Upgrading Tempe’s Rolling Hills Golf Course might be rejected by the City Council this week as a coalition of residents lobbies to keep it a city-owned executive course.
Tempe talked with a developer about remodeling the course into a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, partly to help attract a major hotel to the Town Lake area and partly because the course was running a deficit.
But many residents — especially senior citizens — fought back, saying that Rolling Hills is a short, affordable course that is easy to get around. On Thursday, staff members will recommend holding off on the idea — at least until the city receives results of a study about potential new hotel sites near Town Lake or downtown Tempe.
City Councilman Ben Arredondo, who opposed the plan from the beginning, said he doesn’t want to spend money to improve a golf course when Tempe needs to build a new multigenerational center and a police station on Apache Boulevard.
The city estimated it would cost between $1.65 million and $4.15 million to reroute Mill Avenue and relocate utility lines for an upgraded course. But Arredondo said it would have cost up to $5.6 million.
Arredondo said the city should install lights to allow night golfing at Rolling Hills or raise greens fees by a few dollars to recoup the losses.
Loyal Rolling Hills golfers told the city it couldn’t replicate the low-cost experience of the course. Tempe resident Charlotte Moore said she can hear the roar of lions from the Phoenix Zoo while enjoying the desert beauty of Papago Park.
Other residents are worried remodeling would eat up too much land in the Papago Park area. The course now consists of 95.6 acres, but developers would need 180.3 acres for the remodeled version, including 62.3 acres from the park.
Ironwood Golf Group, which developed the Bear Creek Golf Course for Chandler, approached Tempe with the idea. The developer estimated regular playing fees would be less than $100 per round, but it could offer the city 6,000 discounted rounds a year for residents and seniors. Fees at Rolling Hills now range from $11 for junior residents to $23 for nonresident adults.