Economic Turnaround Has Phoenix Golf Seeing More Green

By Christina Estes
Published: Sunday, October 20, 2019 - 5:10am
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2019 - 9:41am

Palo Verde golf course
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Palo Verde is among eight city-owned golf courses in Phoenix.

City-owned golf courses in Phoenix are making a comeback. 

About six years ago, city leaders debated whether to get out of the golf business. Today, the Parks Department said the golf program recovers 98% of its expenses. Compare that to the softball program, which recovers 16%, and public pools, which recover less than 10% of their expenses.

Phoenix created its golf enterprise fund in 1981 thinking it would pay for itself. For many years, it did not. Current revenue generators include partnerships that allow Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University to use city-owned courses for their teams and hiring a golf management company to maintain all eight courses at six locations along with three restaurants.

During fiscal year 2018-19, the city received score cards, ball washers, benches and tree signs at no cost in exchange for advertising rights on courses. According to a council report, the agreement saved Phoenix $20,000 and created $10,000 in new revenue. Other improvements included: renovations to bunkers at the Cave Creek Golf course, 220 carts replaced, and automated water and ice machines to several clubhouse areas.

Golf instruction programs for juniors, seniors and adults began at Aguila, Encanto, Palo Verde and Cave Creek courses. The report said affordability and accessibility remain challenges across the U.S. with the average price for an 18-hole round of public golf at $34 while Phoenix averages $20.

Nationwide, the report said golf continues to be flat in rounds and revenue growth while costs continue to increase every year. More than 300,000 people used Phoenix courses in the last fiscal year, according to the Parks Department.

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