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Summer Prices Sizzle Under the Sun

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX - Summertime green fees in the Phoenix area have always been a bargain, but this year, the price breaks may be cooler than ever.

A number of golf course executives concede that the slowing economy put a bit of a damper on business earlier this year, and so they're offering many discounts and specials this summer in an effort to draw more local golfers to courses and also to spur tourists to try golfing during the warm-weather season. The summer season generally kicks off June 1 in Phoenix.

Lon Grundy, director of golf at Legend Trail Golf Club in North Scottsdale, east of Phoenix, says business has been down a bit at Phoenix courses, but "we hope to see it rebound in the third quarter."

"When it comes to the published list of summer rates, they're probably comparable to last summer," Grundy says. "But courses are getting more aggressive than last year about offering special prices that are less than the posted rates."

For example, Troon Golf, which manages Legend Trail, has been running a coupon on its Web site (www.troongolf.com) making it possible through Aug. 31 for a foursome to play for the price of three golfers. The summer rate is $60 at the course; so three could play for $180, compared with $240 regularly during the summer.

The Web site regularly posts new discounts at Troon properties nationwide. Here are more discounts available at other Troon courses:

Estrella Mountain Ranch Golf Club in Goodyear, west of Phoenix, has posted summer green fees of $60 any day of the week. But the club is running a coupon in local newspapers that offers a $29 rate on weekdays and $39 on weekends during the month of June. To really appreciate what this discount means, keep in mind that Estrella's peak winter rate is $120 a round.

Kierland Golf Club in Scottsdale is offering to let two golfers play anytime for $75 through July 31. The posted summertime rates at this course are $65 on weekends and $55 weekdays.

Yet another Troon course, Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale offers the same foursome for the price of three that Legend Trail has available.

A similar summer bargain is available at one of north Scottsdale's premier courses, Grayhawk Golf, where a foursome can play either the Talon or Raptor course for $200, including lunch or dinner at one of the club's restaurants, any time through Sept. 8. During the peak winter tourist season, of course, you can pay more than $200 a round to play at Grayhawk. There are restrictions on times when you can play on weekends using this discount. Check out www.grayhawk.com for details on booking this promotion.

As usual in Arizona, the summer "twilight" rate can start fairly early, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at some courses. That's because the early morning tee times, when temperatures are cooler, are more popular with players.

Some golf pros say that these cut-rate prices won't last forever and some courses may have gone overboard in discounting rates. "Play is down a little," says Jay Haffner, director of golf at SunRidge Canyon Golf Course in Fountain Hills, "but some people have been going to extremes in fighting to get the same 100,000 golfers in the valley. It may be hard for some courses to raise their prices back up to $250 a round when they've been selling them for $25 during the spring."

His course runs occasional specials, he says, but we try to make sure that everyone who comes out to play has a fun and enjoyable experience. "We want to make sure that they come back again. If a course has a $20 special, when they normally have $150 rounds, how many bodies do they have to get out there in order to meet the bottom line? Who wants to play a five-hour round of golf in 105 degree heat?"

This year's summer rates at SunRidge Canyon, one of the valley's most popular courses, are $65 on weekends and $50 during the week. Last year the rate was $65 everyday, Haffner says. "We're trying to capture more weekday rounds and spread out the play."

The course also has afternoon rates from 2 to 4 p.m. of $40 and there's an online special of $50 per player including lunch.

Is there a price war developing on golf rates? Haffner doesn't think so although the public might wish it were so. "I've had some people call me up and say things like: Will you do it for this much? That doesn't work," he says.

However, a staff member at another top-level course told us when we called: "If the price is too high, let us know what will work."

At another popular Fountain Hills course, the Golf Club at Eagle Mountain, Jay Pennypacker, director of golf, says that play at his course has been pretty steady. But the club does have lots of special $45 tee times available online. The usual summer rate at Eagle Mountain is $50 during the week and $60 on weekends. "We also have what we call 'boomerang bucks'. If you play a round, you can come back with a foursome and play for $100. It's a great way to get people to come back again," he says.

For any of these rates or specials, it's best to check online or call for more information as special discounts tend to come and go. Here are the posted standard summer rates (plus the peak winter rate) for the courses mentioned in this story and a few others in the Phoenix area:

The Golf Club at Eagle Mountain,
14915 E. Eagle Mountain Parkway,
off Shea Boulevard,
Fountain Hills, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rate: $50 weekdays, $60 weekends.
Lots of online specials.
Peak winter rate: $135.

Estrella Mountain Ranch Golf Club
11800 S. Golf Club Drive,
Goodyear, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rates: $60 any day; $40 at twilight.
Coupon rate: $29 weekdays; $39 weekends.
Peak winter rate: $120.

Grayhawk Golf Club
8620 E. Thompson Peak Parkway,
Scottsdale, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rate: $75 before 9:30 a.m.; $50 after 9:30 a.m.
Lots of online specials.
Peak winter rate: About $200.

Kierland Golf Club
15636 Clubgate Drive,
Scottsdale, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rate: $55, weekdays; $65 weekends.
Peak winter rate: $155.

Legend Trail Golf Club
9462 E. Legendary Lane,
Scottsdale, AZ.
Phone: 480-488-7434;
Web: www.troongolf.com.
Summer rate: $60 any day.
Peak winter rate: $170.

Ocotillo Golf Resort
3751 S. Clubhouse Drive,
Chandler, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rate: $45.
Peak winter rate: $155.

SunRidge Canyon
13100 N. SunRidge Drive,
off Palisades Boulevard,
Fountain Hills, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rate: $50 weekdays; $65 weekends; $40 after 2 p.m.
Online specials available.
Peak winter rate: $175.

Talking Stick Golf Club
9998 E. Indian Bend Road,
Scottsdale, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rate: weekdays, $35 after 11 a.m. and $60 before 11 a.m.; weekends, $45 after 11 a.m. and $60 before 11 a.m.
Peak winter rate: $145.

Thunderbirds Golf Club
701 E. Thunderbird Trail,
Phoenix, AZ.
Phone: 602-305-7755
Web: www.thunderbirdsgolfclub.com.
Summer rate: $49 weekdays; $65 weekends.
Peak winter rate: $138.
Maricopa County residents get special discounts.

Troon North Golf Club
10320 E. Dynamite Blvd.,
Scottsdale, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rates: $75 weekdays, $90 weekends.
Peak winter rate: $240.

Wildfire Golf Club
5225 E. Pathfinder Drive, Phoenix, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rates: $50 ($35 after 2 p.m.)
weekdays; $60 ($40 after 2 p.m.).
Peak winter rate: $135.

Whirlwind Golf Club
5692 N. Loop Road, Chandler, AZ.
Phone: 800-767-3574
Summer rates: $55 before 3 p.m. and $35 after 3 p.m. seven days a week; some $45 specials available.
Peak winter rate: $125.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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