July Notebook: Fires Impact Summer Business

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

SHOW LOW, AZ - Golf courses in Northern Arizona's White Mountains have now reopened, but some of them suffered a serious loss of business due to the massive Rodeo-Chediski fire that recently burned 468,638 acres near the towns of Show Low, Heber and Overgaard.

The forest fire, that began in mid-June and was finally contained on July 7, ended up destroying 467 homes and doing $28 million in damage. Some of the towns involved were evacuated for about two weeks.

In this mountain area, golf courses do most of their business during the summer when Phoenix residents head north to flee the heat. So although Show Low Country Club, for example, had no damage on the course itself, the club still felt the effects of the disaster.

"We were evacuated and lost 10 days of prime golfing time," says director of golf Steve Herron at this semi-private course. "On the other hand, some good came out of it. It helped the condition of the course that no one was out there driving balls on it. It allowed for some healing of the grass."

According to Herron, business picked up again when the course reopened in time for the Fourth of July holidays. "The fire hasn't halted a lot of people from coming out to play," he says.

Herron says smoke never blanketed his course. "It either was north of us or went up and over us."

Smoke turned into a real problem though at the nearby Snowflake Golf Club in the town of Snowflake. "We only closed down for one day, but we probably should have closed for a couple of other days," says Steve Schneider, the head golf pro at Snowflake. "Visibility was down to about 50 yards for a while."

Although Snowflake, a public course, didn't close as long as other clubs, business dropped off dramatically. "We get 90 percent of our business from the towns that were evacuated because of the fire," Schneider says. "So we went from 250 rounds a day to 20."

Other courses were a part of the evacuation, including Pine Meadows Country Club, a public nine-hole course in Overgaard, and Torreon Golf Club, a private facility in Show Low that allows some public play. During the height of the blaze, newspapers ran satellite-imaging photos of the fire damage coming extremely close to the western edge of Torreon, which is part of an exclusive gated community of many million-dollar homes. Some fire officials had predicted at the time that Torreon would be devastated, but fortunately that never came to be.

Both Pine Meadows and Torreon closed for about two weeks but were not damaged and have now reopened. So golfers seeking a mountaintop experience are back in business.

Phone numbers for courses mentioned above:

Show Low Golf Club, 928-537-4564
Torreon Golf Club, 928-532-4653
Pine Meadows Country Club, 928-535-4220
Snowflake Golf Club, 928-536-7233

New Management at The Phoenician

Troon Golf, the Scottsdale-based golf management company, has taken over running the golf operations at The Phoenician, Arizona's only Mobil Five-Star resort. The Phoenician, based in Scottsdale at the foot of Camelback Mountain, has 27-holes of golf on site: the Oasis and Desert nines and the Canyon nine. The golf club is open to the public and to resort guests. The Phoenician is located at 6000 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale; phone: 800-767-3574.

Phoenix Sports History

The East Valley Tribune, the newspaper that serves Scottsdale, Mesa and other East Valley cities in the Phoenix area, recently set out to name the four most influential and important figures in Phoenix sports history, so that the staff artist could create a graphic representing the Mount Rushmore of local sports.

Readers were asked to vote, but the sports staff had the final say. Results were announced this week. There was one golf personality on the "mountain" - a tribute to the fact that golf has played such a major role in the growth of Phoenix. But it wasn't a player, it was the late Karsten Solheim, the creator of Ping golf clubs. That was only the beginning of Solheim's accomplishments, of course. He also bought and refurbished the Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix and helped fund the Karsten Laboratory for Turfgrass Research at the University of Arizona and the Karsten Golf Course at Arizona State University. He was also a major supporter of women's golfing events.

The others on this sports Rushmore? They were: Jerry Colangelo - the man who brought the Diamondbacks to Phoenix and who saved the Phoenix Suns from moving out of town; Frank Kush, the somewhat controversial former coach of the ASU football team; and Randy Johnson, the Diamondbacks' Cy Young award-winning pitcher.

What about Phil Mickelson, some might ask? If he'd only won a major, who knows. But on top of it all, he's living in San Diego now.

Starfire at Scottsdale Country Club

Now that Starfire at Scottsdale Country Club has moved into its spiffy new clubhouse, the renovation of this club is complete.

The country club, a public course that opened in Scottsdale in 1953, changed its name to Starfire a while back and also underwent a refurbishing and realignment of its three nine-hole courses. Those three courses remain, but some holes may have been swapped back and forth.

The new Palm Springs-style, 19,000 square-foot clubhouse, complete with a grove of palm trees, has a restaurant with a firehouse theme that is now open for breakfast and lunch. In the fall, it will have a dinner menu as well. There is also a golf shop with a huge array of clothing and accessories - a tribute to the fact that In Celebration of Golf, well known for its fantastic golf retail store in Scottsdale, manages the course.

Starfire at Scottsdale Country Club is located at 7702 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ 85260; phone, 480-948-6000. Web site: www.starfiregolfclub.com. This is a 27-hole course with three nine-hole courses, where golfers put together two of the courses to make a full round. If you play the East and the South courses, for example, it's 6,093 yards from the back tees (rating/slope 68.9/123) and 4,467 yards from the forward tees (64.8/107). Par is 68 or 70 depending on the combination of nines that you play.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • update information page

    CraigKeefer wrote on: Sep 22, 2008

    2002 is just a bit obsolete don't you think? I am up here in the white mountains looking for a good place to golf and you are still talking about the damage done in the 2002 fire!