For a lot of the country, this is peak season for the golfing industry. But in the Southwest, it’s just the opposite. High temperatures keep golfers off the links, while water and upkeep costs strain maintenance budgets. In Arizona, courses take different approaches to make ends meet.
At the Tournament Players Club (TPC) in Scottsdale, it’s noon and the temperature on the first tee is 105 degrees.
This kind of weather brings out two types of golfers. There are passionate players like Dennis Binaco: “I don’t play in the rain and I won’t play when it’s cold, but when it’s hot I’ll play all the time,” Binaco said.
And then there are the, shall we say, thrifty players like Arcot Premkumar. “Price is the most important thing,” Premkumar said. “I mean everybody likes a nice deal.”
Today, Premkumar is getting a great deal. In peak season – the fall and winter – it costs more than $300 to play here. But in the summer, 18 holes and a cart will only set you back $85.
Course professional Doug Hodge said it’s a chance for higher handicappers to play on the same turf as the greatest in the game.
“Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth played here in 15, Jason Day, the list goes on and on,” Hodge said of the list of PGA Tour members who have played here.
But it costs a lot to keep a championship course looking green in the middle of the desert.
The view from the first tee at the Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale. The course stays open during the summer and uses online booking site Golf Now to maximize greens fees.
“We need to do everything we can every day to maximize green fee cart fee revenues. Even a little bit of revenue is better than none for our operation,” Hodge said.
Like a lot of courses, the Players Club uses an online booking service to fill tee times.
“We make their tee time inventory available to golfers so that they can search for the particular date and time that they want to play golf,” said Will McIntosh with the booking service Golf Now.
Playing at 6 a.m. on Saturday when the temperature is only 95 degrees will cost you more than playing at noon on Sunday.
But for smaller golf courses, the grass isn’t always as green. In fact, at the Apache Sun Golf Club east of Phoenix, the fairways are completely brown and the grass crunches underfoot. Superintendent Rory Van Poucke closes the course every summer from May to October and lets the grass die.
Apache Sun Golf Club Superintendent Rory Van Poucke looks at the putting green. To save on water, he lets the grass die every summer and uses the time to prepare the course for the heavy play it will receive in the winter months.
“We close to reduce our water costs and reduce our expenses to maintain a profitable operation,” Van Poucke said.
But he said his fairways will be green again and ready for the snow birds’ return this fall.