Casino del Sol in Tucson rings in a winner with a new Sewailo Golf Course by Notah Begay III
One of the newest casinos and worthy of gem status is the 215-room Casino del Sol in Tucson. When compared to the massive complex of Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, it is a small player, but the upscale friendly ambiance makes it a winner for those who want to have a great evening in a pleasant environment and play a fine new golf course just across the way.
Owned by the Native American Pascua Yaqui Tribe, part of the jackpot of staying here is Sewailo Golf Course. Designed by Notah Begay III with architect Ty Butler and the tribe and managed by Troon Golf, Sewailo (”Say-why-lo“) plays 7,283 from the tips, with 14 acres of lakes and one mile of creeks. There is water on 10 holes, about 65 testy bunkers and 40,000 native plants and shrubs.
“Once we go through a couple of seasons, you will find Sewailo one of the most scenic and colorful (courses) in the country,” says Begay noting his love of wildflowers. Sewailo after all means “kingdom of the flowers” in the Yaqui language.
Is Sewailo a desert or a parkland course? Actually it’s kind of both with some great desert holes and some wide, manicured landing areas. The front nine takes you around lakes and streams while the back nine forces you to perform on a desert terrain before hitting more water finishing up with a near island green.
There is a large double green (no. 1 and no. 8). “Anytime I can include a double green, I like to do it,” said Begay. He adds, “I also love to have drivable par 4s.”
One of Begay’s favorite holes is the par-3 third, hitting over water with the casino and mountains in the background. “Because of all the water, it seems harder than it is,” Begay said.
Begay, a four-time winner on the PGA circuit, Golf Channel commentator and architect, grew up on the west side of Albuquerque where he was so poor he says, “I played with women’s clubs dreaming of becoming a golf professional. I even bought a pair of women’s golf shoes in a garage sale.”
He had become hooked on golf early on and his proficiency in the sport led to a golf scholarship to Stanford where he had a pretty famous roommate, Tiger Woods. At that time says Begay, “We called him ‘Urkel’ because he wore these fat Coke-bottle glasses.”
Begay who is half Navajo and one-quarter San Felipe and Isleta, has used his success in the golf world to help his fellow Native Americans. He founded the Notah Begay III Foundation to help improve the health of Native Americans and each year sponsors a tournament at Atunyote Golf Club at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York, an event that has raised more than $4 million over the past five years for his charity. Tiger has supported his pal by playing in the tournament.
Now his latest achievement, Sewailo adds to the win-win-win combo of casino action in a smart interior, a hotel and spa. Even if you’re not into gambling, with 1,000 slots, cards and poker tables just off the lobby, you might be tempted to try out your luck.
Casino Del Sol guest rooms are beautifully appointed in soft desert colors and suites come with balconies, jet tubs and wet bars. Large picture windows look out to the golf course or hills. Egyptian cotton linens are lux quality as are the mattresses making for a good night’s sleep. Ching, Ching.
Note: While you’re in the area, there are other great plays like Tubac Golf Resort & Spa in the Santa Rita and the Tumacacori Mountain Ranges with 27 holes by Red Lawrence along with 98 rooms and suites in hacienda-style accommodation. Fans of the movie, “Tin Cup” will recall scenes from this famous flick starring Kevin Costner aka “Tin Cup” Roy McAvoy, a downtrodden former golf star. A plaque on hole no. 4 recalls Tin Cup’s shot over a lake to the green and the entrance has changed little since Tin Cup hit a ball bouncing up the driveway.
Another good play in the Tucson area is The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain with two courses, South designed by John Fought and North designed by Fought and Tom Lehman.
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