Sunset view of a golf course in the Arizona desert with mountains in the background

If you want to golf during your retirement in Southern Arizona, here are the best courses in the area.

The best golf courses in Southern Arizona easily hold their own with the best in Scottsdale and Phoenix—the places most people associate with the best golf in Arizona. You could easily draw up a list of the best ten, or even twenty, golf courses in Southern Arizona, and none of them would disappoint.

Southern Arizona also has a better climate for golf than Scottsdale and Phoenix. Being at a higher elevation, it's usually a few degrees cooler on average, and this can make a difference in the summer when temperatures regularly get above 100 degrees. Tucson, for example, has an elevation of about 2,300 feet. That makes it about 1,300 feet higher than Phoenix, and some of its best golf courses are higher still in the foothills of the local mountains.

Here's our selection of five of the best golf courses in Southern Arizona, given in alphabetical order. They include private, semi-private, and public courses.

The Gallery Golf Club

The Gallery is a private club east of Marana and about a 30-minute drive north of Tucson. It has an elevation of almost 2,800 feet, and its two 18-hole championship courses have won many awards.

The Gallery has spectacular views over the surrounding desert and mountains with hundreds of giant saguaro cacti visible all around, including along the courses themselves. Both courses are par 72; the South Course was designed by John Fought, and the North Course was designed by Fought and Tom Lehman. 

One notable feature is that the North Course's Hole 9 is the longest par-5 hole in North America, measuring at 725 yards. The North Course was also voted best in Southwest Arizona by Golf Digest, and the South Course has been nominated in Golf Digest's Best 100 Courses in the USA.

The Gallery Restaurant is the club's fine dining choice, while there's also a Bar and Lounge with live music on weekends. In addition, the Sports Club has an outdoor pool, illuminated tennis and pickleball courts, fitness and yoga classes, and a spa. It also has running, hiking, and cycling clubs. If you want to try out The Gallery, they have an option to be a guest for a day.

The Highlands at Dove Mountain

The Highlands at Dove Mountain is also in Marana, a 5-minute drive south of The Gallery in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains. This semi-private course is part of The Highlands at Dove Mountain 50+ active adult community. Its average elevation of 3,000 feet makes it a pleasant golfing experience in the heat of summer, and it offers views of the desert and Tucson, which is 20 miles away.

The course experienced a complete makeover in 2019; all 18 putting greens as well as the practice putting green were resurfaced and all the sand bunkers were rebuilt. Even before this, The Highlands at Dove Mountain was recently chosen by GolfAdvisor as one of the Best 25 Golf Courses in Arizona.

The 18-hole, par-72 course was designed by golf architect Arthur Hills, and every hole has a different view of the five mountain ranges that surround it. There's also a driving range, a practice putting area, 25 practice areas, and several golf pros available for private lessons. The club has its own restaurant, and residents enjoy all the other amenities of this active adult community.

Sewailo Golf Club

The Sewailo Golf Club is a public course that's part of the Casino del Sol Resort, run by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Sewailo means ' Land Where Flowers Grow' in the Pascua Yaqui language. The resort is about a 20-minute drive southwest of Downtown Tucson where the Tucson urban area ends and the Arizona desert begins.

The course was designed by the former PGA Tour professional and golf course designer, Notah Begay III, along with Ty Butler. The two produced a course that blends the natural desert landscape with cultivated land, lakes, and streams. The result is a course of over 7,400 yards that has five tee boxes at each of the 18 holes to cater to golfers of all abilities.

Ventana Canyon Golf and Racquet Club

Ventana Canyon is consistently rated among the best golf courses in Southern Arizona, and it's one of the most scenic in the whole state. It's set in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains at the northeastern edge of the Tucson area and about a 30-minute drive from the center of Tucson. The very popular Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a 5-minute drive away.

This private country club has two 18-hole courses, both designed by Tom Fazio, which make full use of the impressive mountain backdrop. There are four sets of tees at each hole, practice facilities, and a pro shop. The club also has several golf professionals available for private lessons, and you can book half-day and full-day lessons that also allow you to experience the resort itself. The resort also has many other sporting amenities in addition to a AAA 4-Diamond hotel with 50 suites.

Weston La Paloma Resort and Country Club

The La Paloma Country Club is also northeast of Tucson, about a 25-minute drive from downtown and close to the Santa Catalina Mountains. The Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, where the mountains begin, is a 10-minute drive away. 

This is another very scenic course that makes full use of the desert landscape of the Catalina foothills. The 27-hole course was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and it's made up of three 9-hole courses. One of these, the Ridge Course, has been called the most scenic nine holes in Southern Arizona as it has elevated tees that provide breathtaking views of the mountain and desert. There are also extensive practice facilities, including two putting greens as well as a large number of pro staff available for advice and lessons. The country club also has two pools, tennis courts, an athletics club, a spa, and several dining options.