h2>The Ventana Canyon Experience

With the rainy season upon the Central Coast, now is a good time to make a trip to warm, sunny Tucson, Arizona. Loew’s Ventana Canyon is a great spot for golf, tennis, spa or just lying by the pool. Ventana Canyon is located at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains about 20 minutes Northeast from the Tucson Airport. It features two 18-hole Tom Fazio signature golf courses adjacent to the resort.

The two courses at Ventana Canyon were among the first Tom Fazio designs in the West. The Mountain and Canyon courses wind through 600 acres of Sonoran Desert preserve with sweeping views of the Santa Catalina Mountains from most holes. The Mountain Course includes the famous 7th hole, one of the most photographed holes in golf. It plays only 107 yards but like the 7th at Pebble Beach, it is all you can ask for. The tee is elevated and the hole plays downhill over cacti and canyons. The green, framed by rock outcroppings and Saguaro cacti, is small and demands a pinpoint approach. You should allow yourself a mulligan and an extra moment or so for the view.

The 7th and 8th tees are perched on top of high rocks, much like an artist’s fantasy golf hole. From these mini-peaks one can see more than 100 miles of desert stretching all the way to Mexico.

The courses at Ventana Canyon demand accurate driving to avoid the desert waste areas that line most fairways. I found both courses to be in excellent shape. The golf courses also have an excellent all-grass practice facility with multiple putting and chipping greens.

The Resort

The design of Loew’s Ventana Canyon Resort reminded my of the Hapuna Beach Resort on the Kona Coast. The buildings blend in to the environment, in this case a hillside desert location. Waterfalls and two spacious pool areas frame the hotel area. The rooms and public areas are well-appointed and offer views to the Catalinas or the various waterscapes throughout the property. The hotel also has an observation tower, which allows one to see most of the Tucson area.

There are five restaurants at the hotel and we dined at the Flying V Bar & Grill. This restaurant features indoor and outdoor dining overlooking the 18th hole of the Canyon Course as well as cascading water and city lights (try the duck entrée!).

Loew’s Ventana Canyon has eight lighted tennis courts and a 7,000-square-foot spa. The resort also features miles of hiking and biking trails.

It had been 20 years since I’d first been to Ventana Canyon and the area has grown up. When I first visited it seemed to be in a somewhat remote location. Tucson has grown in this direction and there are now many nice housing developments and shopping areas close to the hotel.

For more information on Loew’s Ventana Canyon Resort visit www.loewshotels.com or call 520-299-2020.

Things to See

On your way from or out to the airport I would suggest you allow some time to see the famed Airplane Graveyard-Bone Yard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This is where the U.S. Air Force mothballs planes until it needs them again or it’s time to salvage them for parts. Miles and miles of old planes dating back to World War II line up as far as the eye can see.

Every serious pilot knows about this place. It’s mysterious and exciting, something one could easily imagine in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” There are more than 4,000 planes in storage, most from the Viet Nam War era. A good starting place for this attraction is the Pima Air and Space Museum. (For more information visit www.pimaair.org.)

If you are a fan of Western movies, you may want to visit Old Tucson Studios. At this authentic mock Western town, more than 70 movies were filmed. If you are in search of the real thing, take an hour drive to Tombstone, where the gunfight at OK Corral took place, in addition to many other shootouts in the Old West. Tombstone has been left exactly as it was in the late 1800s, and the preservers of the town have nice enough re-enact the famous shootout daily.

For more information visit www.usairways.com or call 1-800-428-4322.