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Tucson awash with new golf courses


It’s been eight or nine years since any courses have been built here and the demand has caught up with the supply.

With 29 golf courses sprinkled across metropolitan Tucson, non-golfing residents can hardly be faulted for thinking “Enough already!’

But developers and home builders are betting that what looks like a surfeit to some is actually a shortage.

Three new golf courses – each the centerpiece of a master-planned housing development – will have opened here between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

* Torres Blancas in Green Valley

* The Golf Club at Vistoso, in Oro Valley

* The Raven at Sabino Springs, on the far Northeast Side.

Why build more courses and add thousands of golf-course home sites to Tucson’s real-estate inventory?

Believe it or not, “Tucson is undergolfed,’ said Chandler entrepreneur Conley Wolfswinkel, whose company is developing Rancho Vistoso, home of the Golf Club at Vistoso.

“You haven’t had a new course to speak of in eight or nine years.’

In the meantime, with an average of about 20,000 people a year moving here, the population has swelled by nearly 200,000.

Wolfswinkel and other developers expect at least a few thousand of the newcomers to be people such as Richard and Jean Luke.

The Lukes, both avid golfers, moved here from the Los Angeles area 13 years ago and built a home at the Country Club of Green Valley.

“The reason we moved was there was affordable ownership (on a golf course) here. If not for golf, we would still be in southern California,’ Richard Luke said.

The Lukes play golf at least three times a week.

But even people who don’t know the difference between a birdie and a bogie sometimes choose to live on a Tucson-area golf course.

“People like the appeal, whether they are golfers or not,’ said Realty Executives agent Scott Wells.

Newcomers who aren’t accustomed to the Sonoran desert’s subtle shades of brown and tan say “ `Well, there’s some greenery,’ ‘ Wells said.

However, whether there are enough buyers to support three new golf-course communities is debatable.

The developers’ response, of course, is “absolutely, positively.’

But real-estate agents with experience selling golf-course property will commit only to “probably.’

“I don’t think you will see a tremendous buying surge all at once,’ said Richard Harvey, an agent with Coldwell Banker Success Realty. “But if they (developers) are in it for the long haul, they will do all right.’

Added Wells: “Some will sell out right away. But whether the demand is enough to fill out each builder’s portion of the subdivisions, I don’t know.’

Price likely will be the deciding factor. One of the new developments, Santa Rita Springs, in Green Valley, has patio homes near the golf course starting at about $80,000.

But custom lots bordering the fairway at the new courses will range up to $100,000, which can boost the price of a finished home to $500,000 or more.

“As long as the lots are a decent size, a half-acre or better, there will be a market,’ Harvey said. “As long as the costs are reasonable, we are going to keep pulling people in.’

Golf can be hazardous neighbor

There’s more to golf-course living than easy access to the tees and soothing views of fields of green.

There’s also the prospect of free golf balls. Lots of them.

George Prout, who lives on the 17th fairway of El Conquistador Country Club’s Sunrise course in Oro Valley, estimates he finds 500 to 600 balls in his yard each year.

Although Prout enjoys playing golf, he would just as soon send the balls back to their owners – via airmail.

“If somebody shoots a missile at you, you should be able to shoot back,’ said Prout, who has been struck twice by errant shots while sitting on his patio. He’s also had three windows and a skylight broken.

“I could get nasty, I guess. But it wouldn’t do any good,’ Prout said. “They say a golf ball cuts its own easement.’

Buyers of golf-course homes typically must sign an agreement acknowledging that neither the golf course nor golfers are responsible for damage caused by poor shots.

Maureen Boggs, a golfer and an agent with Coldwell Banker Success Realty, advises her clients to carefully inspect the grounds of the home or lot before buying.

“If I see golf balls, then I know I don’t want to live there,’ she said.

Other factors also should be considered.

“Every course is different,’ said Scott Wells, a Realty Executives agent and avid golfer.

“Some courses are more difficult than others. Some allow you to walk and some don’t. Play the courses. See what you like. Then buy real estate at that club,’ Wells said.

The location of the house on the fairway is also important.

Prout, for instance, lives about 150 yards from the tee box – prime hacker territory.

Like Prout, Richard Luke lives on a golf course.

But in 13 years, the most serious damage to his home was caused by a skulled sand shot that knocked loose the screen from the kitchen window.

Luke lives near the sixth green of the Country Club of Green Valley and doesn’t have to worry about golfers hitting his house with their drives. The tee is 400 yards away.

Luke, who has built golf-course homes in southern California, also said it was worth paying more for a big lot.

“Knowing that when you build on a golf course, you are at risk, we bought a large lot so we could build a house that wasn’t right on the edge,’ he said.

Luke, who plays golf three times a week, notes another advantage of living on a course, one that helps boost leisure time.

“Somebody else is cutting the lawn in back of your house,’ he said with a laugh.


* The Lee Trevino-designed Torres Blancas golf course is the centerpiece of Santa Rita Springs, a 585-acre, master-planned community under development in Green Valley.

Santa Rita Springs consists of three communities, said David Grounds, a partner in Phoenix-based Dorn Builders, the developer.

At Sunrise Pointe, a 135-lot townhouse development, prices range from about $90,000 to $130,000.

About 70 percent of the lots have been sold since the project opened a year ago.

The Springs will consist of 424 patio homes, with prices ranging from $79,000 to $95,000.

The Greens is a gated, 167-lot development of homes that will line the fairways.

Home prices will range from about $120,000 to $300,000. Several fairway homes are under construction.

Like most of the housing in Green Valley, Santa Rita Springs is “age-restricted.’ Buyers must be at least 55 years old.

Winter green fees at Torres Blancas are $34 for residents, $48 for non-residents. Residents can schedule tee times two days in advance of the public. The course opened last week.

Santa Rita Springs is east of Interstate 19 and about a mile south of the Continental Road exit.

* The Golf Club at Vistoso, which opens this month, is the first of four courses planned for Rancho Vistoso, a 5,500-acre, master-planned development in Oro Valley.

Vistoso Partners, led by Chandler investor and developer Conley Wolfswinkel, is aiming to file golf course lot plans with Oro Valley next month.

If so, the first fairway homes could be under construction by next summer, said Mike Carlier, a Tucson broker who represents Vistoso Partners in land sales.

He said the housing will range from high-end townhouses to custom homes. Lot prices have yet to be set.

Carlier said a swatch of desert between 100 and 150 feet wide will separate houses from fairways “so at 6 o’clock on Saturday morning you don’t have to listen to people cutting through your back yard and cursing and waking you up.’

Residents will get a 25 percent discount on green fees, which are $90 for 18 holes in the peak season.

Vistoso Partners also may take the course private and offer memberships to home owners, Wolfswinkel said. The course opens Dec. 26.

The Golf Club at Vistoso is near Moore Road and Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.

* The 410-acre Sabino Springs development, on the far Northeast Side, is anchored by The Raven at Sabino Springs. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Home prices at Sabino Springs will range from about $190,000 to $300,000.

Custom lots bordering the fairways will start at about $100,000.

Residents will be able to reserve tee times eight days in advance, two days ahead of the public. Green fees are $125 in the peak season.

The course, which opens Jan. 1, has been built so that “views are maximized. We tried to cut it in (to the desert) rather than pile it on,’ said Steve Adelson of Raven Golf.

More than half of the course acreage was left untouched.

Sabino Springs is near North Harrison and East Snyder roads.


Ken Ryan digs grass out of a sand trap at the Torres Blancas golf course in Green Valley. Torres Blancas is one of three new courses opening around Tucson. They all will have homes along the fairways.

Joe Ortega installs wiring in a home under construction next to the Torres Blancas golf course.

Photo courtesy of Vistoso Partners/Developers are hoping that within in a couple of years this view from The Golf Club at Vistoso in Oro Valley will include a custom home or two.

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