City of Phoenix cuts prices on its golf courses

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Want to play an almost brand-new 18-hole golf course in Phoenix designed by renowned Arizona architect Gary Panks for only $22?

Papago Golf Course - 18th
Papago Golf Course: one of the most popular municipal courses in the country.
Papago Golf Course - 18thTubac Golf Resort and Spa - cottonwoods
If you go

Sounds a bit unrealistic, but that's the current high-season green fee for walkers at Panks' Aguila Golf Course in South Phoenix, the newest and most challenging course owned by the city of Phoenix.

Recently, the city's recreation department cut prices by about a third to attract more golfers to its municipal courses. City officials say they want to compete with the discounts on green fees often available at privately run courses. Essentially, non-residents - and that means tourists - can play for the resident rate at any of the city's seven municipal courses.

But you have to act quickly, because prices could go up again soon, according to Tony Duran, assistant golf pro at Aguila. Duran says the price slashing has upped business at Aguila by about 30 percent.

If you're a walker, you can play one of the city's 18-hole courses for $22 every day until 1 p.m. and $14 after 1. Carts are $11 more. The old rate was $35 to walk and $22 after 1 p.m. with carts extra. Nine-hole courses are even cheaper: only $8 if you walk.

And seniors get new breaks, too. Their old non-resident rate was $35 to walk an 18-hole course. The new senior rate is $15 Monday through Friday until 1 p.m. and $12 after 1; $22 on weekends until 1 p.m. and $12 after 1.

Are these courses as great to play as the privately owned places? There have been complaints from time to time about conditions on these city courses, but the best of the lot include:

Aguila Golf Course, 8449 S. 35th Ave., south of Baseline Road off 35th. Call (602) 237-9601 for information. This is a $6.5 million, 210-acre facility built about two years ago.

Papago Golf Course, 5595 E. Moreland, Phoenix. Call (602) 275-8428 for information. This is a nine-hole course that the city claims is one of the most popular municipal courses in the country.

Maryvale Golf Course, 5902 W. Indian School Road, Phoenix. Call (602) 846-4022. William F. Bell, who designed Torrey Pines in San Diego, created the layout of this very traditional championship length course.

Play your game in the Old West

The big course-building boom seems to have slowed down a bit for now in Phoenix, but at least one new public daily-fee course is set to open amid high season this year: The Duke at Rancho El Dorado in the little town of Maricopa, 12 miles west of I-10 on Queen Creek Road.

The Duke, an 18-hole, par-72 course designed by David Druzisky, is set to open Jan. 31 and will be managed by OB Sports. It plays to 7,050 yards from the back tees.

The course, which has a western-style theme, will be the centerpiece of a housing development in this area that is well south of Scottsdale and Phoenix. But publicity for The Duke promises players "the feel of a Scottsdale golf club without Scottsdale green fees."

Historic Tucson resorts now have new owners

Two historic golf resorts south of Tucson have been sold to new owners in deals that closed in October.

The 46-room Tubac Golf Resort, with a par-72 course that opened in 1960, has been sold to a management group headed by Ronald D. Allred, a dentist who was an investor in Colorado's Telluride ski resort and who owns a boutique golf course, Rancho Manana in Cave Creek, north of Scottsdale. Allred paid $7.28 million for the 400-acre Tubac property, family-owned since 1988, according to Hotel Online.

Even farther south than Tubac, a 40-minute ride from the Tucson airport, American Property Management Corp. of San Diego bought the 180-room Rio Rico Resort & Country Club for $5.49 million. American Property Management, a large hotel company, also owns some Radisson hotels in California, the Hilton Las Cruces and the Hyatt Regency Savannah. Avatar Properties of Florida sold Rio Rico.

Plans are reportedly in the works to renovate and expand both properties.

Both sites have golf courses with a lot of history behind them. The Tubac course was designed by Robert "Red" Lawrence, a longtime Arizona architect and is seen in many scenes of the Kevin Costner golf film Tin Cup. Robert Trent Jones Sr. laid out Rio Rico in 1971.

Auction of course postponed

A foreclosure auction for the Thunderbirds Golf Club in South Phoenix was postponed from Dec. 27 until Jan. 8, so as not to conflict with the holidays, according to staff at the course.

The year-old club was built by the Phoenix Thunderbirds in partnership with a local landowner Luther Alkhaseh. The Thunderbirds is a non-profit organization that puts on the Phoenix Open every January.

Shortly after opening, the course ran into economic problems due to a drop in tourism. Then this July there was another drop in business because of an outbreak of illnesses caused by contaminated water among visitors at the course. The water problem was resolved. But in the fall, the owners defaulted on a $6.5 million loan held by Bank One.

Head golf pro Shawn McGeough says that rounds played at the course have picked up dramatically this winter as tourists have begun to return to the Valley of the Sun.

The Thunderbirds Golf Club is located at 701 E. Thunderbird Trail in Phoenix.

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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