Sunday, January 30, 2011

Golfing in Arizona and the Movies

Cover of "The Bells of St. Mary's"Cover of The Bells of St. Mary'sGolfing and Arizona love each other.  But did you know that the movies hold a big place in Arizona's heart too?   For actors like Bing Crosby that loved to golf, it may have been the reason the first of those old movies was filmed here.  Golfing in Arizona goes back a very long ways.

Tucson has it's very own Hollywood back lot on the outskirts of town. The location is called Old Tucson Studios.  Old Tucson is a tourist attraction most of the time these days.  But when the occasional western is filmed here, the studios can be back up and running.    Big stars have been filming here since the 1945's when The Bells of St. Mary's was made here in Tucson.  It must have caused quite a stir when Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman came to town.  We do have the beautiful San Xavier Mission as well as the St. Augustine Catholic Cathedral so I suppose Tucson was a natural.  And the fact that the historic El Rio Golf Course was here back then may have lured Bing to Tucson.

Since that time, 64 top ten movies have been filmed here in the area.  Those movies include Around the World in Eighty Day, Tombstone, Easy Rider, Giant (James Dean) and Revenge of the Nerds (sorry I could not resist).  And, for those of us that like to golf, we have our very own little piece of the Tucson movie history in a movie called Tin Cup.

A few of the scenes from Tin Cup were filmed at the Tubac Golf Resort about 40 minutes south of Tucson.   The now famous lake in the movie was created by the production company doing the filming and still stands a reminder of the day Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Cheech Moran and Don Johnson came to town.  The lake guards the 5th hole (I think) and a plaque in the ground next to the lake reminds players of that famous scene from the movie.  This is a beautiful course.  We played it several years ago with our son.  We thought it was worth playing just for the bragging rights.  I would play this course everyday if I could!

I suppose if you have seen Tin Cup, you also remember the scene shot inside the bar of the golf course.  The room is in the cafe attached to Santa Rita Golf Course.  This course is located just south of Tucson in a small subdivision called Corona del Tucson.  I have played this course many times.  It is narrow with houses on almost every fairway and the wind blows out there at the drop of a hat.  But if you like to pretend you are dancing golfing with the stars, you might add it to your list.

Just outside Nogales, AZ a movie star famous during the 1940-50 named Steward Granger and his wife Jean Simmons owned a ranch called Yerba Buena Ranch.  The story goes he kept the ranch so his famous friends could visit.  While the place does not host guests any more, the guest room are still on the property near the Kino Spring Golf Course parking lot.  

In 1691 explorer Father Eusebio Kino found sanctuary at Kino Springs on one of his many expeditions throughout Sonora and Arizona. A half a century ago, Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons owned the 5,280-acre Yerba Buena Ranch and had frequent guests such as John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor. (Kino Spring Golf Course information)
The property is located very near the Mexican border.  The golf course that occupies the ranch now was built in 1970s.  There are 18 holes, 9 holes out and 9 holes back in.  There is no return to the clubhouse at the turn.  This too is a narrow course with fairways hemmed in by hills and arroyos.  The setting is spectacular and the aura of the old west lingers in the air.

So there you have the perfect vacation agenda...a wonderful way to satisfy your need to see where famous movie stars hung out and golfed!  Life is good.

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1 comment:

  1. Good timing, Barb,

    My wife and I are leaving for Tubac this morning. It is a great place to get away for a few days. I didn't know about the Tin Cup connection but now will have to look for that lake.


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