AGA Tournaments: Get in the Game

By Scott McNevin

There are many opportunities for AGA members to get involved in AGA Tournaments throughout the year. As long as you are an AGA member, you are eligible to play in AGA events.
The AGA has five majors every year. The Arizona Amateur, AZ Stroke Play Championship, AZ Publinks Championship, AZ Mid-Amateur and the Arizona Four Ball are the crown jewels of the AGA tournament schedule. 
The Arizona Amateur and AZ Stroke Play are such large events, that every year there are 4-5 qualifiers to help fill the field out. These two events are the premier tournaments on the AGA tournament schedule.
Some of the other events throughout the year include the San Tan Amateur, Western Amateur, Southern Amateur, Falcon Amateur and Northern Amateur. All of these events are played at Gross, but players will be flighted according to their handicap. Competitors can compete against players of similar skill levels in their flight, and can win merchandise if they finish well in their flight. 
For Seniors, the AGA offers Divisional events. There are three separate age divisions to compete in. The Masters (45-54 years old), Seniors (55-64) and Legends (65 and older) are the three divisions where players can compete against players their own age. The AZ Divisional Match Play, AZ Divisional Stroke Play, Northern Divisional Four Ball, Southern Divisional Four Ball and East Valley Divisional Four Ball are some of the events on the Divisional Schedule. 

Top Eight Reasons to Play in AGA Tournaments 

Test your skills against the top amateurs in the state
Play great golf courses
Opportunities to travel
Meet new people
Opportunity to qualify for other state, regional, national and international golf events
Cool golf prizes
It’s Fun!!


Two L\‘s for Perfect Practice by Jason Carbone

By Jason Carbone
One of the staple exercises at the Jim McLean Golf School is the L to L drill. The reason this drill is so great is because it can give you perfect feedback about both your clubface and swing path.

From a relaxed address position, swing the club away to chest high (3/4 position). This is your first checkpoint. At this point, your hands should be in a corridor of success that is in front of your right chest. Really the corridor is from your shirt buttons to your right bicep. If your hands are anywhere in that area, they swing away on a descent path.

The second checkpoint at chest high is where the shaft is pointing. If you put a tee in the vent hole of the grip and swing to chest high, the tee should point at the target line or slightly inside it. The tee should never point well outside the target line, nor should it point straight down toward your feet. If you meet the two checkpoints for hands and shaft, your backswing is great.

Now swing forward to chest high on your follow through. Look for the exact same checkpoints as the swing away. If your hands are somewhere between the center of your chest and LEFT bicep (mirror image on forward swing), then your hands probably swung through on a descent path. The most common mistake we see at the school is for the tee to be pointing more toward a student’s feet at this point, rather than the target line. If the tee in the grip is pointed back toward the target line, then you can be certain the clubface was completely released, and there will be very little curve on the ball. If the tee is pointed toward your feet, you will most likely see a slice. If the tee is pointed well to the right of the target line, you will most likely see a hook. 

Practice this drill and I know you will see more consistent ball striking. Look for our section in the next issue to learn and understand how our teaching philosophy has allowed us to be ranked as the #1 golf school in the country.
Editor’s Note: We’ve found this drill is a great way to warm up before playing. It seems to help the player develop a good rhythm and ball contact quite quickly. Give it a try and let us know your results!


Northern Arizona – Escaping Urban Chaos

By Dan Gleason
As our cities get bigger and our world becomes increasingly rushed, many of us long for a slower paced, neighborly atmosphere, some personal Shangri-La where we can escape when the five o’clock whistle blows. Perhaps that’s a significant reason why so many of Arizona’s planned golf communities are thriving— from the northern mountains to the southern deserts.
In point of fact, in Phoenix’s newest frontier, the West Valley, developers of Verrado—whose centerpiece is the Raven at Verrado Golf Club— have created a pedestrian community mirroring small town life from bygone days. Here, people spend time on their front porches, get to know their neighbors and watch their kids play safely in public parks.
In the northern mountains, two relatively new, upscale golf communities— Talking Rock Ranch in Prescott and Pine Canyon in Flagstaff—have fashioned residential communities that are drawing significant business from Valley golfers looking to escape the summer heat as well as the urban madness.
As Phoenix explodes ever northward, the “Verde” developments—including the new Vista Verde—offer easy living in golf communities that border northeast Scottsdale but are worlds apart from its fast pace.
And as Tucson continues expanding, high-end golf communities like the Gallery and the Omni Tucson National have become even more appealing for those wanting the advantages of a city and shelter from its urban pandemonium.
Cool Mountain Retreats: Talking Rock & Pine Canyon
Prescott’s Talking Rock Ranch is a 3,600-acre, laid back, upscale country club community built around a stunning Jay Morrish golf course. Twenty minutes northwest of downtown Prescott, the development is out among the pinion trees and junipers on a former working cattle ranch. Surrounded by open spaces with the San Francisco Peaks in the backdrop, the views are wide open and spectacular.
“We have a great course,” says golf professional Mike Brechler. “We promote a relaxed atmosphere so members feel at home, but the quality environment and superior service reminds them that they are somewhere special.”
Elevation changes are much more subtle than at other Prescott courses, and the conditioning is flawless. Although a monster from the tips, the course is fair for everyone because of five sets of tees. And there is variety in Morrish’s design: take No. 6, a slightly uphill par 5 that is truly a three-shot hole, and contrast that with No. 15, a huge risk-reward, downhill, driveable par 4 that can also produce a big number.
Opened in 2002, the club has 150 golfing members, capping at 450. More than 100 homes are completed or under construction, says Jim Buckley, director of sales. About 500 of 1,600 available home sites have been sold, and many of those owners are submitting building plans. The clubhouse opens next summer and includes dining rooms, locker rooms, an athletic club, post office and coffee bar/general store. Tennis courts and a swimming pool will be next to the clubhouse, with a covered parkway connecting to the golf shop.
“We have a mix of 30-40 percent from Phoenix, 30-40 percent from California and the rest from all over,” says Buckley. “A significant number are primary residents.”
Custom home sites, from a half- to 5-acres, start in the $230’s; Ranch Cottages vary from 1,900-2,500 square feet and start in the mid $500’s; 2000-3000-square-foot semi-custom Ranch Homes start at $775,000. Full golf memberships (members must own property) are priced at $40,000, while limited memberships (Monday-Thursday) are $20,000. Both are non-equity/fully refundable. Prescott gets some stretches of winter cold, but there are few winter days where the course is closed.
Morrish also did the impressive work at Pine Canyon, a private, secluded community within the Flagstaff city limits. Carved through a pine forest, the views are sweeping and dramatic, the fairways lush, rolling and sprinkled with trout-stocked streams and ponds. Although the ball flies farther at these altitudes, the course is still a bear at 7,200 yards from the tips. It’s a slightly tamer cub from three other sets of tees.
Because summer daytime temperatures average in the low 70’s and dip into the 50’s at night, Pine Canyon does a brisk business with Phoenicians. Director of marketing Hannah Sleeper estimates that about half the 350 property owners are from Phoenix, with the remainder full-time residents.
Morrish completed the course in 2004, and the extravagant 35,000-square-foot stone-and-cedar clubhouse opened this August. Within the clubhouse is a health and fitness center, spa, whirlpools, fine and casual dining, locker rooms, men’s and women’s lounges and the golf shop.
Golf memberships require property ownership and are currently priced at $85,000, non-equity/fully refundable. The cap is set at 425.
Pine Canyon is an active family community: the average owner is mid-40 with children. To accommodate these families, Pine Canyon is creating a play camp for kids in a valley near the 18th green, complete with swing sets and monkey bars, sports courts and sand-pits, basketball and volleyball.
Custom home sites average a half-acre and start at $415,000; the Creekside Village developer products and single-family detached homes (2,300-3,300 square feet) start at $940,000, but only a handful remain. Elk Pass Townhomes (1,560-3,000 square feet) start in the low $700’s and feature walkout basements. The developer is about to release 56 new custom homes.
Golf season here runs from early May through October, then snow skiing season kicks off in a unique city that truly offers four distinct seasons.
Verrado & Vista Verde: Small Town Bliss on the Edge of the Valley
Verrado, catalyst for development in the West Valley, has created a totally planned “town” community that recreates the intimacy of small towns that existed 50 to 75 years ago.
There are 1,200 residents living in 700 homes and enjoying views of the White Tank Mountains. The streets are purposely narrow, so that automobiles must drive slowly. Encouraging pedestrian traffic to flourish down these tree-lined streets allows folks to stop and chat and get to know one another.
Verrado’s commercial Main Street contains businesses where people gather, shop and interact in a way that they never could when shopping at malls. There are neighborhood parks where kids play and families gather. And while modern neighborhoods put garages in the front of the houses, most Verrado homes have garages in the back or at the side, allowing for front porches that influence families to live mostly in the more-neighborly front of the house.
There are no cookie-cutter subdivisions out here, but rather a considerable diversity in style, color and architecture. Builders must design homes to meet the community theme of authentic Southwestern regional architecture.
The community golf course, the Raven at Verrado, was ranked among the Top Ten New Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine when it opened last year. The Tom Lehman/John Fought designed desert-links course is a favorite for residents in the West Valley, partly because it is kept in excellent condition year round. Greens are premium fast but true and the beautiful scenery features elevation changes varying as much as 400 feet. Golfers even get occasional peeks at exotic wildlife like mule deer and bobcats. This public course offers annual play memberships for $3,250, allowing unlimited use of the course and practice facilities.
Verrado’s developers first studied older Phoenix neighborhoods like Encanto, which was planned using principals popular in the 1920’s. The whole purpose of this meticulous planning is for people to get acquainted and have a true sense of community. There is even a community-only Internet where people can find out about the wide array of ongoing, planned community events, or to form their own groups for hiking, golf and other activities.
Vista Verde is a new, adult golf community in the Northeast Valley, adjacent to Rio Verde and Tonto Verde. The group that developed Rio Verde in the 1970’s opened Tonto Verde in 1993. Now Vista Verde has opened its course and is about to launch its first subdivision.
Although removed from the madding crowd, the commerce of Scottsdale is only 15 miles away, while Fountain Hills is a convenient 15-minute drive. Rio Verde and Tonto Verde have four 18-hole courses between them, with reciprocal playing privileges. That reciprocity will likely continue with Vista Verde once it becomes
private. The golf clubhouses here have become centers of community social life and there is a wide assortment of hiking and walking trails to enjoy the magnificent scenery.
Vista Verde’s course was designed by Ken Kavanaugh, whose impressive work also includes Longbow Golf Club in Mesa and an assortment of other award-winning courses around the West. The Vista Verde course blends in perfectly with the natural beauty of the desert mountains, says Kavanaugh, who designed the course to be enjoyable: It is easy to get the ball into fairway, but the greens are elevated and heavily bunkered,which means it takes skill, not muscle, to score. The course will eventually be private but for now it is open to public play.
“This is one of the most scenic pieces of property that I’ve ever had to work with,”Kavanaugh says, describing the sweeping vistas of the Matazal Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. At press time,Vista Verde was in the process of getting county plat approval but has been taking conditional sales. “Out of 185 lots offered in the first phase, we now have about 160 conditional sales,” says Dave Ritchie, President of Rio Verde Services.Vista Verde will offer townhomes in the second phase, but most of the inventory will be family homes and homesites. Phase I lots, about one-quarter acre, are priced from $175k to $500k, depending on location.
What residents up here love, besides all the wonderful golf, is that these are active adult communities where people get to know their neighbors—a little hunk of heaven convenient to the city, but one that will forever keep urban sprawl at arm’s length.
Tour Quality Communitites in Tucson: The Gallery & Omni Tucson National
This coming year the PGA Tour baton passes from its long stint at the Omni Tucson National for the Tucson Open to The Gallery for Tucson’s inaugural shot at the Match Play Championship. With a population just under 800,000, Tucson is nowhere near the size of Phoenix, but recent growth has still brought its share of metropolitan headaches.
The Gallery, tucked within the scenic, 6,000-acre, upscale Dove Mountain community in the northwest foothills, offers an escape from those urban headaches, as well as a 36-hole private golf facility and magnificent homes. Although the golf club is not gated, subdivisions around it are.
“We have members living on our property and in other subdivisions within Dove Mountain,” explains project manager Wade Dunagan, a PGA professional. “Dove Mountain has all sorts of walking trails, parks, hiking clubs and an array of social activities. We have 425 members from 34 different states and Canada, and a tremendously close-knit sense of community. Our members know one another and have come for similar reasons: to get away from the stress of everyday life, to play great golf courses and enjoy the company of friends. They have checked their egos at the door, which means there’s absolutely nothing stuffy about this place.”
The North Course opened in 1998 and the South Course, host for the Match Play event, opened in 2004. These scenic courses have contrasting characters—plenty of room to play and a lot of “wallto-wall” grass. The North emphasizes shot making, while the South—similar in length—puts more emphasis on the approach shots and short game, resembling a Donald Ross course. Although Tour players could have a death march from the tips of either course, the idea was to make the courses enjoyable for everyone, which is accomplished with five sets of tees—the most forward measuring 5,400 yards.
Full membership cost is $65,000 (non-equity/fully refundable) but there is also a one-year trial membership for $15,000—half of which goes to dues and the remainder refundable if the individual decides not to join.
The Gallery’s custom homesites start in the $500’s. In November, sales are slated to begin on 13 custom homes, 3300-3900 square feet, with a very Southwestern flavor: courtyard entries and a lot of rock and Mexican tile. The price range will be about $1.6 to $1.8 million. Another subdivision of estate lots on the North’s upper back nine is about a year away.
Less than a year away is a major renovation at the Omni Tucson National Resort. Located in the near-northwest foothills of the city, this is not only one of the state’s premier resorts, but also an upscale residential community with a wide assortment of homes and townhomes.
Besides the renowned Catalina Course, which hosted all those Tour events, Omni Tucson National opened a second course last December, The Sonoran, a Tom Lehman-designed beauty that has an entirely different look than the venerable Catalina course. The Lehman course, while not as long as Catalina, has considerable fairway and green bunkering that comes into play, so it is a shot-maker’s course.
“Our renovation should begin this coming June,” says Omni Tucson National’s General Manager David Morgan, who points out that Omni owns all the property here,which involves them also with real estate and golf memberships. “We recently sold off two parcels of land to an independent developer and two parcels to Pathway Development of Tucson. So there will be probably around 750 new homes that will be added to our community, including some that will be priced at over $1 million.”
Morgan says the new Lehman course has provided needed options for both members and hotel guests. Members and hotel guests now alternate between the two courses daily, rather than sharing one course. “A second advantage of having the new course is that the demographics here are changing with our members. We are getting more younger working people who cannot make tee times so far in advance as someone who is retired.”
According to Morgan, the renovations will include a new pro shop and locker room facilities to compliment both courses, followed by an expansion from 167 to 230 rooms and an additional 7,500 square feet of meeting space.
Tucson National Country Club is a non-equity club run by Omni Hotels. Memberships are $28,000, which Morgan says, “is very reasonable for such an upscale facility. Our goal is to give our members and guests an outstanding facility where they each have the use of tremendous hotel amenities, including our stateof-the-art spa and fitness center and all the food and beverage options throughout the hotel.”
Indeed, the more crowded and impersonal our world becomes, the more we seem to long for a close-knit sense of community, the kind our grandparents told us about. Those who love golf can satisfy that need by escaping to some of Arizona’s great golf communities—where life is considerably more idyllic than that mad, mad world outside the gates.


Smart Investments in the Good Life

By Dan Gleason

Those who think that they cannot afford to live in a golf community because they can find a comparable home in a regular neighborhood need to look at the bigger picture. If they consider the long-term and even short-term value, they may decide that they can’t afford not to live in a golf community. No amenity gives home values a boost the way a golf course does. And in Arizona, new opportunities continue to knock, offering the good life and a prudent investment.
From Arizona’s northern mountains to its southern borders, a wide assortment of golf communities suit every whim and every price range up and down the entire ladder. Recently, for example, four new golf communities opened between Phoenix and historic Tombstone.
On a national average, a home in a golf community increases at about nine percent over a home in a neighborhood without amenities, according to Henry DeLozier, vice president of golf for Pulte Homes, which developed the Anthem and Sun City communities. “Our experience is that the evaluation of homes in a golf community is actually much higher than that national average,”DeLozier says. “Home values in golf communities escalate even more significantly if you’re on fairway or overlooking the golf course.”
Pulte Homes’ recently added two new golf communities to its Arizona roster: Sun City Festival, on Bell Road near Buckeye, just west of Sun City Grand, and Anthem Merrill Ranch in Florence, about midway between Tucson and Phoenix.
Sun City Festival’s Copper Canyon course is managed by Troon Golf and opened for play January 20. Designers Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley are acclaimed for many creative designs in America and abroad, among them local favorite Marriott’s Desert Ridge in Scottsdale with Nick Faldo.
DeLozier calls Copper Canyon “a beautiful course that’s enjoyable to play and right-sized to our customers.” By “right-sized” he means a course that won’t demand distance in the extreme, but will reward accuracy because of its strategic bunkering. Four sets of tees range from 5,200 to 6,800 yards. The public can play here for $55 in the summer up to $80 in peak season; however, residents pay just $25 to $45 and can buy an annual pass for $1,450 (includes golf, cart and range balls) plus an $18 upcharge for peak season rounds.
Set near the White Tank mountain range in the emerging west valley, Sun City Festival will cap at 7,200 homes, with a second golf course in the planning. Social activities revolve around the 31,000- square foot Community Recreation Center and will include everything from a wellness center, pool, spa and tennis courts, to bocce and basketball courts, a computer lab and an ASU Lifelong Learning Academy. The community will also provide restaurants, parks and biking and walking trails. The inventory for single-family homes ranges from 1,300 square feet up to 2,850 square feet, priced from $203,000 to $384,000.
Pulte’s other recent development is Anthem Merrill Ranch in Florence, almost equidistant between Phoenix and the north side of Tucson. It is the first of its kind in Arizona, featuring both an allages community and an age-restricted Sun City community. The centerpiece is Poston Butte Golf Club, designed by Gary Panks and managed by Troon Golf. Panks designed, among others, the Talon Course at Grayhawk, The Raven at South Mountain and Sedona Golf Resort.
The course opened for play New Year’s Day and has five sets of tees ranging from 5,300 to 7,300 yards, with Tif Dwarf Bermuda grass greens. “This is a very player-friendly course,” says head professional Sorrell Richman, who starred on the Baylor University women’s golf team and worked as a club professional in Texas for six years before
coming here. She points out that there are “a couple of really great signature holes, among them one with an island green.”
Poston Butte is open to daily fee play but residents get special rates and can bring their own golf cars out to the course.More than 250 residents have gotten in on the ground floor of this new community, which will cap at 9,000 homes.
“Anthem Merrill Ranch is a very good value that is attracting a lot of buyers who are perceptive about the growth,” DeLozier says. “These buyers are value driven rather than price or vacationhome driven.”
Pulte owns the course but, as is its policy, the course will be turned over to the homeowners and members once all homes are sold. Until then, the course will operate as a daily fee course with very reasonable
greens fees.
Courses in master-planned communities, in contrast to resort courses in areas like Scottsdale, can keep greens fees low because the cost of building and maintaining the course is absorbed by homeowners. The course doesn’t bear the burden of profit, explains Lon Grundy, Troon’s General Manager at Poston Butte. “The golf course is a selling tool to homeowners, and you end up in this case with 9,000 homeowners splitting up the cost of the amenities, over time.” Among those amenities will be a 43,000-square-foot community center, a big splash water park, soccer and baseball fields, and a catch-andrelease fishing lake. Residents will also enjoy an extensive trail system, parks and picnic areas, a 32-foot rock climbing wall, an aquatic and tennis center and, of course, the golf course. Residents can buy an unlimited annual golf pass for $2,100 (the public pays $2,600).
“Everyone who buys a home at Merrill Ranch also gets a free Troon Card,”Grundy says. “That’s a card that we sell to the public for $600, giving them half off at any Troon managed course (11 in the Valley and one in Tucson).
Homes here range from 1,300-square-foot cottages starting at $196,000, with a wide assortment of styles, sizes and prices up to 2,850-square-foot homes at $383,000. Another ground floor real estate opportunity between Phoenix and Tucson is the new Robson Ranch Arizona golf community. Near Casa Grande, two miles east of Eloy off I-10, this is one of four Robson Ranch golf communities in Arizona. Just a half hour southeast of Sun Lakes, the community is convenient to a bevy shops, stores, restaurants and services. The new golf course “is fun to play but still challenging,” says head golf professional Dave Marrandett. “The fairways are wide, but you’ll find the teeth of the course to be these large, undulating greens.” One of those greens measures 140 feet from one end to the other.
Although the course will eventually be members-only when all the real estate is sold, for the foreseeable future it remains open to public play. Greens fees are enticingly priced; for example, in January, peak season, the golf/golf car rate was just $35.50 on weekdays and weekends. In the summer, golf with golf car runs just $25. The course is also women friendly—4,900 yards from the forward tees, with only one par four more than 300 yards from the women’s tees. From the tips, however, it stretches to 6,850 yards.
Robson Ranch CFO Steve Soriano explains why golf courses have increased home values. “A golf course is a preserved open space that the homeowners don’t have to maintain. It’s pretty to look at and homeowners are willing to pay for that privilege and those views.” He says that people living in golf communities are also able to escape urban sprawl. “Residents at Robson Ranch can live in a non-congested area and do not have to say ‘bless you’ whenever their neighbor sneezes.”
Residents of the new Robson Ranch Arizona community enjoy a variety of amenities at the newly opened Sports Club: indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, stadium tennis courts, fitness center, yoga/aerobics room and multi-purpose activity rooms.
Single-family homes range from 1,200 square feet up to 3,500 square feet. Soriano explains, “In an active adult community you cannot correlate the size of the home to its value. People might buy a small home and doll it up with upgrades, while others might buy a larger home with fewer upgrades because they entertain a lot and have a lot of family and friends who escape the winters to visit them.” Prices and values are also determined by the view and proximity to a golf course, a clubhouse and amenities like dining, fitness and restaurants, something
to consider when gauging the long-term value of a home.“We offer some spectacular views,” Soriano says, “with homes priced to fit just about every prospective resident’s pocketbook and need—from $150,000 all the way up to $776,000 for our largest floor plan with our most spectacularly appointed amenities.”
At press time, more than 300 homes had been sold at Robson Ranch Arizona. Soriano says that typically, some Robson residents are second-home buyers who are there only about half the year. Because Robson communities draw buyers from out or state as well as in state, the Robson “Preferred Guest” vacation program has been an extremely successful sales tool. “It’s one of the most successful preview programs in the history of homebuilding,” Soriano says. “When people stay at one of our communities on these vacation packages for a few days, a lot of them buy from us.”
Heading south to the San Pedro River Valley near historic Tombstone, we find a brand new, very upscale private/resort golf community called Bachmann Springs. The emerging community is offering home sites and memberships at the first Tom Fazio course in southern Arizona.Homes in the golf and equestrian community should increase in value at a far greater rate than the national average, says its president, Jay Boland. “According to statistics, a luxury community that contains a Fazio course realizes a dramatic increase in the value of the homes, and is also easier to sell and resell. A home in Bachmann Springs should increase by a minimum of 15 percent per year over a similar home in a neighborhood.”
The Fazio course here should open for play this fall. Both nines have been seeded and sodded—with tee boxes, fairways, bunkers, irrigation system and cart paths already in place. The entire course will be bentgrass, tee through green. The course will eventually be exclusively for property owner/members and hotel guests, but it will
be initially open to daily fee play. Boland expects Bachmann Springs to be primarily a second- and third-home community that will attract families who want to escape the summer heat in Phoenix and Tucson, but will also draw buyers from the United Kingdom and Germany, who consider Tombstone to be “the most legendary town of the Wild West.”He believes that the Midwest, Northeast, Northwest and nearby California will also be strong markets, due not only to the great golf but also to the horseback riding—where people can ride for miles and miles in open country surrounded by magnificent views.
“Our project site ranges from 5,000 feet in the north, trailing gently down toward the valley at 4,200 feet,” Boland says. “The 60- to 70-mile vistas are spectacular.And because we’re at those elevations, the high temperatures in the summers will be generally in the low to mid 90’s, rarely cracking 100 and always cooling off nicely in the evenings.”
The hotel will initially open in early 2008, with several hotel villas to be built by the developer, who will also construct a permanent clubhouse with a spa and wellness component. A freestanding hotel will be added later, Boland says. To accommodate visitors before the hotel is open, Bachmann Springs offers unique tentlike structures for the reception area and overnight guests. Purchased from South Africa, these elegantly furnished tents are airconditioned and heated and offer king beds, bidets and even satellite radio.
His company is in the business of selling land, not building homes, Boland points out. However, he expects the initial villas to be priced “at about $1.2 million.” The Phase I lots range from 1/3 to 2.5 acres and are priced from $500,000 up to $4 million, based on location, size and view. “We are not interested in creating any uniformity in the homes here, so home builders can be creative, subject, of course, to an architectural review board.”
Historic Tombstone is the site of the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It is documented that its most famous participant,Wyatt Earp, tried his hand at golf a few times in his later years, when he was a movie consultant in Hollywood. Perhaps if there had been a golf course here way back in the day, the Earps and Doc Holliday could have settled their score with the Clantons in a $20 Nassau match instead of a deadly shootout. Then they could have built homes overlooking the golf course and lived in harmony as they watched their profits grow even faster than the mining claims that brought them out to this beautiful part of America.


Ideal Time To Buy Arizona

By Dan Gleason
Because the real estate market has softened and slowed since that almost fanatical “spike” of 2005, there is a lot of inventory on the market, even in golf communities where the supply/demand traditionally leans more toward the seller than in traditional neighborhoods. For that reason, and because the interest rates are still low, this is a great time to buy a home in a golf community.
James Cundiff, a successful agent for Long Realty in Tucson, says that is indeed the case.“From a seller’s standpoint, we are on a pace equal to the 2004 market, which was a strong market, but not as wild as that 2005 market where there was almost no inventory and buyers had to get into bidding wars on homes. I don’t think that
market was ultimately good for the real estate business.”
Even many of those speculators in that 2005 market got burned, says Cundiff, in the end being stuck with homes they couldn’t flip, and often saddled with balloon mortgages and interest-only loans. The result is a huge number of foreclosures around the nation.
But in real estate, as in golf, as Cundiff describes it, “every shot makes somebody happy.” Signs of trouble for some developers translate into opportunities for homebuyers. Cundiff says that resale prices are lower and new home prices are very competitive. “We have an attractive interest rate in Arizona right now—under 6 percent in most cases. So it’s a terrific time to buy. And when you’re talking about homes in golf course communities, it’s an even better opportunity, since the value of golf course community homes appreciates annually as much as two or three times more than a
comparable home in a neighborhood without amenities.”
Even those whose decision to buy is based at least partly on a return on investment probably can’t go wrong right now, Cundiff says. “In Tucson now, there are some 10,000 homes on the market— about a ten-month inventory. Eventually, we should get down to a 60-day inventory here and in Phoenix, and then we will likely
see another boom.”
Blackstone at Vistancia: Ground-Floor Pricing
If the opportunities to buy golf course property are great right now, Curt Smith says that buying at his company’s new Blackstone at Vistancia, the Phoenix West Valley’s newest private country club community in north Peoria, are even better, because of ground floor pricing. Smith is CFO and COO of Sunbelt Holdings of Scottsdale, the developer of Blackstone.“Buyers get the value of the appreciation as the club grows and golfers have the advantage of a club that isn’t crowded with tee times.”
A true,multi-generational lifestyle community designed around a country club environment—which Blackstone is—is a first for the northwest Valley, Smith says. Blackstone is a gated community situated within the award-winning Vistancia master plan, located west of Lake Pleasant Road and Happy Valley Parkway.Vistancia is modeled
somewhat after Disney’s town of Celebration in Orlando—designed with main streets and squares, parks and narrow streets to encourage a throwback lifestyle to a safer and more neighborly era in America. Blackstone is a family-oriented, country club community within Vistancia, offering a totally private equity country club.
James Engh designed the course, which was opened in the fall of 2005. This is the first Arizona course for the Colorado architect who was honored by Golf Digest as its “Architect of the Year” and has been a four-time national award winner from the magazine. Created around dramatic, rolling terrain with deep, incised channels and sheer rock faces, the course was inspired by some of the great courses Engh has seen in Ireland. Even though the landscape of Ireland in no way resembles that of Arizona, Engh’s idea was to leave many areas in their natural form, a quality of many of the great Irish courses. There are elevation changes on every hole. One interesting
feature is that the course can be set up with seven sets of tees, to play from 7,100 yards and challenge the best players, to 4,300 yards. The greens are smooth and not severely undulated, and as a result they do not “beat” players up, but instead encourage golf that is challenging yet lots of fun.
The 30,000 square-foot clubhouse, The Hacienda, blends natural materials and historic Southwest architecture with contemporary design elements. Included inside are various fine dining venues, and a wine room for private tastings. The Hacienda also includes a 3,000-square-foot fitness center with high-tech training equipment and classes, tennis facilities, a resort pool with private cabanas, a lap pool and children’s play area with water features.
Golf memberships are priced at $75,000, at 80 percent equity (a 20 percent transfer fee is charged). There will be 400 golf memberships and about 300 social memberships (at $15,000). People who live outside the community can also join. There are about 500 lots behind the Blackstone gate, with a first phase of custom lots (priced from $350K to $1 million) nearly all sold out, but with more becoming available this fall. Condominiums, from 1,800 to 2,600 square feet, start in the $400s, and homes—from 3,900 to more than 5,000 square feet—start in the $900s.
Laughlin Ranch: A Recreational Haven
This is also an ideal time to buy a second home, which is a primary market for Laughlin Ranch, in Bullhead City, a recreational golf community near the fun town of Laughlin,Nev. Laughlin is a popular and laid-back alternative to the now-hectic, crowded Las Vegas. The award-winning golf course at this master-planned community is daily fee and features generous fairways that allow players to swing from the heels as they enjoy the scenery set among the
desert foothills and winding arroyos.
There are no spec homes at Laughlin Ranch, explains Orchid Comitz, who is director of public relations for the development. Of the 150 homes, 25 at one end are “buy, build and move in;” 25 at the other end, are “buy, build and resell” (from builders, small investment groups and individual owners); and the 100 in the middle are predominately for second-home buyers. Those who buy any lot with a production home must build within a year; with custom homes, the buyers have a year to get the plans and permits approved, then another year to build.
The community is built around the nearby Colorado River, as well as man-made lakes and an assortment of other recreational amenities.“Our owners come primarily from the larger cities within Arizona, especially Phoenix, as well as Las Vegas and California,” Comitz says. “We also have a big market of seasonal winter-visitor buyers from the Midwest.”
While there is a wide array of recreation in the area, from water sports to gaming, golf is the centerpiece of Laughlin Ranch. Laughlin Ranch Golf Club was selected as one of the top ten New Upscale Golf Courses in the Nation by Golf Digest magazine when the course opened in 2005. The course includes many elevation changes and five sets of tees that measure from 4,900 yards, stretching back to 7,100 yards.With the breeze rolling through the valleys, the course can play different every day.
Inside the 35,000 square-foot clubhouse, in addition to the golf shop is a 10,000 square-foot, full service day spa, a fine-dining restaurant called The Grill and an event center used for weddings and other festivities. The community is beautifully landscaped, including an assortment of lakes and cascading waterfalls, and the course has also won a national industry award for its landscaping.
Encompassing more than 12,000 acres of rolling terrain, highlighted by rugged mountains and both basin and range valleys, Laughlin Ranch provides residents and guests more than 80 miles of walking, hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, and what Comitz describes as “unparalleled views of the Laughlin casinos
and the Colorado River.”
Rancho Sahuarita: Seven Courses Within 15 Minutes
Just south of Tucson is one of the fastest growing communities in America—Ranch Sahuarita. Opened in 2001, this masterplanned community was the 11th fastest growing community in the nation last year, and for the past three years has been one of the top 25 master-planned communities in the country in terms of
homes sold.
Although there isn’t a golf course within the community, there are several in close proximity. “There are seven daily fee golf courses within a 15 minute drive,” says Cort Chalfant, Senior Vice President of Sharp and Associates, the community’s developer. There are several courses six miles to the south in Green Valley; Quail Creek is five miles away and Santa Rita is eight miles away.
This unique, 3,000-acre community offers diverse price ranges and styles of homes, from $165,000 for a 1,700 square-foot home up to $1 million for a custom home on large acreage. Out of the 13 actively selling neighborhoods, two are for adults only. A 150,000 square-foot shopping center is scheduled to open this year and will include grocery stores, service stores, boutiques and restaurants.
But perhaps the most attractive and appealing feature is the recreation here: a total of 13 parks, including a ten-acre lake and lake park—which is Arizona’s largest water park. Residents also enjoy recreation such as a miniature golf course, ten miles of bike and walking paths and 300 acres of open space. Additionally, there is a full-time activities director who plans activities for families, children and seniors, and will likely eventually book tee times at the surrounding courses. “There is always something to do here,” Chalfant says, “and we have many golfers in our community. People here get to know each other, and many of them have formed regular golf
While close to the city of Tucson, Rancho Sahuarita provides an escape from the fast-paced life of a city. “This is a fun place to live, no doubt about it,”Chalfant says.
Rancho Sahuarita, along with most of Arizona, is on a path of growth, as Chalfant explains. “I would expect homes not only in our community but in most of the rest of the state to appreciate in value. The market may have its ups and downs, but because the state continues such rapid growth, there is no end in sight to the investment values of buying a home here.”And because multiple listing services are loaded with inventory and interest rates remain low, he agrees that this is probably the best time to buy in the past three years.
Coming Soon: Encanterra, New Self-Contained Trilogy Community in Queen Creek
The model gallery will be open for sales in the fall for Encanterra, a new Trilogy community on the southeast side of Phoenix offering ground-floor opportunities in a self-contained, resort-like, private gated community. Encanterra’s centerpiece will be the first golf course that Tom Lehman designed on his own in Arizona. Lehman uses a hands-on approach with the design and the construction of his signature course here. In fact, he is on site about once a week, supervising the construction.
Encanterra has a Queen Creek address but is in Pinal County, only ten miles from the east 202 loop.
The entire community is planned to be a Mediterranean interpretation in the desert, maintaining that theme not only in the architecture of the homes, but also the restaurants and pubs, spa and fitness areas, wellness center and guest facilities. Ben Keilholtz, director of marketing for Blue Star Resort and Golf, which will manage the course and facilities, says that the whole idea here is to have the amenities of a resort within a totally private community.
Homes at Encanterra, developed by Shea Homes, will range from approximately 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom units, up to 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom homes. With one- and two-story options, there will be a lot of open space in the square footage, Keilholtz explains, adding that although the community is planned for people of all ages, the marketing will most likely target empty nesters and couples in their 40’s and 50’s. Prices have not yet been announced, but will include 14 floor plans with a limited number on the golf course.
Encanterra is a desert oasis, with lush, green grass, lots of trees and mature landscaping throughout. Closed streets and the Mediterranean village concept will provide the appearance and appeal of a more traditional style neighborhood. Because all residents will automatically be social members of the golf club, they are encouraged
to interact at the clubhouse, restaurants, spa, pubs and the Internet café.
Golf memberships must be purchased and will cap at 400.
The golf course, which is currently under construction, has lots of tall trees and green grass, something that Lehman cherishedgrowing up in his home state of Minnesota and wanted to recreate here at Encanterra. No homes are planned in the interior of the course, only around the exterior, which means that Lehman did not have to design a course to accommodate real estate sales.
Keilholtz added that it will be “a pure layout, typical of a Phoenix Country Club or traditional club you might see in the Midwest.” However, thanks to modern technology, Lehman has been able to move some dirt to create contour and subtle earth movements to shape some risk/reward situations off the tee, where a well-placed drive will always produce a flat lie, but an errant one likely won’t.
The golf course is scheduled to be completed in the fall and ready for play next spring, and the tour center, gatehouse and model home gallery by fall of 2007. The first residents are projected to begin moving
in by spring of 2008.
Long Realty’s James Cundiff explains it this way: “I would compare golf course property to oceanfront property, in the sense that you don’t always find it available in abundance.”He says that people who move here from out of state, for our climate, or in-state residents who seek to upgrade their lifestyle, want to have that kind of amenity readily available to them. “That’s why golf course property, especially the higher-end products, are always likely to sell more briskly because of that demand.”
As J.W.Marriott once said when asked about the secret of success in the hotel business, it’s all about location. And there is no better location than one where you can gaze out your window and see a pretty golf course before your eyes.