April Notebook: Longbow in for a Change

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, AZ - The popular Longbow Golf Club in northeast Mesa is in for big changes in the next few months.

Last fall, the 18-hole course was purchased by a Phoenix development firm, Dover Associates that has also bought 149 acres of vacant property near the course to create the Longbow Business Park and Golf Club. While builders work on the business complex, the golf course will be remodeled and will probably shut down for several weeks this summer and in early fall.

Dover bought the course from the Boeing Co. which operates the AH-64 Apache Longbow helicopter assembly plant across the street from the course. Although some intense golfers find the copters making test flights over the fairways a bit distracting, aviation lovers enjoy playing while propellers whirl overhead. A number of classic airplanes based at nearby Falcon Field also make occasional flights over Longbow. And there are beautiful vistas of nearby Red Mountain. The course is a par 70 with 6,778 yards from the back tees and 5,554 yards from the forward tees.

According to Robert M. McNichols of Daedalus Real Estate Advisors and Dover Associates, a number of holes at Longbow will be moved and reconfigured by Ken Kavanaugh of Tucson, the original designer of the course, which opened in 1997. "We're going to keep the holes around the lake and under the flight pattern, but we'll stretch the course out east on Recker Road," McNichols says.

The Longbow course will actually grow in area - going from 135 acres to 150 acres, and a new clubhouse will be built. It's expected that the redesign will increase turf areas, create wider fairways and reduced forced carries. There will also be a new short game practice area and a longer and wider driving range.

Originally, it was hoped to keep the golf course open during construction, but McNichols said it would be difficult for golfers to play with all the work being done on the course. "We're going to be on a very tight schedule," McNichols says. "We hope to open after overseeding.

Kavanaugh, McNichols says, is excited about the renovation. "There isn't any architect that wouldn't be interested in having a second chance to redo the little things that he might not have liked about the course in the first place," McNichols says. If you'd like to play the course before the closing, Longbow is located at 5400 E. McDowell Road, Mesa 85215, near the intersection of Higley and McDowell Roads. Call 480-807-5400 for tee times. Web site: www.longbowgolf.com

Countrywide Tradition Gets Superstitious

The Countrywide Tradition, the first Major on the Senior PGA Tour, will make a big move this month from a private golf club located in the northeastern outskirts of the Phoenix metro area to a private club in the far southeast.

For the past 13 years, the Tradition was held on the Cochise course at Desert Mountain in north Scottsdale. This year, from April 23-28, the tournament will take place on the Prospector course at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Superstition Mountain, east of Mesa and southeast of Apache Junction. Both courses are par 72 and play from about 7,200 yards. Both were developed by Lyle Anderson, the founder of the tournament, and both were designed by Jack Nicklaus; although Jack's son Gary helped his dad lay out the Prospector.

So why the switch? The ads say it's because the Prospector course is more spectator-friendly than the Cochise course and Drew Wathey, media relations director for the event, confirms that. "The new course is something like the TPC Scottsdale where the Phoenix Open is held," Wathey says. "It has a flatter layout and the area around the greens at Nos. 9 and 18 is built like an amphitheater so people can see what's going on. There are more viewing locations and it's easier to walk; Desert Mountain is a very hilly area.

Perhaps an even more important reason is the parking issue. An Arizona Republic article last spring noted that "the Countrywide Tradition apparently has a bad tradition when it comes to parking cars. The senior tour's first major of the year will have some of the biggest names in golf. But it might be a challenge actually trying to see players like Nicklaus, Palmer, Watson and Kite." The problem was that only those with a special pass could actually park near Desert Mountain. Everyone else had to park at TPC Scottsdale (pictured), about 15 miles to the south of Desert Mountain, and ride a shuttle bus to the event. "Depending on the traffic," Wathey says, "it could take about 30 to 45 minutes on the shuttle to get to the tournament.

Now, spectators can park directly across from the entrance to Superstition Mountain and take a 10-minute shuttle to the course. "People will like the convenience," he says.

Because there is more space for cars and fans, the Tradition, this year, will increase its ticket sales to 30,000 per day, compared with only 10,000 a day at Desert Mountain. Tickets are $15 if bought in advance at Bashas' supermarkets or $20 at the gate.

Changes at the Tucson Open

Speaking of tournaments, organizers of the Tucson Open held at the Omni Tucson National Resort and Spa have announced that they will have a new sponsor next year. For the past four years, the open was called the Touchstone Energy Open; for the next four, it will be the Chrysler Classic. And TV coverage will move from the Golf Channel to USA Network for the 2003 open, to be held from Feb. 24-March 2. The purse will remain the same: $3 million.

Springtime, and the Golf is Affordable in Phoenix

Traditionally, many winter visitors come to the Phoenix area starting at the end of January, when the Phoenix Open takes place, and then come off and on until about a week after Easter. Then everyone goes home because Arizona allegedly "gets too hot." Actually, from mid-April to mid-May is one of the best times to visit the state. There are lots of good reasons. The cacti and palo verdes are in bloom; the Diamondbacks are playing; the restaurants empty out; traffic thins a bit; and best of all, green fees start to drop.

Here are some examples of recent price change.

The Legacy Golf Club (at right) in south Phoenix had a $135 everyday rate during the winter; now it's down to $85 Monday through Thursday and $95 on weekends. After 2 p.m., it's $55 Monday through Thursday and $65 on weekends.

Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club in Cave Creek, north of Scottsdale, recently dropped its rates from $110 weekdays and $125 weekends to $70 and $85. They'll drop again soon to $55 and $70.

SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, east of Scottsdale, recently dropped its rates to $110 weekdays and $130 weekends from $160 and $175. Rates will drop again April 29 to $85 and $105.

And remember 90 degrees in the desert feels better than 80 degrees almost anywhere else.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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