Personal golfer-geared service makes Prescott's Villas At The Ridge stand out

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Anyone who's ever traveled even semi regularly understands how mind-numbing the chain hotel experience can become. Even the nicest of the hotel conglomerates start blending into one another, leaving the visitor with a stale, sterile feeling.

Some businessmen even tell of waking up disorientated, looking around the same cookie-cutter room and wondering, "Kansas City or Salt Lake?"

Which is why when you find a place with a truly different and unique look on atmosphere and service, it tends to stick with you long after checkout. Villas At The Ridge in the temperate, still-largely-undiscovered golf destination of Prescott is one such place.

It turns out all it may take to create an original home-away-from-home is toput a couple with no big-time hotel experience in charge and give them the freedom totreat guest like they would treat visiting friends. In their first try at the lodgingbusiness, Ray and Hedy Veach pull off what even most of the highest-rated Bed &Breakfasts fail at these days: a warm, relaxed, unforced, unobtrusive friendliness.Even the best B&Bs these days tend to go too far in one extreme or the other. Eitherit's a stiff, formal service with no personality. Or it's a shrill woman or man - often both - in your face almost from the moment you get through the front door,trying to win you over with faux intimate joviality and hijack your entire vacationschedule.

So breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m. sharp. So we'll see you at 8:30. Isn'tthis great!

There is none of that at Villas At The Ridge. Instead Ray and Hedy Veach set a genuine tone of trying to do anything they can to make your vacation what you hope it will be without butting in. They are quick to offer suggestions on where to eat and what to do outside golf in Prescott if asked, but they are not going to try and tell what you should do unprompted. They seem to understand that their average client on a golf vacation is an executive who spends plenty of time during the week trying to please people and doesn't want to have to play that role with the innkeepers on his priceless golf escape. Instead, the guy probably just wants to hit plenty of balls on all kinds of different courses and hang out with his buddies, trading stories and perhaps poker chips at night.

This is where Villas At The Ridge excels. The topnotch staff makes it veryeasy for you to concentrate on the golf. A lot of places offering Stay & Playpackages claim to take care of everything. Villas At The Ridge really does take careof everything. They even give you a printout with driving directions to each courseyou're going to play.

And the little perks at Villas At The Ridge actually help a golfer. Ratherthan a dime-store postcard to send to Aunt Jean, there is a bucket of brand newCallaway golf balls sitting on your dinning room table at check in. Plus, the fridgeis stocked with bottled water (a must you'll quickly find to avoid dehydration inthis unexpected mile-high city) and there is a basket full of snacks on the kitchencounter. There are no price tags for these items, none of the $4 bottle water youfind in many hotel rooms. These are just another little perk that comes with stayingat Villas At The Ridge. Owner Lynn Myers obviously knew what he was doing when he putthis staff together.

"We're trying to create a different experience for the golfer than what theyget in the typical hotel room," Ray Veach said.

This is a condo complex with daily housekeeping service. Anyone who's stayedin condos in places like Myrtle Beach and been left to their own devices as far asgetting fresh towels for days at a time knows how rare that combination is. There areonly 11 units at Villas At The Ridge put aside for golf trippers, making it an evenmore intimate experience. You're not simply a room number here. Chances are the staffwill know your name.

The rest of the condos in the complex have been sold to retirees, sun followerslooking for a second home and the parents of students of the nearby Embry-RiddleAeronautical University. This is anything but a mass market free-for-all golf grab.

Still even with only 11 units, Villas At The Ridge can accommodate groups of upto 40 to 50 golfers. Each of the 11 condos is individually decorated and the onestayed in on this trip would be ideal for a group of golf buddies. There were threebedrooms with two single beds in each and three separate bathrooms complete withshowers. It's like being in a college dorm with much nicer furniture and no wait onthe shower.

There is a decent-sized living room and an open kitchen and dining area where everyone could hang out, but Villas At The Ridge goes a step further in the space department. It set up a huge open upper room with a big-screen TV and plenty of elbow space for even the largest of groups to get together, play cards, drink beer, and exaggerate about great rounds past.

"We want it to be like a frequent flyers lounge for golfers," Ray Veach said.

Villas At The Ridge also offers condos more suitable for couples or groups of couples looking for a more leisurely husband and wife trip. Which is part of the charm of the place. It's not about sticking everyone into the same square holes. This is a staff that will go over your preferences and needs before the trip, will set up the kind of vacation you want rather than steer you to an iron-clad package that looks good in a brochure.

Already affiliated with six 18 hole courses, from the ball-gobbling, forced-carries marathon of Stone Ridge, to the sheer beauty of Prescott Lakes Golf Club, to the locals' favorite Antelope Hills, Villas at The Ridge has options for any game.

"This is kind of place Prescott really hasn't had before," Prescott Lakes GolfClub pro Trey Newton said, looking around Villas At The Ridge's new digs.

Few places have golf accommodations this unique. This is anything but the same old hotel room.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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