News

Late Round Purchases

By Pete Wofford
Tis’ the season to go shopping! With the holidays fast approaching and playing winter golf at a premium, now is the time to take advantage of your computer and the hottest trend of “e-tail online marketing.” It is a time for late round shopping, where the only creature stirring is the click of a computer mouse.
The convenience of and access to online golf retail is changing the shopping habits of golfers, globally.Where 10 years ago the local golf shops relying on the hands-on “test-drive before you buy’ approach, the thought of buying golf clubs online was unheard of.
Today the success of e-Bay.com re-selling used golf clubs, and now offering closeout prices on overstocked equipment, and a half-dozen major off-course retail stores publishing online catalogs, the golf industry cannot and does not even attempt to keep up with who is selling golf online.
“The reality of tracking who is buying, and what they are selling would be endless and ever-changing,” said Tom Stine, co-founder Golf Datatech, the industry’s leading consumer research group. “Ten years ago, I don’t think we could have predicted the impact the Internet has had on golf retail, but we do know that shops and manufacturers have found success since volume of sales is up.”
Stine summarized that the competition of the $25 billion golf industry has made the green grass golf shop more customer service oriented, allowed consumers to be better educated when making big dollar decisions and even brought the handyman-working-out-of-the-garage to the market place.
So of the thousand-plus choices online, there are a few premier online golf retail stores that have established the foundation for online buying. Many of these websites are extensions of the off-course retail store, while a few more are simply warehouses sharing distribution information with original equipment manufacturers.
Now is the time to take advantage of online shopping, where the store is open 24-hours, 7-days a week, where guaranteed customer satisfaction is standard, and incentives such as free shopping or out-of-state tax breaks is saving the golf consumer time and gas-money. Listed here are a few of the top online golf shop retail outlets.
GOLFSMITH.COM
In 1975, Carl Paul and his wife Barbara, and his brother Frank Paul embarked on their first consumer retail expansion by creating The Golfsmith Store accessory catalog. In 1976, the company grossed more than $1 million. In 1980, Golfsmith established the Golf Clubmakers Association (GCA), an organization designed to support and guide the growing number of clubmakers around the world. Over the last five years, Golfsmith has further shown its commitment by providing online shopping. Golfsmith.com now features product reviews, “player rewards” frequent buyer discounts, 20-percent team discounts and many other shopper-friendly services like in-store pickup.
The online shopping experience includes personalization with Golfsmith purchases, e-card gift cards that are like credit cards online and the company’s business roots in clubmaking, all the parts, education and accessories allowing you to build your own golf clubs.
HOT ITEM: Captain Kirk’s Putter
From Golfsmith is a pop culture icon that offers unprecedented forgiveness. This fully USGA conforming, officially licensed collectible shares its looks with the classic 1960 television series Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 starship. With the highest moment of inertia the NCC-1701 is the most forgiving putter offered by Golfsmith. Most of its weight is positioned in stainless steel heel and toe weight cylinders, which gives the CNC-milled putter head its unique look—and also serve as alignment aids. The aluminum body features an advanced urethane face insert for soft, solid feel at impact. ($249; golfsmith.com)
GOLFGALAXY.COM
Golf Galaxy opened its first store in 1997 and pride’s itself on being the first and only interactive golf store. With 77 stores in 29 states, each averaging 17,000-square feet in size, Golf Galaxy offers superstore selection and pricing with PGA and LPGA on-staff golf shop knowledge and service. The toll free support service allows additional access when placing orders. The retailer also sells pre-owned clubs and offers club trade-ins good toward any in-store purchase. And the affiliation with GolfWorks, and Ralph Maltby.com studios allows detailed customization of equipment, including repairs.
The holiday specials include novelty head covers, tabletop dice/golf games and apparel. The Golf Galaxy gift card is good forever, and it is redeemable online, at a retail store or used over the phone. Book a lesson here or buy personalized golf balls—the site has much more to offer beginners and scratch golfers.
HOT ITEM: SkyCaddie SG5
The hot product heading into holiday sales SkyGolf ’s SkyCaddie SG5, the newest and the company’s most advanced GPS range finder. The ultimate in simplicity, the SG5 is hand-held, lithium rechargeable battery and water–resistant case. You’ll always know how far you are from the center of the green. Even if you can’t see it. ($429.99; golfgalaxy.com)
3BALLS.COM
Credit the success of eBay shopping, and the PGA of America Value Book affiliation for the million-dollar growth of 3balls.com. Basically this 10-year-old site is for used clubs with some new overstock models. Founders Leigh Bader (a PGA member) and Joe Ricci took trade-in clubs in their small Boston suburb golf shop. After too much inventory and realizing the market for old, collectable and used clubs, the golf professionals put the stockroom on eBay’s auction. Needing to put a dollar value on used clubs prompted the PGA Value Book, with which consumer’s can see the price of their garage leftovers.
To name just a few holiday deals include, Cobra’s HS9 drivers that were $480—now $140, Bridgestone’s GC Hybrid that was $150—now $80, and Ping’s G2i Craz-E putters for $89.50.With purchases of more than $100, customers receive free shipping, and one-year subscription to Golf Digest.
HOT ITEM: Titleist Iron Deal
On 3balls where used clubs come first a set of Titleist 704.CB irons in very good condition cost only $249.50, a significant savings from the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $896.
TGW.COM
Clearly one of the most comprehensive golf equipment sites on the web, The Golf Warehouse is offering everything from the basics (clubs, carts, shoes and apparel) to newfangled gadgets such as range finders, all competitively priced. There are plenty of closeout specials (just click on the Hot Deals tab), but selection is the story here: all of the major brands from Callaway to Taylor Made to Ping. Product pages have crisp pictures from multiple angles and extensive features and options lists. Receive e-mail alerts about sales and specials. The site now has a 30-day playability guarantee: If you don’t like what you bought, you can return it for store credit. Not surprisingly, TGW has a whole section selling cutrate demo and returned equipment.
HOT ITEM: TaylorMade r7 460 driver
One of the limited-offer discounts seen online was the TaylorMade r7 460 driver. For example, the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $500, and with a few clicks of loft and shaft selection, TGW’s price comes up $224.99.
PROGOLF.COM
Pro Golf, Inc., on the web offers more than 40 years of off-course retail at 110 golf shops in 30 States, and in Canada, Puerto Rico and Ireland. Like other sites, the discounts, closeouts and variety of collectibles, books and videos, can prove to be a good value for the savvy shopper. Unique is the company’s Affiliate Program where you can build your own online sporting goods store and earn up to 7 percent commissions. Besides the abundance of golf choices, several links within the site can steer visitors toward the sporting good selections, such as outdoor games.
HOT ITEM: Nike SasQuatch SUMO2
Progolf.com is featuring the Nike SasQuatch SUMO2 driver on its hot list. With free shipping and “bill me later” options of credit, what was an originally suggested retail price of $479.99 is now $299.99.
GOLFAROUNDTHEWORLD.COM
Golf Around the World—which is designed by Gary Wiren, PGA Master Professional and leading authority on golf instruction, and now managed by his son, offers credibility and the most comprehensive collection of the finest golf training aids available today. Not all golf swings are alike, and the variety of training aids found here will appeal to different students. The website is not the most creative, but it is basically a catalog of the company’s 9-to-5 warehouse.
HOT ITEM: Power Swing Fan
Specials range from the $250 Stuart Appleby-endorsed sliding platform called The Leaderboard to the $55 Power Swing Fan that simply creates resistance in the full swing.

News

Prime Time to Buy

By Dan Gleason
Okay, so if you can tell me any view in this world that wouldn’t be enhanced by a golf course—and I’m
including the Taj Mahal and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—then please let me know. Because there is little else that can compare to the feeling most of us get when we peek out the window and see a rolling, green fairway.
You have likely heard the expression, “The great thing about golf is that every shot makes somebody happy.” I guess we could apply that to the current slowdown of home building and home buying, which has brought lower prices and an increase of available inventory. With homes not selling like the proverbial hotcakes right now, it’s an ideal situation for buyers to make that leap to live their dream in a golf community.
And face it: since real estate markets are cyclical, we can be sure that we’ll see another real estate spike in our state again—maybe not like the one in ’04-’05, where we timed how long a home would stay on the market with a stopwatch, and there were lotteries just to get a chance to even bid on a lot or a house. But inventory will eventually dwindle and prices will go up. Right now, though, in almost every golf community in the state, there are new homes and re-sales ripe for the picking.And unlike a few years ago, just about everything is negotiable.
Soaring with the ‘Eagle’
“There is no question that the nationwide slowdown in real estate sales has increased the days that homes are on the market,” says Bret Greenwood, General Manager at the OB-Sports managed Eagle Mountain Golf Club in Fountain Hills. “At the same time, it has created a tremendous opportunity for buyers who can now purchase resale properties in golf communities at a tremendous value.”
With price points below what they would have paid a year or two ago, Greenwood points out, “we have a lot of new people calling Eagle Mountain home.”
Because the course first opened in 1996, Eagle Mountain’s original new home inventory was depleted several years ago. Resale home inventories now offer a new opportunity in a variety of subdivisions and home styles and floor plans for outside-the-doorstep access to a scenic golf course that provides some of the more dramatic views in the entire Valley of the Sun. Located 7.5 miles east of Loop 101 in Fountain Hills, Eagle Mountain’s 18-hole course incorporates the property’s natural box canyons within the McDowell Mountain range and features some remarkable elevation changes as it winds its way through the native Sonoran desert scenery. On any clear day, from some of the higher elevations, golfers get a greatview of Camelback Mountain (you can even make out the Praying Monk).
The course was named “Best New Public Golf Course” by the Arizona Republic in 1996 and “Best of Phoenix Public Golf Courses” in 2006 by the Phoenix New Times.
Although the course is open to the public, many Eagle Mountain residents join the Mountain Club, which for a reasonable, one-time fee gives them golf for half of the rates that the public pays. Among the amenities, The Grille at Eagle Mountain serves breakfast and lunch and features allyou- can-eat buffets on Wednesdays from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM. The club is just minutes from a wide assortment
of restaurants in Fountain Hills and bordering Scottsdale.
Saddling Up with The Duke
Just south of Phoenix is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing planned communities, the town of Maricopa, whose centerpiece subdivisions surround an 18-hole course called The Duke at Rancho El Dorado. Aptly named, the course is built over land once owned by John Wayne. The Old West theme is enhanced by a 20-foot bronze stallion that is reared up in front of a clubhouse; the clubhouse interior is bedecked with paraphernalia such as old wagon wheels, horseshoes, antique lanterns and branding irons. In keeping with the theme, the restaurant is called “The Silver Spur” (ranked in the top ten 19th holes in an AGA reader poll), the bag tags are shaped like spurs and golfers are not only permitted, but encouraged, to wear denim on the course. The tee markers are genuine road irons and western music is piped out to the practice range.
The scenic Duke at Eldorado Ranch golf course—also managed by OB Sports— meanders around natural desert terrain where the Santa Rosa Mountains loom in the backdrop. While it’s a top-notch course whose awards include TravelGolf ’s “Best New Course You Can Play in Arizona,” the award that interests most golfers is the one that The Duke garnered in 2006 from Golf Tips magazine: “The #1 Player Friendly Course in Phoenix/Scottsdale.”The fairways are truly wide open spaces—a shooting gallery for those who want to swing with the unharnessed fury of Arnold Palmer. Yet the course isn’t a pushover, by any means. From the tips, it’s a demanding 7,000 yards, with a 72.4 rating and a 120 slope.
Just 25 minutes from Sky Harbor Airport and 14 miles southwest of I-10 on Queen Creek Road, Maricopa offers a relatively easy commute into Phoenix while remaining worlds apart.
One of many reasons that Maricopa developed so quickly (somewhere around 7,000-8,000 homes were built and sold in the past five years)—is that as the Valley grew south toward Tucson, land was limited because the countryside is surrounded by Indian Reservations. Maricopa happened to be in the last pocket south before Casa Grande. Projections are that the current population of less than 10,000 will grow to very likely 50,000 in just three years. There the growth may end, because the town is bordered by Native American land.
The first master-planned community here has been a huge success. Called Rancho Eldorado, it includes several subdivisions and multiple builders, as well as The Duke golf course.Homes around The Duke sell from about $250,000 up to $500,000, but sales have slowed quite a bit lately, which means that, yes, it is a buyer’s market.
Across the street from the course, at Province at Estrella, sales are still going pretty strong, even though they have slowed down from the previous two years, says Karen Murray, vice president of sales and marketing for Engle Homes, the developer of the community.
Province at Estrella is a 55-and-up, age-restricted community that plans to cap at 2,100 homes and has now sold about half of those. Inventory ranges from 1,100-square-foot duplex villas priced from the $190’s, to 2,800 square-foot estates priced from the $350’s and offers an array of options. Although Maricopa hasn’t yet incorporated, it is now approaching the size of Casa Grande.
Murray points out that a strategy of Engle Homes is to build near golf courses, but not within them, because it saves the buyer having to pay significant association dues and fees of maintaining a
course—the best of both worlds,Murray says. Province has a deal with The Duke for reduced greens fees and discounted prices on pro shop merchandise and dining. Amenities include a town hall, softball fields and a fitness center, pools, an amphitheater, walking trails and a 32,000-square foot Village Center that overlooks several large man-made lakes within the community.
If there is a message out in Maricopa, it is: Relax! Enjoy your life and the wide-open spaces and mountain views. The whole idea was to create a community that affords access to the city, but provides an escape from the booming, crowded, hectic pace of Phoenix.
Chilling in Show Low
Even farther from the maddening crowd is Show Low, in White Mountains on the Mogollon Rim of northeastern Arizona. A three hour drive from both Phoenix and Tucson, Show Low is a favorite retreat for Arizonans who come to snow ski in the winter and boat, fish and golf in the summer. Second-home real estate sales are brisk because Show Low offers an escape from the suffering summer heat.
One of the state’s most beautiful resorts is up here in a community called Torreon. The golf course is extremely well manicured and is designed like a links course—winding in a circle so that golfers get the breezes from all four directions along stands of hardwood trees and over rolling terrain.
Torreon’s upscale amenities are a big selling point—golf, swimming pools, catch-and-release fishing ponds, a fitness center, amphitheater, hiking trails, kids’ playground and a first-rate fireside dining room.
Although there is a slowdown in the housing market here, too, Bison Homes has a project that’s going strong—its new casitas in “six-plex” buildings around the golf course. The casitas provide a lower price point from the $500,000 to $1 million homes within Torreon, says Mike Savarino, director of sales and marketing for Bison, which developed about half of those homes in Torreon. “The location is excellent, and there’s a great demand for second homes in mountain resort in Arizona.” But perhaps the key reason the casitas are selling so well is that Bison has bought up a lot of Torreon golf memberships and includes a membership with the price of a home. Sold separately, the memberships are priced at $46,000.
“Instead of having to pay $46,000 up front,” says Bison’s Torreon sales agent Devon Day, “people who purchase our casitas finance that membership with their mortgage for up to 30 years—and the interest is tax deductible.” The price also includes the first year’s dues, an additional $3,120.
“Ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet and priced from $249,000 up to $325,000, prices depend on the size and the location and various extras, ranging from hardwood floors, granite counter tops, custom cabinetry and upgraded carpet, to name some,” explains Day. Twelve “six-plex” buildings are in the works, for a total of 72 casitas.
“This is a great opportunity for people to get into a beautiful mountain location at a very reasonable price,” Savarino says.
‘Stone’ Gorgeous in Tucson
Communities with higher-end homes generally weather economic storms best. This has proven to be the case at Stone Canyon, in Oro Valley, on Tucson’s far northwest side. Stone Canyon is one of the more exclusive golf communities in the state, and one which the current credit crunch will not affect, explains Jason Wolfswinkel, director of sales for Stone Canyon Properties, Inc. “That’s because of the market we’re in. Most of our buyers are cash buyers, as opposed to the first-time home buyers that this credit crunch is impacting most.” In addition,Wolfswinkel says, his company has a lot of banks still willing to do lot loans and construction loans.
Wolfswinkel points out that most of Stone Canyon’s buyers are from the Midwest and Northwest—people looking to either retire to a warm climate or to escape dreary winters. “These people are ready
to make a move and are not going to let economic forecasts stop them.”
Stone Canyon has some spec homes and resale lots available. However, as Wolfswinkel says, “There are not a lot of resales simply because we’re a relatively young community.”Approximately 300 of the 750 lots and 200 of the 390 cap of memberships still remain.
Lots are priced from $450,000 to well over $2.5 million—yes, that’s just for the dirt. Designer homes start at $1.6 million, with some condominiums priced under $1 million.
The centerpiece of this gated community is its Jay Moorishdesigned golf course. Opened in 1999, the course has garnered several awards, among them Golf Digest’s Best New Course, and Golfweek’s Best Residential Desert Course. The views at 3,000 feet are magnificent, but even more magnificent is the conditioning and sheer beauty of a course that rolls through the Tortolita Mountains and trails along waterfalls, titanic cacti—and prehistoric looking boulders similar to what you see at The Boulders in Scottsdale, whose courses Moorish also designed.
Stone Canyon’s 1,500-acres include only 70 acres of turf and other areas that will remain forever undeveloped, to protect natural vegetation and historic Hohokam rock drawings.
Under construction is a 10,000-square foot clubhouse that will feature underground, climate controlled parking and will include a restaurant that overlooks the 18th hole, one the nation’s most scenic golf holes. In addition to the dazzling course, Stone Canyon’s members will enjoy amenities that will include a 10,000 square-foot health and fitness center, a 25-yard lap pool, tennis courts, treatment rooms, chiropractic services, yoga, Pilates, aerobics, water aerobics, personal trainers, massage therapist and weekend guided hikes on nearby trails. The sun rises over the Catalina Mountains just to
the east and sets over the Tucson Mountains just to the west. From what nature has provided to what man has sculpted, Stone Canyon residents are literally encircled in beauty.
Whether you want to build your own dream home from the ground up or take advantage of this current buyer’s market in resale homes, there may be no better time than now to make the good life in a golf community a reality for you and your family.