Openings for tee times soon in Rocky Point

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Californians have Cabo San Lucas for quick tastes of Mexico; and Arizonans have Puerto Peñasco, a town that usually goes by the less exotic name of Rocky Point.

But Rocky Point, a rustic fishing village by the Sea of Cortez, has yet to take off with tourists the way Cabo on the Baja peninsula has. Maybe it's because the Point, 60 miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, never has had a golf course.

But now there are seaside condos and hotels, prices of beachfront lots are soaring, and developments are moving along, including Laguna del Mar with 1,750 single-family home sites, a hotel, time-share villas and a private Jack Nicklaus signature course. The back nine, situated on an island, will open in November or December. The rest of the course will be finished in 2004, and the whole thing will be managed by OB Sports of Scottsdale, says C.A. Roberts, an executive with OB.

According to a statement Nicklaus made when he toured Laguna del Mar in April, "Although much of the golf will be created, we are taking special care to make certain the course blends well into the natural environment and on opening day should look as if it has been there for years."

Another Nicklaus-designed golf course, though not a signature course, also is being built at the lush Mayan Palace resort, recently opened about five miles to the south of Laguna del Mar. That 18-hole course is expected to be finished in 2004.

"In the past, Puerto Peñasco was thought of as a place for college kids from Arizona to go on spring break or as a getaway for Tucson residents," says Glenn Swain of Image Quest in Phoenix, which is handling publicity for Laguna del Mar. "It had something of a stigma in Arizona. But it's really changing; now it's like Cabo used to be when it got started. This is the prime time to get on board."

Getting on board in this gated, master-planned community with 141 acres of private lagoons can be costly. The first 30 home sites at Laguna del Mar released for sale start at the $200,000 level and go on up to $450,000 for ocean-front sites. Owners can then choose from a number of available builders to design their homes.

A number of Arizona firms are involved in the development, and a sales office has opened in Scottsdale for Laguna del Mar; for more information, call (480) 609-7531.

Not to worry; plenty of gas, but bring bucks

Resort and golf course operators started sweating more than usual last month when Phoenix had its energy mini-crisis. A pipeline that transports gasoline from Tucson to Phoenix had broken down and was out of commission for a couple of weeks. The pipe carried about a third of the gasoline normally needed to supply Maricopa County, so suddenly all fuel for cars had to be shipped in via tanker.

Long lines formed at service stations and prices soared to $2 a gallon and more. Then stations simply started closing down when they ran out of gas. What effect might all this have on tourism in Phoenix?

Shortly after the panic button was pressed, an emergency bypass pipe was installed, and by the end of August, there seemed to be a lot more gas, though prices stayed high.

About the only impact was a smaller mid-week dinner crowd than usual at P.F. Chang's in Scottsdale. At the height of the crisis, we played golf at We-Ko-Pa in Fountain Hills and ran into a twosome from Las Vegas that had gotten on the road in at 5 a.m. and driven six hours to make their 11 a.m. tee time. After golfing, their plan was to hit BOB for a Cubs-Diamondback game.

Competing for the private customer

In the past decade about a dozen new private country clubs have opened in the North Scottsdale area. That makes for tough competition for the places that are already there.

In response, a number of clubs have launched new marketing campaigns to attract members. Among them Pinnacle Peak Country Club at Pinnacle Peak and Pima Roads, built in 1976. This very comfortable club with a traditional style course with generous fairways also has decided to put $5 million into renovating its clubhouse in response to the competition.

This is a very friendly club with some of the best practice facilities to be found in Scottsdale and beautifully maintained fairways and greens. Initiation fees are $56,000, compared to $100,000 or more at newer courses. For more information, call membership director Diane Gregg at (480) 585-6992 or visit

Augusta comes to Northern Arizona

Architect Jay Morrish recently called to make some comments on his work at Pine Canyon, the new private course he designed in Flagstaff, in northern Arizona that will be finished in the fall and begin play next spring.

He didn't talk so much about his layout as he did about the property where the course was built.

"It's not very often that a designer is given a piece of property that is as beautiful as this," says Morrish, who has worked on property all over Arizona. "There's something about the pine forest at Pine Canyon that makes you feel as if you're at Augusta National. In fact, I don't think I've been anywhere else that reminds me so much of Augusta."

That's a pretty strong statement to make about a forest in the middle of the high desert. But Pine Canyon does have one of the most spectacular settings of any course in Arizona. The Pine Canyon Club is located at 1201 E. John Wesley Powell Blvd., Flagstaff. Phone: (866) 779-5700. Web site:

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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