TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Golf courses in Tucson still haven’t bounced back from the drubbing they received during the 2008 recession.
Play was already dropping as prices continued to rise, but the real hit came when unemployment rose and disposable income disappeared during the Great Recession.
There are signs there’s a renewed interest in the game, but play remains down meaning courses must compete to stay in business.
“We spent over a million dollars on our project,” said Mark Oswald, the general manager at The Highlands at Dove Mountain.
They rebuilt the greens, the bunkers, re worked the tee boxes, trimmed the vegetation and “it looks like a brand new course that’s been sitting here for 20 years,” he said.
Oswald has an advantage most courses don’t have, which is why he could spend a million dollars and still remain debt free.
His course is owned by 2,300 homeowners in the HOA, who chip in a small amount towards golf course maintenance and capital needs. They all pay whether they play golf or not.
“It keeps their home values up,” Oswald said. “We had to convince them of that.”
The owners come from all over the country, like “Chicago, Minnesota and Seattle,” he said. “So we’re really trying to attract the golfer.”
But attracting the golfer is not the priority for Visit Tucson as it once was.
While still a big part of the Tucson marketing scheme, it’s actually more diversified.
“People looking to come here for Mexican food,” said Dan Gibson, the Director of Communications for Visit Tucson. “Or because they care about food culture.”
He says sometimes they want to know how to experience the murals, mountain biking, street biking, hiking and training.
“I mean there is so much,” he said but also adds he gets a couple calls a week from folks looking solely for a golf experience.
There’s so much golf competition from other close by cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale and Palm Springs.
But that doesn’t mean the golf experience is going away anytime soon because the thousands of people attracted to Tucson who play golf spend a lot of money.
“We wouldn’t dream of trying to get away from golf for a very long time,” Gibson said. “Because they are great customers.”
This means Oswald must compete against other golf courses but a steady diet of other attractions as well.
“So this is where primarily we gave the last hole more eye appeal,” he said. “Put a little more pizzazz in it.”
Pizzazz seems to be par for the course these days.