Desert Golf Vacations at the heart of Scottsdale golf scene

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Choosing a golf packager can be as daunting as selecting the golf package itself. Fortunately for those planning a golf gorge to the Valley of the Sun, Scottsdale-based Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals has taken the mystery out of both.

The six-year-old company is not only at the heart of the sizzling Scottsdale golf scene, it is the heart - literally. Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals directly handles tee time reservations for 25 premium courses, including all Troon and Marriott owned and operated golf facilities in the Valley. It does so from a state-of-the art reservation center that makes managing partner Fred Mercaldo blush with pride.

"You call a Troon course here, you get us," says Mercaldo. "We are the central nervous system for tee times so we eliminate the middle man and pass the savings on. Our vacation planners have the tee sheets right in front of them so you are tapped into the source."

Just as importantly for golfers looking for true stay-and-play value, Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals also manages an impressive array of 200 luxury condominiums, town homes and villas. The venerable golf packager's clients have exclusive access to these posh properties, a rare perk that distances Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals from its competitors.

"We control our own room inventory," says Mercaldo. "Most other packagers rely on available hotel rooms for their guests, and must make sure nights are available when they commit to a customer. Oftentimes they have to check on availability and get back to the caller. We can check while we have the caller on the phone."

Moreover, this room inventory is tailored to meet golfer's every need.

"We specialize in placing four golfers in our two- and three-bedroom luxury properties," says Mercaldo. "Each golfer gets his or her own bed and rather than stay in a small hotel room, they can stay in a spacious condo, townhome or villa in a gated community with all the amenities."

The concept appears to have prevailed itself upon the traveling golfer. Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals booked over 400,000 tee times in 2002 via its golf division, Hospitality Tee Times. And despite a tenuous travel market, projections for this year exceed 600,000.

"We feel fortunate to have bucked the recent industry trend," says Mercaldo. "Traveling golfers, more than ever, are searching for value. Despite its reputation as a high end golf destination, there is plenty of value in Scottsdale if you consider the savings realized from utilizing our service."

Golfers save big bucks when booking with Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals through a variety of ways. First, the cost per person for multi-room properties that accommodate four to six golfers averages $50 to $75 per night, per person. This rate compares favorably to $75 to $150 per night at a mid to high end hotel.

Second, the price per square foot for one of Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals' 1200 to 2200 square foot golf villas, condos or town homes pales in comparison to standard, 400-square foot hotel rooms. And in terms of value added, the amenities at these multi-room properties are second to none: grills, pools, spas and workout facilities are standard with each rental.

Mercaldo understands that not every golfer is out to test his or her mettle at the Valley's highest priced courses. For every golfer willing to part with the scratch to tee it up at Troon North, Grayhawk and the TPC of Scottsdale there's one dreaming of an affordable, well-conditioned layout that doesn't set them back a mortgage payment.

"We offer three levels of packages, the Gold, Silver and Bronze, which cater to every skill and budget level," says Mercaldo. "But regardless of the package, you can be sure you will be getting the most bang for your buck because of the incredible relationships we have built with our participating courses."

And unlike some golf packagers, each Desert Golf and Vacation Rentals reservationist is an "expert" on the local golf scene.

"Our people play all the courses we book on a weekly basis and they are privy to the latest course conditions and know precisely how certain courses set up for different handicaps," says Mercaldo. "We are all golfers here and we all have a passion for the game that we pass along to our clients."

Desert Golf and Vacation rentals recently expanded into the Tucson market by way of a partnership with Tucson Realty and Trust Co. Management Services. For golfers on extended vacations, the "Old Pueblo" offers a handful of highly regarded resort courses that are worth the hour and a half drive south. The company also offers packages to Las Vegas and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

But for those content to chase the little white ball around Scottsdale, Mercaldo says the golf options are virtually limitless.

"I am a golf trip junkie myself and I can't tell you how much I believe in Scottsdale golf," he says. "The course conditions here are incredible, the designs are strong and the scenery is unrivaled. We are also the sixth largest metro area in the U.S. so visitors have access to professional sports, world class restaurants and an incredible arts scene."

For a complete listing of properties and courses offered by Desert Golf and Vacations Rentals, log on to, or call (888) 880-0074 for reservations.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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