For decades a lush desert in the southwestern United States was California’s favorite home for golf. In recent years the southeast corner of Arizona has become the new golf capital of America, but what’s behind this trend? Why is Phoenix getting good golf and not sunny California?
The answer is: a lot of money.
A lot of money because in Arizona, as in most of the rest of the US, taxes are lower on business and property ownership. The low corporate income tax and property tax rates also encourage investment, which means more jobs and more construction. This leads to more demand for employment in all sectors of the economy, which ultimately makes it easier for people with only high school degrees to find work. And if you’re willing to pay a premium for something less tangible than a job, you can get a sense of satisfaction out of owning something that isn’t there yet: your own private golf course.
So here’s our list: Of course there are many excellent courses in Phoenix; some are best-in-class destinations and others are just nice places to play.
But when you look at all these fine places together what becomes apparent is that they’re all owned by millionaires or billionaires who live elsewhere. Even so, these golfers don’t mind spending $100
To play golf well you need skill, and to have skill you need good equipment. But to play well you also need a course that suits your skills, a course that has the right kind of holes. And to find the right course you need to know what type of hole it is.
For years I’d been asking around Phoenix, “Where are the best places to play golf?” No one seemed to know. You could tell how much they enjoyed playing by how many places they recommended, but they were all recommending different things.
So I compiled a list of the best courses in Phoenix, based on my personal experience and a couple of phone calls based on my experience. As for good holes, that was up to you: read about them in the comments or go see for yourself.
Kennedy golf course is a series of sites and buildings along the eastern edge of downtown Phoenix. The best known is the course on the rooftop of CityScape, but we have lots of others to recommend. Our favorite is TPC Scottsdale.
The course was designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1993. It’s not as good as the courses he designed in Florida, but it’s still very good, and has some fine views of the city.
Many people think that golf doesn’t have much to do with real estate development, but it does: it turns out that if you build a great golf course you get more people to live near it. And if you build a great golf course around an existing housing development, you get even more people to live near it – because now they have something else to do other than work or play golf!
One of the best things about a Phoenix golf course is that it isn’t just a golf course. It’s an interesting place with interesting people.
The Arizona Golf Club has been around for nearly 60 years, and it has won awards for its landscaping and its top-notch greenskeeper. On some days there are as many as a dozen weddings in progress.
But more than that, it’s a community. Golf is serious business here but this isn’t a gated community; people talk to each other and they socialize. We may live in the desert, but we are not isolated from our neighbors in any significant way. Most of all, we love to play golf.
The Kennedy golf course is on the other side of town, but it’s quite good. The greens are fast and firm, the fairways are wide and full of trees, and the rough is thick and lush. It’s a pleasure to play in the summer, when azaleas bloom around every hole.
The course has five sets of tees: par-5s cost $40, par-4s cost $50, par-3s cost $45, par-2s cost $40, and an extra $10 for each additional group. (The “black” set, which costs $60 for a three-person group.) There are also three sets of yardage markers on the course: white, yellow and red.
The green fee includes a cart with optional GPS mapping you can use to keep track of how far you’re playing from the next tee box. You’re also allowed to bring your own clubs–no carts or caddies required.
We tend to think of golf as a gentleman’s game, but a lot of women play it. Golf courses are great places to have parties. And the best courses are pretty expensive. Many women might be willing to spend $300 or $400 for an evening out on the greens, either as guests or (as some women do) as members.
Golf courses are also good places for meetings for groups that would be hard to hold in restaurants. Put up a tent, get some caterers, and you’ve got a facility that’s hard to beat for business meetings.
Golf is America’s sport. It is a national obsession, and the game has been almost entirely taken over by professionals. If you get more than a dozen people together to play golf, one of them will be a pro. Golfers may quarrel about equipment and course architecture, but they all agree on the rules: you have to pay the greens fee and you have to hit the ball in the fairway or into the rough. You can play for free if your handicap is under 14.
The professionalization of golf has turned it into a moneymaking machine. The US Golf Association estimates that nearly $8 billion was generated from US golf courses in 2006, not counting revenue from other related activities like club rental and merchandise sales. The green fees alone accounted for 70 percent of all revenue generated by golf courses that year.