Golf communities are developed with golfers in mind, of course, but a surprising number of non-golfers also love living adjacent to gorgeous green open space and spectacular mountain views. "The golfer enjoys the convenience and camaraderie a gold course community provides," said Hal Looney, president of Shea Home Active Lifestyle Arizona, which maintain four Trilogy communities in the Phoenix area. (Some Trilogy communities are active-adult; some are all-ages; some are all-ages with active-adult neighborhoods.) The buyer looking for open space “wants to live in a community that has rolling greens winding through neighborhoods, a beautiful natural backdrop and areas where they can enjoy their own hobbies and interests as well. Not only does a well-conditioned course enhance the overall community, but [a nice course] also [enhances] home values.”
Meanwhile, Mark Hammons, vice president and general manager of Vistancia, a master-planned community in North Peoria, said that their buyers are seeking a unique and upscale desert lifestyle experience. They’re “looking for a home surrounded by the beauty of the golf course, vast open space that allows for more privacy and stunning Sonoran mountain views from every angle," he said. "Additionally, we attract many buyers who are avid golfers and enjoy the amenities and lifestyle of a private country club."
But not all golf course community residents actually play the game, according to Mark Gurnow, heneral manager of Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Gold Canyon. In fact, he believes that most residents in golf course communities do not play golf. “They choose to live in golf course communities because of the lifestyle and pastoral feel of seeing the green golf course,” he said. “Golfers always demand well-maintained courses but even the resident non-golfer sees the importance of the maintained surroundings.”
Public or private, that is the question...
The golf courses in the golf course communities can be public or private. In Vistanicia, for examples, Blackstone Country Club is a private, 18-hole championship golf course designed by Jim Engh. The course is located within the gated Blackstone at Vistancia community; club membership is not required with a home purchase in Vistancia, Hammons said.
Trilogy Golf Club, located within the active-adult community of Trilogy at Vistancia, is a public daily-fee course designed by Gary Panks.
The golf courses in Trilogy at Verde River — designed by Ken Kavanaugh — and Trilogy at Wickenburg Ranch, designed by Wendell Pickett and Bill Brownlee, also are open to the public. Encanterra, a Trilogy Resort Community in San Tan Valley, features a private course designed by Tom Lehman.
In Superstition Mountain, two gold courses (designed by Jack Nicklaus and his sons Gary and Jack Jr.) are reserved for members only "but a several times a year we host public charity tournaments supporting great causes," Gurnow said.
In Estrella, a master-planned community in Goodyear, the Nicklaus-designed Estrella Golf Club is managed by Troon and is open to the public, said William Olson, senior vice president and division manager for Newland Communities.
People choose to live in golf communities with public courses because “they typically desire the freedom and variety that public courses offer,” said Scott Heideman, general manager of Blackstone Country Club. Heideman has managed both public and private courses during his career and said: “Public courses don’t lock golfers into a single golf experience.”
He also said that some avid golfers may prefer “the prestige, exclusivity, high-touch service, well-appointed amenities and lifestyle activities that are offered in a private club. They also choose private courses because they desire to belong to a community — a family of sorts — who are all invested in the club and have similar interests.”
Low water, high-tech
"Lowering water usage in the desert is imperative to sustainability,” Gurnow [of Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club] said. “Our courses use water from a CAP canal that is non-potable water with no other use. Using that on the course puts it back through nature’s purifying system of evaporation and moving to the aquifer. Low-water-use turf is not used in the desert. Instead, we reduce the amount of turf used on the golf course so that we can use less water.”
Hammons said the golf courses in Vistancia also use non-potable water. "All water is reclaimed water generated by the community," he said. “Additionally, we ensure that all non-turf areas use native plants that do not require large amounts of irrigation when they are in their infancy. Once those plants are fully grown and established, the water supply is shut off and they survive independently.”
Looney said that golf courses at Trilogy communities are irrigated with a state-of-the-art computerized irrigation system. “The system connects with an onsite weather station where weather conditions — including temperature, humidity, wind and dewpoint — are factored into a daily calculation for programmed water delivery,” he explained. “Through this system, we are able to treat all areas of the course differently while alleviating water waste.”
Olson [of Newland Communities] said that Troon employs experts in agronomy and sustainable maintenance practices that focus on optimizing turf and course quality. “Consistent with the water conservation and sustainability throughout Estrella,” he said, “the majority of the water used on the golf course is reclaimed.”