Arizona Golf Courses

Written by Shirley Parker
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When the first Arizona grass golf course was built in Chandler in 1912, its opening unknowingly heralded a new age for the Grand Canyon State. Today, golf is likely the most important industry in Arizona. When people come to play golf, they spend more than the greens fees: they buy plane tickets, rent cars, hail cabs, or gas up RVs; they reserve hotel rooms, patronize restaurants, get haircuts, and shop; they look for real estate to buy in the future. Their love for golf probably keeps upwards of 17,000 to 20,000 people employed each year. And they pay taxes, which support the infrastructure.

That said, Arizona has probably now overbuilt, with new golf courses being mostly on hold for a few years. The big boom in building golf courses happened in the 1990s. In 2001, the golfing industry took a downturn, as did many other areas in the country dependent upon tourism. Reasons included a shaky national economy, slow to rebound after the World Trade Center attack. As a result, there are quite a few bargains to be had in terms of golfing vacations and package deals that include rounds of golf on world-renowned courses.

One statistical source lists 469 public golf courses in Arizona and 150 private golf courses. Because of the tourist slowdown, some owners are currently struggling to make a go of things. They have lowered greens fees to encourage players to come out on days other than the ones that get written up in the newspapers. Greens fees at premier courses may still be a hundred dollars or more, but with special offers or off-season rates, you may be able to play a course you never thought you'd see. Internet specials and deals can often net even lower rates.

Desert Water Supply

Much of Arizona is naturally dry, although you wouldn't believe that if you visited during the frequent monsoons that residents experience. Storms used to occur largely in August, when local authorities were prepared for them. They now seem to happen whenever heavy storms along the West Coast swing that way.

Having survived thousands of flash floods over the eons, ancient red rock formations and hazy, purple mountain ranges pose in timeless grandeur. These sentinels present an indescribable contrast to the curving patches of green and colorful flags and roofs below them. Storms notwithstanding, water is always a concern in the desert.

Golf Courses and the Environment

Golf courses do face environmental challenges, compounded by the drought in the western states. Whether the heavy winter rains of 2005 can make up the shortfall in available water is unknown, but for now, there's been a reprieve granted. Winter storms filled existing reservoirs, but as in other western states, much rainfall soaks into the ground or runs back out to sea. There are also bitterly contested water allocations along the Colorado River that affect all Arizona golf courses and residents. The ongoing concern over water is something that limits the expansion of current courses and the building of new ones.

Much to their credit, golf courses in Arizona use a great deal of wastewater. Even then, turf is so sensitive to water quality and salinity that soil and water must be frequently tested and adjusted. Rinsing excess salts out of wastewater deposits requires calcium and drinking-quality water. Given what they contribute to the economy, Arizona golf courses don't seem to use an unreasonable amount of available water, perhaps five percent. Seeing that golf is such a major force in Arizona's economy and that is is the favorite sport of many residents and visitors, courses are sure to be lush and green far into the future.

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