Developers taking a more critical look at the need for golf courses in some housing communities still have to provide the game for enthusiasts at a time of increasing competition.
To do so, firms like Scottsdalebased Sunbelt Holdings are creating what it calls a series of “lifestyle villages,” or a collection of mini-master plans, in some of their larger communities. Some neighborhoods in the community are golf-oriented and some aren’t.
The idea is being employed at Sunbelt’s 7,000-acre Vistancia community in the West Valley.
“We have a core village that is similar to a Power Ranch and a McDowell Mountain Ranch in terms of market niche, the family orientation and active lifestyle,” said Curt Smith, Sunbelt chief operating officer. “In that area, we did not put a golf course. There is a Trilogy Village, which is a resort-lifestyle, age-qualified, agerestricted community, and there golf is an important part of their livelihood and lifestyle, so there is a golf course there. And then we are building another village. It’s called Blackstone Country Club, which is truly presenting a country-club lifestyle, so again golf is important.”
Developers say putting in golf depends on who you’re selling homes to. What’s changed is simply the idea that any open space should be turned into a course.
“In some cases this area is over-golfed in different sides of the golf market,” Smith said. “The golf business has been very competitive and very difficult since 9/11 with less tourists. It’s getting better, but it’s a very competitive business. There’s a lot of daily fee golf, and, in certain portions like the north Scottsdale area, there’s a tremendous amount of private country club golf.”
Frequently, golf courses lose money for a number of years, so developers are considering better ways like trails and natural open space to create the same amenity, Smith said.
At public courses, the game is rebounding. In 2003 and 2004, the number of paid rounds played and greens fees and cart revenue were down, according to the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Last year, the number of rounds played were up 3.6 percent and greens fees and cart revenue increased 6.8 percent.
Dawn McLaren, an economist at ASU, said golf has been slow to come back because it’s a luxury item. But she said it has increased hand-in-hand with tourism, with strong showings particularly at the end of 2005 and so far this year.
Oil prices could help the golf industry even more, she said. “If people choose to do their recreation in town instead of going out of town, they can take a short drive down to the golf course, ” McLaren said.
Henry DeLozier, vice president of Golf at Pulte Homes, said about half the people who live in the company’s communities play golf. Arizona golfers, under the company’s Del Webb brand, play a lot more golf than their counterparts elsewhere in the United States.
National Golf Foundation statistics show about 13 percent of the population play more than 20 rounds annually, he said. In a Del Webb community, that number is 24.6 percent. “We try to be mindful we want the golf to be fun, we want it to be inclusive,” DeLozier said. “We’re not into this ‘You have to pay $100,000 to join the club.’ ”