One day in Tucson: Sewailo or Dove Mountain?

Top choice in Tucson, Arizona: Sewailo or The Golf Club at Dove Mountain?

Recently, we got this question from a reader (David K) who was planning a Tucson, Arizona golf trip: "Sewailo or Dove Mountain if you can only play once?"

It's a great question because these golf courses and experiences couldn't be more different, and yet they are somewhat complementary. In fact, Casino del Sol Resort, where Sewailo is located, has offered packages that include golf at both Sewailo and The Gallery at Dove Mountain.

In this case, however, I think the reader is referring more specifically to The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, formerly Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and the former home of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is actually a private club that does offer limited public tee times, so you can play it without staying at the resort.

On the Internet, you can book rounds for as little as $79, so it's much more accessible than it used to be. At Sewailo Golf Club, green fees start for as little as $76 (dynamic pricing), so there might not be much difference in price between the two.

The biggest difference is location. If you're flying into Tucson, Sewailo will be more convenient since Dove Mountain is located in Marana. However, if you're coming from Phoenix, Dove Mountain is actually on the way.

Costs aside, though, let's take a quick look at the two courses.

Sewailo Golf Club earns high marks

As the newest golf course in the Tucson area, Sewailo (the first new course in the area since The Golf Club at Dove Mountain six years ago) is already becoming a favorite for visitors and locals alike and only promises to get better.

Designed by former PGA Tour player Notah Begay III and architect Ty Butler, the 7,400-yard Sewailo Golf Club was GolfAdvisor's highest-rated course in the country during the first week of November 2014. The course has something for everyone, including impeccable conditions, especially after overseeding.

Here's what one reader/reviewer had to say: "This is a great layout with risk-reward on almost every hole. The great thing about the design is you can play safe on most holes and greatly reduce the problems. But if you want to cut corners and go at pins, you can score here as well."

Thousands of cubic yards of dirt were removed to create a unique look around 14 acres of lakes, one mile of creeks and about 75 bunkers. The project also included the transplanting of more than 30,000 native shrubs and trees, which as they mature, will surely make this one of the best golf courses in Tucson.

Managed by Troon Golf, the course is an amenity of the Casino del Sol Resort, which offers a casino, spa, fine dining and luxurious accommodations at affordable prices.

Golf Club at Dove Mountain (even) better than its reputation

When The Golf Club at Dove Mountain first played host to the Accenture Match Play in 2009, it was criticized by several tour players, including Tiger Woods, so architect Jack Nicklaus made some changes to the 18 holes (there are 27 holes total) that staged the event. (The event, now called the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, moves to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in 2015.) The truth is that Nicklaus designed the Saguaro-Tortolita combination with match play in mind, so some of the greens, especially on the par 5s, were a little severe.

Still, the course is super interesting with a variety of holes, including a drivable par 4 (the sixth on Tortolita) that set up great finishes for match play, which is the format many golfers love to play anyway. And while many courses are interesting tee to green, The Golf Club at Dove Mountain continues the journey on the greens. There's hardly a boring putt on the course, especially on the Saguaro-Tortolita combo.

What many don't know, however, is that the third nine -- the Wild Burro Course -- was Nicklaus's favorite of the three layouts, and it wasn't on TV. Unlike the other two nines, Wild Burro is more conducive to stroke play. The greens aren’t as severe, and there are more opportunities to keep your score in check.

My choice: The Golf Club at Dove Mountain

All other factors being equal, if you ask me which course I'd rather play, my answer would be The Golf Club at Dove Mountain. Both have pristine conditions, both excel in customer service and both are beautiful.

But personally, I love to play PGA Tour courses because I like to see how I measure up against the pros, even if I am playing two tees up. (Dove Mountain, by the way, was the tour's longest course in 2014 at more than 7,800 yards.) Plus, The Golf Club at Dove Mountain keeps your attention from the time you hit your tee shot to when you hole out your last putt. There are few gimmes.

Honestly, though, you couldn't go wrong with either course, and Sewailo, which is probably a little more player friendly for all levels, just promises to improve with age.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
Commented on

Haven't played Sewailo yet, but I too love playing Tour courses.  Do NOT miss the chance to play Dove Mtn-- play all 3 nines if you have time.  They're all great!  Also, if this is a stay and play ( packages available) the Ritz has it all over Casino del Sol (unless you like smoky casinos without real Roulette or Craps tables).  The scenery at Dove Mtn can't be beat.

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Tough to go wrong with either course.  Played Dove Mountain twice (playing the Saguaro-Tortolita combo).  Generous landing areas lead to greens with severe undulations.  Good variety of holes and generally very good conditioning.  Played Sewailo this month.  Superb practice facility.  Great layout with a surprising amount of water hazards for a desert layout.  Great bunkering throughout the course.  Wind will be a factor here as the course is wide open.  Visually challenging finishing hole with water all down the right side and a waterfall backdrop to the 18th geen.

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Top choice in Tucson, Arizona: Sewailo or The Golf Club at Dove Mountain?