The Ventana Canyon Golf & Tennis Club is one of those lucky golf institutions that can base almost all of its marketing around a singular golf hole. We’re specifically looking at No. 3, which — for all of its advertising value — is also the shortest hole on the course, at just 107 yards from the back tee.
Fazio did not need to travel too far up the mountain outside of Tucson to find the signature hole at his “Mountain” course: He located a platform just large enough to hold a small green while a cast of cacti and large boulders look on. At the front, Fazio included several deep bunkers. Seemingly penal, they actually prevent short shots from rolling back into nature. Visit the club’s website and the first thing you’ll see on the golf page is the header “a picture-perfect par three.”
That hardly gives the rest of Fazio’s layout its due, however. The 100-yard hole is immediately followed by a 600-yard par five that features church pew-style bunkers, and the view from the No. 17 tee may be even better than that at No. 3, offering long views across the Sonoran Desert, all the way to Mexico.
Much of the attention often focuses on the short par-3 3rd hole which features a green engulfed with desert. Unquestionably, it's a fine hole but the stature of the course goes beyond this one moment. Hole such as the par-5 4th and long par-4 5th are quite good.
The terrain is good and Fazio, while showcasing the "eye candy" elements he's known for has also provided a good mixture of holes. On the inward side -- holes such as the par-4 15th and the long closing par-5 are good additions.
Playability is present but not to the point in which the inducement of sleep occurs.
From the tips the course is under 6,900 yards and given today's equipment may be on the short side for those capable in launching the ball. Nonetheless, Fazio has provided a number of holes with key turning points in the drive zone so shaping shots is still called upon.
In the several times I have played the course the conditioning can vary. In some instances quite good and, at other times, less so.
Unfortunately, there is plenty of housing clutter that intrudes the round. Much of it is positioned away from the play but one needs to deal with it at other times.
When Ventana Canyon came onto the AZ golf scene the competition was in its ascendancy. Now, the bar for golf is quite high and while the Mountain Course still is enjoyable it has clearly become part of the secondary tier of layouts that exist now in the Grand Canyon State.
M. James Ward