Phoenix's struggling golf economy

Here’s an interesting article from Arizona State University’s business school about the decline of the golf industry in the greater Phoenix area: … 3&aid=1476

Part of the tradition and beauty of this game is to learn to play the full spectrum of reasonable conditions. It makes better players and diversifies the experience considerable. Golf is currently existing in an age of entitlement. I suppose things will change over time due more to necessity rather than choice.

There will always be golfers, just less of them. More quality players and the majority of great courses will buck the trend of a convenience minded generation.

I agree. The course I play is what I call a “blue collar” course. It’s not fancy, but it’s generally in fair shape for the price you pay, and I really enjoy it. I’ve had some incredible golf experiences there. I invited a young golfer from church to join me for a game. His family are members at a very nice, well kept, and expensive course. He was complaining by the second hole, and continued for the rest of the round. The comment that has stuck with me the most is, “This course is going to ruin my game.” It’s sad, but it’s probably too late for him to experience what is the true essence of golf.

You actually have to be a better player to shoot a good score on a poorly groomed course. I used to love it when the tour would stop on a course in bad condition. I knew half the field was already eliminated. Bad greens are great too because it becomes much less of a putting contest. The great putters are not going to be able to run the table. Yes, they will still make more putts, but not nearly as many. Things get tipped in favor of the better ball strikers on poor greens.

There is also a technique to putting on slower bumpy greens… and a lot of good players don’t really know how to do it.

I once played in a junior tournament with kikuya grass greens. It was absolutely crazy. Even a two foot putt was hit and pray.
I shot 7 over par and won the tournament over Dennis Paulson in a sudden death playoff.

Lately, I believe the tour is trying to homogenize the greens from week to week. When I was playing it was a given that to succeed you had to learn to putt fast bent, grainy bermuda, poa annua, and winter rye. Different feels, speeds and techniques.

Tennis I think still plays grass, clay and concrete?

At University they let the fairways go dormant during the winter months. They would over seed the tees and greens only.
No one complained about it. It was just a different feel playing off the straw during those months. Divots would scatter and break up, so we had to expect to dig a few out of holes here and there. If things got to bad then a course could declare winter rules where you could bump the ball 6 inches… but I never liked that. I prefer to hear the competition complaining!

In Orlando we are seeing some of the ‘older’ courses getting renovated. Metrowest did a $1.5 million renovation. They can afford it since they are owned by the Marriott and they do a lot of business. But the big thing to me is that they not only installed new greens, but hey went from 73 bunkers to 42 bunkers. And the bunkers they had left over were mostly made smaller in size. Rio Pinar used to hold the old Citrus Open PGA Tour event. They are doing $4.5 million of renovations. New greens, lots of sod, new cart paths and…trimming down the amount of bunkers.

The bunkering these days is ridiculous and impossible to maintain at an affordable price. If it rains enough, then you’re going to need new sand by the end of the year. Not to mention sod replacement around the trap. Combine that with the labor and it’s an exhaustive and expensive part of the course. I’ve been thinking lately that if you had the designer for it, a course could eliminate sand all together and replace it with ‘grass bunkers’ and it would not only save them money and time, but I think the golfers would enjoy it even more.


I play The Sea Ranch Golf Links from time to time. We are in a drought here in California (finally getting rain this week) so the course has been a bit burnt — there is not much watering that is done to the course. I’ve read reviews that are overwhelming negative because of the brown conditions. The first time I played it, I fell in love with it. Even though it’s along the ocean, It is not really a links course, but there is enough of that flavor plus the interesting layout that makes it a joy. It is a shotmaker’s course. I was expecting the worst but I was more than pleasantly surprised.

I was in the FW on a par 4 looking at 180 to the green. My ball was on a very thin, brown patch, and the guy I was playing with told me just to move the ball where there was ‘sufficient’ grass. Instead I took a little extra club, put it a bit back in my stance, and kind of dead-weighted it with a slow but steep attack. A nice low shot that hit 50 yards short of the green and rolled to pin high. Delicious. [By the way, I love the ‘thud’ of the turf there.]

The conditions, the comment, and the shot made my day.

Watching tournament golf in the US is getting boring. The courses are all starting to look alike (conditions), and players are getting pretty pouty about less than pristine conditions. I find myself watching the Europen Tour more and more because there seems to be more variety.

I agree wholeheartedly — ragged conditions (or at least a variety) makes for better skill development and should be embraced for that reason.

This is golf, not billiards.


but I never liked that. I prefer to hear the competition complaining!"

Gold John, just gold