TUCSON, Ariz. -- If you're looking for value in your golf vacation, here's something you might want to consider: Travel to Tucson and play the munis.
Tucson has some of the best golf weather in the United States and one of the better municipal golf systems, especially considering the city is just a half million people. Plus, unlike some cities such as San Diego or New York, you're not going to pay $200 or more to play the best municipal courses.
Nobody's saying that Tucson's best munis -- Dell Urich or Silverbell -- are as good as San Diego's Torrey Pines or New York's Beth Page Black, but they are very good values. In fact, while the resort courses approach 200 during peak season, the city's munis are well less than $50. And the golf, which is now operated by Scottsdale-based OB Sports, is pretty stout.
Dell Urich leads the pack
Dell Urich, for example, which was named after one of the longtime pros at Randolph Golf Park, is a strong Ken Kavanaugh design that replaced the original Billy Bell design that used to be the South Course. A perennial site of the state high school championships, this 1996 course has an interesting purpose, which makes its design all the more remarkable.
Kavanaugh's first objective with the course was to make sure that it served as a flood easement for the area. But if you didn't know it, you would never guess. The holes flow well, it's walkable and certainly a challenge. At more than 6,600 yards, this par 70 has plenty of tough holes, including the par-4 14th that plays 468 yards from the back tee.
Right next to Dell Urich is the other Billy Bell design, the Randolph North Course, a par 72 that plays a little more than 6,900 yards. Like Del Urich, the course has a gorgeous mountain setting. And for munis, both are well conditioned and overseeded in the winter.
Many locals, however, consider Silverbell their favorite. Located on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River, the course features wide among mature pine trees, strategically placed bunkers and two large lakes that come in to play on five holes. Originally designed by Jack Snyder, it, too, was redesigned by Kavanaugh. This par 70 golf course has five par 3s and three par 5s, yet it still measures more than 6,900 yards from the back.
Fred Enke has desert feel
For a more desert layout, you might want to try Fred Enke, which is located by one of the coolest sites on earth –- the Boneyard, a graveyard for thousands of decommissioned military aircraft. The course itself has plenty of nice holes, and at 6,715 yards, it's a pretty good championship test as well. Particularly intriguing is the contemporary style clubhouse.
And finally, there's the Trini Alvarez -- El Rio Golf Course, which dates back to the 1930s, and it was the original site of the PGA's Tucson Open. It operated as a country club until 1968. The relatively flat layout features tight fairways, small greens, two lakes and plenty of trees. The golf course also features junior tees measuring just under 4,700 yards.