An Ace in the Hole
World-class golf is just the start of a revitalizing experience at Omni Tucson National Resort
By Rodney Campbell
Tucson has a hard-earned and well-deserved reputation as a place for visitors to revitalize their spirits and free their minds. That’s especially the case during the winter, when a good portion of the country becomes a three-month icebox.
When my wife and I are in need of a break, we check into Omni Tucson National, a resort that epitomizes everything a desert destination has to offer to soothe the soul: great accommodations, fantastic restaurants on-site, a scenic location, and, of course, 36 holes of golf.
Let’s start with golf. We started our first day by playing the Catalina Course, one of two 18-hole layouts at the resort. Catalina is the more traditional, parkland-style of the two layouts; the Sonoran Course, designed by golf legend Tom Lehman, is a desert-style course. The club alternates the Catalina and Sonoran tracks between members and guests each day; play one today and the other tomorrow. It’s a great opportunity to challenge yourself on two different types of courses and a big reason why we chose to stay at Omni Tucson National, again, for our weekend getaway.
Courses for champions
As we made our way through the Catalina routing, we noticed it could have easily been transplanted from somewhere in the Midwest: tree-lined fairways, water in strategic locations on eight holes and nary a tee shot across desert. While we are hardly professionals, we found the Catalina Course to be the right combination of challenges and enjoyment. The friendly starter on the first hole was a transplanted former Indiana golf pro, the on-course food and beverage service was top-notch, and we saw families working on their games together on the range. Golf is a family activity, after all.
One young girl was on the range working with one of Tucson National’s staff PGA teaching professionals. I could tell she had an eager attitude and can-do spirit as she concentrated on her teacher’s instruction, as well as her manipulations of her stance and swings.
Further along the course, we saw a young man behind the wheel of a golf cart, listening and watching as his grandfather played each hole. And on both courses we saw several golfing couples like us, taking advantage of the beautiful, sunny weather.
I started playing golf as a boy and have fond memories of being on the course, adjusting my shot and practicing my swing with my family. I’ve tried to keep this family tradition alive, opting for golf resorts whenever my wife and I have time for a weekend getaway. The open fairways and big, blue skies somehow bring us together, and this resort’s courses always deliver a great experience.
The Catalina Course’s finishing hole is a make-or-break, 443-yard par 4, with water on both sides of the fairway. In fact, it’s often noted to be one of the toughest finishing holes in Southern Arizona. It’s no wonder pro and college golfers have been testing their mettle here since the 1960s, with a winner’s list that includes the late, great Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Phil Mickelson. Golf’s legends continue to come here; the Catalina’s history with the PGA TOUR continues with an annual PGA TOUR Champions event each spring: the Cologuard Classic.
When we finished, I thought about the young girl we saw taking a lesson and wondered if we should have considered taking one ourselves. After seeing our scorecards, she may have had the right idea.
As the sun began to set, we walked beneath tie-dye skies toward the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, Bob’s Steak & Chop House. Originally, we had considered venturing into Tucson to eat at one of the many local, chef-driven restaurants. But after consulting online reviews of Bob’s Steak and Chop House, we discovered that both Open Table and TripAdvisor enthusiasts have piled praise on the resort’s steakhouse. Many even called it one of Tucson’s best. As soon as we put food to mouth, it was clear to us why so many people are big fans.
The experience started with a loaf of warm fresh bread and a jar of pickles and peppers on the table for palate cleansing. Our attentive waitress warned us against eating too much bread, fully aware of the incredible feast that lay ahead. We took her word for it and paced ourselves, leaving room for our made-from-scratch appetizers and entrées.
My wife started with the spinach salad with honey-poppy dressing, mushrooms, bacon, and chopped egg. She said the dressing was the perfect light complement. My choice was the Maryland-style crab cake, a flaky, tasty start for the meal.
For entrées, my wife chose the rack of lamb and I went with the New York strip. With “Steak” in the venue’s title, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I was right. Even though I prefer my steak well-done (blasphemy to most people), the cut was juicy and tasty. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the lamb. It was prepared medium, just the way she likes it, and she was still singing the meal’s praises two weeks later, including the garlic smashed potatoes.
We paired our meals with Dynamite Merlot. Do we go as far as saying the taste was explosive? Intense flavors of dark fruits and cherries accompanied by hints of chocolate and vanilla. She likes chocolate; I like vanilla…the perfect compromise.
Since we saved room, we also opted for dessert: key lime pie. Let’s just say we were happy we paced ourselves – freshly made, tart, sweet, and creamy. It was an excellent dinner.
After dinner, we retired to our room, one of many that were recently refurbished. An HD TV, incredibly large bathroom, high wood-beam ceiling, comfy bed, and lots of space to stretch out had us planning a return visit before we even came close to checking out.
Throughout our stay, more perks were revealed: The staff was friendly, the pool was big, the gym was much more than what you normally find at a resort, and the parking was convenient and complimentary.
Speaking of the pool, we saw two guests getting private yoga instruction on the deck on our way to play the Sonoran Course the next day. Ah, Tucson winters.
When we began our last round at Omni Tucson National’s Sonoran Course, we found ourselves among compatriots again—couples and families playing together in friendly challenges and instructive sessions. We felt right at home with no interruptions, just lush desert, water, and some sand bunkers to keep it interesting.
There never seems to be enough time to spend with the ones you love. Work can wait. Treat yourself and your family by taking in everything Omni Tucson National Resort has to offer: world-class golf, incredible cuisine, rooms with all the comforts of home, and a friendly staff.
There’s no better way to bring the family together than with a weekend like that.
Video: Austin wins in 2016 Tucson Conquistadores Classic