Golf and spa in Arizona

Posted: Thu 12th February 2015
By: Dena Roché

What can you say to a couple when she wants to spend their vacation at a destination spa, but he wants to spend it golfing? You could always say, “Go to Canyon Ranch in Arizona.”

Canyon Ranch is an award-winning destination spa which also happens to boast a golf performance centre, the only dedicated spa I’m aware of to do so.    The Golf Performance Center is run by two PGA-certified teaching pros, and focuses on simplifying the golf swing in an indoor training centre. This helps dismiss the importance of the golf ball and the success of a shot to concentrate on fundamentals.      Training aids, technology and top-notch instruction come together in boot camp classes focusing on the full swing, the short game and conditioning. Additionally, there are daily golf classes and full-blown golf packages that include individual golf lessons, allowances for other Canyon Ranch services and rounds of golf at the nearby Ventana Canyon Resort, a property boasting two Tom Fazio courses.     The Golf Performance Academy weaves general fitness into its programs as well. “Flexibility is primo for golfers,” says John Bell, one of the PGA pros on staff. “For women, upper body strength is also key, and there are exercise physiologists on staff, who are also golfers, who can help with that.”

FOURTY CLASSES. Whether you’re at Canyon Ranch to golf or simply to enjoy the experience, the emphasis on fitness here is stronger than at any other destination spa I’ve been to. A typical day offers up about 40 complimentary classes from yoga and meditation, to TRX and Tabata, to aquatique and dance and everything in between.     I’m a gym rat so I’m excited to try some things outside my normal routine, including Fit Strip, a dance class that gives you a workout while learning how to shake what your mama gave you. Admittedly a bit daunting, the class pushed me outside my comfort zone, but when I let go about whether I was doing it “right” and just moved, it became fun.     Without a doubt, my favorite class was aerial yoga. While it provokes images of Cirque du Soleil launching a new show called Namaste, in actuality the class is simple and can be done by any beginning yogi. Playing with poses in the hammock allowed more range of motion and reminded me of being a playful five-year-old. I actually found swaying in the silks more relaxing than many massages I’ve had.

WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. While Canyon Ranch hits the physical harder than most spas, in recent years it has cultivated more of a focus on mental and emotional well-being, evidenced by the new Spiritual Center and lots of lectures on topics like Living with Conscious Intention, The Soul of Communication and Decision Making, and The Feng Shui of Health. The week I’m at the Ranch there is an entire series dedicated to exploring what truly makes us happy and how to cultivate it.    One thing that I know makes me happy is a spa! And like any destination spa worthy of being called the best in the world (an award Canyon Ranch has won 11 times from Condé Nast Traveler) there is quite a diverse spa menu to choose from. Stays at Canyon Ranch include a set number of dollars guests can allocate to spa, medical, golf, spiritual, fitness and metaphysical services. I do all my spa services at night to maximize the opportunity to enjoy the other Canyon Ranch services during the day and to hopefully induce good sleep. Canyon Ranch offers special sleep programs, a 20+ pillow menu, and a white noise machine in the room. Sleep seems to be as important to the Ranch as it is to me.

KNOTS AND TENSION. The first night of my stay I choose the Connective Tissue Rebalancing service. This 80-minute service uses a combination of a vibrational instrument and myofascial and craniosacral techniques that encourage connective tissue to relax.        Much of the knots and tension in our bodies are due to years of stress, postural imbalance and injuries that make our myofascia compensate in often dysfunctional patterns. I noticed that even days after the service, my left glute muscle, which had been very weak, was now firing as strongly as the right. Years of booty building moves at the gym hadn’t accomplished this.    For a more relaxing service, I opt for the Muscle Melt the next night. The name alone sounds luscious. Using a combination of warm herbal poultices, Thai massage and other massage modalities, the knots in my neck and back are coaxed into a more relaxed state. 

THE WATSU SERVICE. While many repeat guests continue to get the basic Canyon Ranch massage, I think that when you’re at a place that offers such diversity, you owe it to yourself to try something new. A great option for that is the Watsu service.     The treatment takes place in a heated pool with underwater music and a therapist who guides you through motions that make your body relax so completely that the effect is almost womb like. Healing Energy is a unique treatment conducted by a nurse and designed to harness energy to reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue and pain. I had this service at the Ranch years ago and the experience is one of my top spa memories.

TWO DINING OPTIONS. When Canyon Ranch was founded 35 years ago, the alimentary emphasis was on restriction, but today it prioritises wellness, health and pleasure. There are two dining options: a main dining room and the Double U Cafe. Each restaurant offers a wide variety of choices from carnivore to vegan to gluten- and dairy-free. Nutritional information is available on each item so guests can make informed choices.    There are a few no-no’s at Canyon Ranch: you won’t find alcohol or soft drinks served in either restaurant, nor a salt shaker on the table (clued in guests know they can ask for that).Truthfully, none of the food I had needed additional flavoring. 

YEAR-ROUND SUN. Canyon Ranch is set on more than 200 acres in the Sonoran Desert with the Santa Catalina Mountains rising up nearby. The hiking program at the Ranch takes advantage of the surroundings with a variety of hikes for all abilities. Since the weather is sunny nearly year-round, three outdoor pools beckon travelers from wintry destinations like England.     Accommodations are comfortable and reflect a Southwestern aesthetic. In all three room types there are cloud-soft feather beds outfitted with luxury Italian linens, robes, and Lather toiletries (including dental floss!).    Canyon Ranch’s motto is “the power of possibility” and this world-class spa proves that not only is it possible for a golf fanatic and spa diva to enjoy the same holiday, it’s possible to learn, grow and get more healthy all while luxuriating in a stunning setting designed to relax, rejuvenate and open you up to more possibilities in your own life.

Good to know

Getting There: 

British Airways, United, American and Delta fly from London to Tucson with one stop along the way.


Through June 13, 2015

Four-night deluxe packages begin at $4,520/pp for double occupancy, which includes a $670 service allowance for each guest.  Seven-night deluxe packages begin at $7,340/pp double occupancy, which includes a

$1,200 service allowance for each guest.

June 14 – September 23, 2015

Four-night deluxe packages begin at $3,300/pp for double accommodations, which includes a $670 service allowance for each guest.  Seven-night deluxe packages begin at $5,470/pp double occupancy, which includes a

$1,200 service allowance for each guest.

The Golf Performance Academy has a surcharge of $650/four nights and $1200/seven nights.

What to Bring:

The dress at Canyon Ranch is fitness apparel.  If you want to dress for dinner, keep it casual.

In winter, bring a jacket.  Arizona does get cold at night.

Mosquitoes can be a problem, especially in summer; bring repellent.

While no alcohol is served, you can keep it in your room and enjoy privately. 


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