Go to golf school for less in summer? Forget about it

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, Ariz. - When the weather heats up in places like Arizona, the prices come down, right? So shouldn't golf schools in the sizzling desert, like Arizona and Nevada, drop their prices as well, especially when the economy is a bit soft?

We called a few schools to ask that question and found few bargains out there:

Bird Golf Schools

Jay Ewing, who heads up Bird Golf Schools located in Nevada, Colorado, California, Tennessee, Arizona and Florida, said his school doesn't cut prices in 100-plus degree towns. "Our costs remain constant, so we really can't do that," he said.

He justifies the price that can range from $1,850 to $4,195 per person on the basis that his schools give very individual attention to students. "We have no more than two people per teacher. You can't put four people in a group together," he said. "Many schools that are headed by famous professionals have students taught by assistants. Our teachers are all professional icons."

In his three- to five-day schools, students are coached six to eight hours a day and stay in resort suite-type accommodations that have a rack rate of $400 to $500 a night. In Arizona, Bird Golf holds schools at Wigwam Golf Resort and Palm Valley Golf Club, both in the West Valley. Call (877) 424-7346 or check out birdgolf.com.

Butch Harmon School of Golf

Butch Harmon representative Shawn Callahan told us that the famed Harmon does not have hot-weather bargains at his school at Rio Secco Golf Club in Las Vegas where it's been hotter than Phoenix some days this summer. "We're busy as can be and there is often a waiting list," Callahan said.

And on the Harmon Web site, butchharmon.com, an "openings" page said that if you want to book three days with Butch himself ($4,800 per person), there are "no available openings at this time."

For three days with staff professionals ($2,800 per person), you'd have to wait until Nov. 20 or Dec. 11, 2003, for an opening. For one day with Butch Harmon working on your short game ($2,500), there was indeed a day available - Oct. 10, 2003. Those prices by the way include nights at the Rio Suite Hotel Casino, computerized video analysis, on-course playing lesson at Rio Secco, lunch each school day and transportation from hotel to golf school.

We can't guarantee that those openings still exist, of course, because the site is always changing. Prospective students are allowed to add their names to waiting lists on the Web site. Or call (702) 777-2444 for information.

John Jacobs' Golf Schools

One bargain option was John Jacobs who holds Summer Sizzler sessions in Arizona at Painted Mountain Golf Club in Mesa, San Ignacio Golf Club in Green Valley and at Stallion Mountain Country Club in Las Vegas. There are no end of options with Jacobs for the kind of package you want to set up, depending on how long you want to go to school and where you want to stay. So comparing winter and summer prices is a bit like comparing golf balls to baseballs.

At Painted Mountain, for example, you could get a two-day weekend school during the high season (Jan. 3-April 27) for $595 per person including hotel. During June, July and August, you can get a three-day weekend school for almost the same price - $645 per person including hotel.

In Las Vegas, you pay $895 per person for a three-day school from Jan. 26-May 29 while June-August, it costs $625.

Check out jacobsgolf.com or call (800) 511-1639.

How low can those green fees go ?

Every course in the Valley of the Sun slashes green fees in the summer and here are some of the specials:

At one of Scottsdale's premier monuments to golf, Grayhawk Golf Club, you can play either the Talon or the Raptor any day of the week for $75 before 9:30 a.m. and $50 after 9:30 through Sept. 8. The wintertime fee is $225. Check out grayhawk.com or call 800-767-3574.

Dove Valley Ranch in Cave Creek, north of Scottsdale, where temps run a few degrees cooler, has green fees of $45 Monday through Thursday and $55 Friday through Sunday. If you can wait to go out in the peak heat of the day - after 2 p.m. - you only have to pay $30. This sleek course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Call 800-767-3574 for tee times.

For the very value conscious player, at Johnson Ranch Golf Club in Queen Creek in the Southeast Valley, rates drop on July 1 to $15 plus tax per person, including cart, Monday through Friday and after 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Winter weekend rates ran as high as $90. Web site: johnsonranchgolfclub.com. Call (480) 987-9800.

We also were pretty astonished to see an ad in the local newspaper recently for "FREE GREEN FEES" at the recently opened Sundance Golf Club in Buckeye, west of Phoenix. Of course, you had to have the ad coupon and had to pay a cart fee of $13, including tax. However, minus the coupon, you can play for $22 from 6 to 8 a.m., $20 from 8 to 11 a.m. and $17 after 11 any day of the week. These fees include cart. Winter rates at Sundance, designed by Greg Nash, are $35 weekdays and $45 on weekends. Call (623) 328-0400.

And yes, the TPC Stadium and Desert courses in Scottsdale will once again offer their ever-popular special: A chance to play the courses back to back - starting with the Desert - plus lunch for only $80 plus tax. The rate starts June 15 and can be used Sunday through Thursday subject to availability. Call 800-767-3574 seven days in advance.

New baseball owner likes golf courses, too

Six months ago, Phoenix millionaire Arturo Moreno and a group of investors bought the financially troubled Thunderbirds Golf Club in Phoenix for $4.8 million. The club was later renamed Vistal Golf Club.

Now Moreno, who made his millions in a billboard advertising firm that was later sold to Infinity/CBS, has taken an even more expensive step into the sports world by buying the Anaheim Angels for $184 million last month.

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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