Each week this season, TravelGolf.com is highlighting a key college football matchup and looking at the golf options around the home team's campus. This Saturday, Arizona hosts Oregon State. Here's a look at the golf courses in Tucson, including the Dell Urich muni, and the upscale Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club and Omni Tucson National.
Okay, so it's not exactly a great rivalry like Alabama-Auburn or even Arizona State-Arizona, but the University of Arizona is a pretty good atmosphere for college football. And the fact that both of these Pac-10 teams are having good seasons and want to strengthen their standings with bowl selection committees should make this a solid matchup.
Oregon State, of course, has one of the biggest upsets of the season to its credit. It derailed then No. 1 University of Southern California earlier this year, 27-21.
Arizona, now 6-4, hung with the Trojans in a 17-10 loss on Oct. 25 and beat Cal, then No. 25 in the country, 42-27 the week before. So there's plenty to get excited about for Arizona football fans - and they don't need much to get going.
Tailgating here is a standout experience. Hours before kickoff, you'll find between 10,000 and 15,000 students on the east side of the "mall," a long grassy area on campus, getting revved up for the game. As for game day atmosphere, Arizona has one of the best student sections in the conference - the Zona Zoo. We're talking 11,500 students on game day, and the section stretches end zone to end zone on the east side of the stadium for the first 20-25 rows.
"I've yet to see a school that has students covering 100 yards of sideline like we do," said Blair Willis, assistant media relations director for UA sports. "Usually the sections are part of the sideline and wrapped to the end zone."
Of course, the weather this time of year in Tucson is as good at it gets, with highs in the 70s. November is also usually a dry month, perfect for football-watching and, you guessed it, golf.
With that said, if you're spending the weekend in Tucson, bring your clubs. As you might expect, there's lots of great golf in Tucson. Here are few courses you might check out:
If you're on a budget, like many of the students who go crazy in Zona's Zoo, then you might want to play the city's Dell Urich Golf Course. If you're a local, you can play this former LPGA Tour site, which tips out at just more than 6,600 yards, for as little as $32 during peak season. Out-of-towners will, of course, pay more, but far less than at pricier resorts. Featuring plenty of elevation changes and views of the surrounding mountains, Dell Urich is also convenient, located less than five miles from the AU campus.
For a more upscale experience, head to Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club, home of two outstanding Tom Fazio-designed layouts - the Mountain course and Canyon course. The Mountain Course, ranked No. 6 on Golfweek's Best You Can Play in Arizona list, features one of the most photographed holes in the West - the par-3 third. Both courses are set against the backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Not a bad place to stay either; The Lodge has 50 cozy cabins.
Formerly the Raven Club at Sabino Springs, Arizona National, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., has hosted various collegiate golf tournaments over the years as the home course of the Arizona Wildcats golf team. (Yes, Tiger Woods played there). The 18th, a reachable par 5 with a tee box perched some 200 feet above the green, is among the state's best finishing holes.
Omni Tucson National is the former home of the Tucson and Chrysler opens, where the likes of Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and today's crop of players have walked. That tour course is now called the Catalina Course. Omni Tucson National's Sonoran Course, designed by Tom Lehman, has its fans as well, although it's nearly 700 yards shorter. The Sonoran may, in fact, be more picturesque. It definitely has more bridges. Both are outstanding, pricey golf experiences.
Located 40 miles south of Tucson in Tubac, Tubac Golf Resort features in the opening scenes of the movie "Tin Cup." Designed by Red Lawrence, this 27-hole course is player friendly and affordable.
One of the more recent additions to the Tucson golf scene is Starr Pass Golf Club, a 27-hole facility overlooking the city and surrounding mountains. Conditioning is superb at this Arnold Palmer signature course, as you might expect. The course winds its way through desert washes and into box canyons for a memorable desert golf experience.
Like any good college town, there are plenty of watering holes near the action. Sam Hughes' Place Championship Dining (www.samhughesplace.us) - located across the street from the stadium - is an "upscale" college sports bar. They have some good food options, though a burger is $10. Still, young and old can visit the bar on game day to watch the action on its more than a dozen flat screens televisions.
Dirtbag's Bar (www.dirtbagsbar.com) is a frat/sorority favorite on the weekends, but is also a great place for alumni and fans. Many people come for the atmosphere, food - and to relive memories of their college days.
University Blvd. also has plenty of options. Located on the west side of campus. Gentle Ben's Brewing Company (www.gentlebens.com) crafts its own beers, while Frog & Firken (www.frogandfirkin.com) has great outdoor seating and terrific food. There are also plenty of establishments on 4th Avenue, just a mile from the stadium. Trident Grill (www.tridentgrill.com), for example, has good food and drinks just a few blocks from the stadium.
November 17, 2008