher. No matter where you approach from, the shot is an extreme test of nerve. That’s what makes it a superior short hole. There’s no water to set the pulse racing or chasm to carry, just the knowledge that you’ve got to hit two perfect shots on such a tiny hole.

The worst hole at Riviera? Some might argue that the second is suspect because it’s a par 5 converted to a par 4, with a green complex much more receptive to a short approach than a long one. Others point to the shot values lacking at the par-5 first. With its exhilarating hill-top tee box, the short par 5 really plays like a par 4. For one great player, however, the dubious distinction belongs to the 236-yard, par-3 fourth. That player is not Ben Hogan, who labeled it “the greatest par 3 in America.” No, the dissenter is another supreme shotmaker, Lee Trevino, who stated in 1985, “One famous (course) with a flaw is Riviera. You could go to Communist China and say ‘Riviera Country Club’ and some guy would say ‘It’s in Los Angeles, California.’ It’s known worldwide, but Riviera is a 17-hole golf course.

“The clinker is No. 4, the par 3. A monkey’s as good as a man playing it. It slopes away from you. It plays against the prevailing wind because the play is toward Santa Monica and the ocean, and the hole plays about 240 yards against the wind. Hell, you have to hit a driver on it. They should plow that damn hole up and start building a legitimate par 3.”

No small wonder that the Merry Mex never won at Riviera, or even finished runner-up.

(Photo: Orange County National)

March 26, 2010

Ask Travelin' Joe: Cabo San Lucas, Pinehurst and Tucson

Posted at 10:28 AM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Hi Joe,
Do you know of any decent quality courses in Cabo at an affordable rate?

Jeff Gilman
Via email

I get asked this question as much as any in my mailbag and every couple of years, I respond the same way: Sorry, the answer is no. They just don't exist. As superb a golf destination as Los Cabos is, its glaring weakness is that it lacks mid-priced and bargain/entry-level courses where one can sample the game without taking out a second mortgage.

I always start with the course formerly known as the San Jose del Cabo Municipal, which is now on its fourth name. It's a nine-holer that's presently called Punta Sur and it's usually under $100 for 18 holes, but I can't recommend it. It's barely 3,000 yards from the tips, it affords just one view of the Sea of Cortez — and that's right from the first tee — and it's practically suffocated by condos.

Better you should spend the extra pesos and play Puerto Los Cabos ($110-$195; 877-795-8727, where the afternoon rate in high season is $140. Intended to be 36 holes, it's 18 for now, with the front nine by Greg Norman and the back nine by Jack Nicklaus. With its rolling desert setting, a fistful of holes that edge of the Sea of Cortez and a couple of the most stunning par-3s in Mexico, Puerto Los Cabos is currently the region's best value.

Hello Joe,
I'm planning a golf trip for 10-20 players in mid-April. We're from Florida and want a location including at least one "famous" course. The best option so far is Pinehurst, but I'm concerned about the weather. TPC Sawgrass Stadium is closed and Harbour Town is being played the same weekend. What do you think?

Roy Katzin
Via email

You'll have a great buddies trip to Pinehurst in mid-April. I've done the same dates four times, never been rained on, mostly played in shirtsleeves and basked in the "Springtime in the South" aura that pervades, thanks to the profusion of dogwoods in bloom. The average daytime high for the dates you're thinking of is 72 degrees.

Make no mistake, there are plenty of quality options in and around the Pinehurst area, but if you're gunning for that special trophy course, such as Pinehurst No. 2, you'd best stay at the Pinehurst Resort (800-487-4653, Several lodging and package choices awaits, but one that might be a good fit for your group is the Buddy Trip of a Lifetime Package.

Included is three days/two nights, Villa accommodations (four guest rooms connected to a central gathering parlor), wet bar stocked with beverages of your choice, plus snacks, for your stay, unlimited golf, a round on No. 2 with single caddies who wear your name on their bib, breakfast and dinner daily, plus gifts, spa access, photos, tips from a Pinehurst pro and more.

OK, it comes with a cost: $2,300 per person based on double occupancy. But this is pretty close to the ultimate in pampering, camaraderie and a special day on No. 2.

Dear Joe,
Four of us from Denver did 36 a day for three days last March at We-Ko-Pa courses and Eagle Mountain. Back to that area again, or should we give Tucson a try? I read your reviews about the Phoenix area but I'm wondering which courses you like in Tucson?

Jeff Lindquist
Denver, Colorado

Travelin' Joe is partial to Phoenix, Scottsdale and the Valley of the Sun — after all, I live here — but variety is the spice of golf, so by all means give Tucson at least one go-round. If you're into courses such as those you've listed above, then we're talking high-end, very scenic tracks, of which Tucson has plenty.

The hot course in town these days is the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain ($105-$195; 520-572-3500,, the Jack Nicklaus-designed 27-holer that hosts the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Lush desert flora frames every fairway and the mountain vistas are superb. Bring your sand game and a putting touch, because the bunkers are huge and deep and the greens, even after a Nicklaus renovation right after the 2009 event, remain vexing to even the game's best.

Personal favorites include both the Mountain and Canyon courses at Ventana Canyon ($100-$175, 520-577-1400, a pair of mid-1980s Tom Fazio gems and La Paloma Country Club's ($85-$205; 520-742-6000, three nines, though you've got to stay at the adjacent Westin to get aboard.

April 02, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Hilton Head and San Jose

Posted at 10:12 AM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Dear Travelin' Joe,
We have traded our timeshare to Hilton Head during April 18-25. I'd like to get in two rounds while there but don't want to spend our vacation savings to play. Can you recommend three or four public courses that would run around $75 per round?

Mike Payson
Via email

Watch out for a massive Hilton Head hangover the week you're in, as the PGA Tour's Verizon Heritage event at Harbour Town ends on the 19th. From start to finish, it's one giant party. Understand, too, that you're visiting during prime time, so genuine bargains are scarce. That said, there's plenty of good golf on- and off-island for under $100.

For a true Lowcountry test, set your compass to Old South Golf Links ($80-$95; 843-785-5353, This 1991 Clyde Johnston design sports outstanding variety, with some holes that skirt the broad waters of the May River and others that play through live oak forests and next to saltwater lagoons. After 12 p.m., the $80 rate is worth every penny.

Hilton Head National ($86-$96; 843-842-5900, is another solid value. The National and Player nines form the handsome, original 20-year-old Gary Player creation, but the 10-year-old Bobby Weed-designed nine is different -- and equally fun -- with more run-up and shotmaking options.

For real savings, check out Eagle's Point Golf Club ($65-$79; 843-757-5900,, a 1998 Davis Love III product that's tucked into a modest real estate development, but which features a set attractive holes bordered by oaks and pines, plus a collection of sprawling greens guarded by surprisingly large, deep bunkers. It's a good test at a good price.

Continue reading "Ask Travelin Joe: Hilton Head and San Jose " »

March 21, 2009

Best Golf Travel Deals: April Values Reign

Posted at 12:56 PM by

Save $180
Westin La Paloma
Tucson, Arizona

If mountains, cacti and 27 holes of Jack Nicklaus target golf sounds good, check out the Guys' Power Golf Weekend Package, which includes a welcome amenity of beer and chips for two, $50 off a round of golf (one per room) and a 4 p.m. late checkout, based on availability. Rates start at $319 per night, prepaid, based on double occupancy.

Save $160
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate
Orlando, Florida

The home to the Del Webb Father/Son Challenge offers family and friends their own brand of fun via the Unlimited Golf Experience, which features room, breakfast at Trevi's, transportation to Disney attractions and unlimited golf on two Greg Norman designs and the lighted par-3 course. April rates start at $602.10, based on double occupancy.

Save $190
Amelia Island Plantation
Amelia Island, Florida

Swing into spring with Amelia's Unlimited Golf Package. Included are lodging, unlimited golf on three courses and a bag tag and ball-mark tool. Rates start at $371 per person, per night, based on double occupancy and a two-night minimum stay.

March 05, 2009

Ask Travelin Joe: Tucson, Jacksonville and Savannah

Posted at 3:13 PM by Joe Passov

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at

Hi Joe,
Our last golf vacation took us to Carefree, AZ where we played Troon North and Grayhawk, which we really enjoyed. We are planning another 5-day golf vacation this April (3 days of golf is what we're playing). We love desert golf. What and where would you suggest for the same high quality of golf courses? We'd be willing to try another state -- maybe New Mexico. What are your thoughts? My husband and I love reading your articles!

Kim & Lyle Somers

Thanks for the kind words. In return, I'll give you some straight ones. One day, make sure your desert golf itineraries include the Albuquerque/Santa Fe regions of New Mexico and the St. George, Utah area. However, if you're headed south in early April, the weather in both New Mexico and southwestern Utah can be a little dicey.

Instead, try Tucson, Arizona. The saguaro-studded desert terrain, backdropped by the towering Catalina Mountains, makes Tucson golf perhaps the most beautiful high-desert golf experience anywhere. Since you enjoyed Troon North and Grayhawk, two marvelous, if pricey spreads, I recommend Ventana Canyon's two tracks ($120-$195; 520-577-1400,, especially the Tom Fazio-designed Mountain course, whose 107-yard, par-3 3rd hole might be most thrilling drop shot in the southwest.

I also like Jack Nicklaus' three nines at La Paloma Country Club ($90-$205; 520-742-6000, that are covered in cactus. You'll need to stay at the Westin to play, but it's worth the splurge.

Finally, try out the new 27-hole Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain course ($99-$225; 520-572-3500,, site of Geoff Ogilvy's Accenture Match Play win last week. The pros played the Saguaro and Tortolita nines, but designer Jack Nicklaus' favorite is the Wild Burro loop.

Dear Joe,
I'm going on a trip to Jacksonville, Florida. What courses do you recommend for budget and value?

Tony Masseri
Long Island, N.Y.

Assuming you're skipping the trophy courses -- TPC Sawgrass, Amelia Island Plantation, Ponte Vedra Inn and the World Golf Village -- out of cost considerations, hands down the best value in Jacksonville is Windsor Parke Golf Club (904-223-4653, This 1991 Arthur Hills design boasts an array of strategically placed trees, lakes and bunkers and while there may be one too many houses to please purists, the price is right: $55 weekdays for non-residents through May and $70 weekends.

Another solid choice, especially if you crave a stern challenge, is The Golf Club at North Hampton (904-548-0000,; $75-$85), a 7,171-yard, par-72 Arnold Palmer design situated in Fernandina Beach, a half-hour north of Jacksonville.

Hi Joe,
I'll be heading down to the Savannah, Georgia area the third week of March with my bride to see the sights and play some golf. She likes playable courses. How's the weather that time of year? Also, any suggestions for eats and lodging?

Allen T.
Via email

First off, the weather should be glorious for you -- spring is just springing up, with daytime highs 66-72 degrees on average. Second, for a golf smorgasbord, don't forget that Hilton Head Island, S.C., is just a 45-minute drive from Savannah.

However, if you're going to hang out in Georgia for the week, check out the Westin Savannah Harbor (, set along scenic Lowcountry riverbanks. Its Greenbrier Spa is one of the South's best and its Troon-managed Bob Cupp course, the Club at Savannah Harbor (912-201-2240,, hosts the Champions Tour every year. The Golf or Spa Package starts at $339, while a la carte golf is $135.

I think you'll both warm to the Wilmington Island Golf Club (912-897-1612, a 1927 Donald Ross design that's dotted with mature pines and live oaks and goes for just $69, which includes cart and range balls. It's open to outside play all day Tuesday-Friday and after 12:30 p.m. on the weekend.

For eats, my wife, Betsy, swears by Food Network star Paula Deen's recipes, and her The Lady and Sons restaurant (912-233-2600, is one of the city's most popular.

Another great option for down-home cookin' is Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room (912-232-5997, but bring cash as they don't take credit cards.

For upscale fare, stick to Elizabeth on 37th (912-236-5547, and the Olde Pink House (912-232-4286), two Savannah institutions.

For value (yet handsome) accommodations in the heart of historic Savannah, I like either of the two Hampton Inn properties.

Ask Travelin' Joe

Our traveling correspondent has been where you're going. Heading out of town on vacation? Business trip? Travelin' Joe can suggest the best places for you to tee it up. If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at


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