Arizona Golf Courses Benefit From Early Warm Weather

By Steve Shadley
Published: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 6:00am
Updated: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 1:28pm
(Photo by Steve Shadley-KJZZ)
A golfer at the Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe.
(Photo by Steve Shadley-KJZZ)
A banner at the Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe.

The recent unseasonably warm weather is bringing more winter visitors to Arizona, and that means longer wait times to tee off at golf courses. Golf tourism in the state is showing signs of recovery in the aftermath of the recession.

Leslie Vincent smacked a golf ball at the Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe. She is from Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada and said she has been talking to family members about the weather back home.

“My son told us that he can no longer reach to push the snow off the driveway because the mounds of snow on the sides of the driveway are about nine feet, so does that answer everything?" Vincent laughed. "Lots of snow and it’s cold.”

Vincent spends four months each winter at her trailer home in Mesa. She tries to play golf once a weekm and lately she has noticed more people on the links than she has seen in past years in the Valley.

Jim Brown is from Kansas City and relocated to Ahwatukee a few years ago.  

“It’s crowded, yeah, because of the snowbirds,” Brown said.

Brown waited for his turn to start a round at Rolling Hills where the parking lot is full of cars with license plates from Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa. Brown said he knows the game is crucial to Arizona’s growth.

“Just the revenue that comes through golf, a lot of people come from Canada, a lot of people I play with are from Canada. You are bringing a lot of people in from out of state, and that’s very important to our state,” Brown said.

In fact, the most recent data from the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau shows that golf attracted more than 8.5 million people to the state in 2010, and those visitors added nearly $3 billion to the state’s economy that year. 

Joe Ferroni is with the Arizona Golf Association. He said this year’s revenues are expected to be even better. 

"The pro shops have basically been having a banner year,” Ferroni said. 

That is welcome news to golf courses that suffered a serious financial blow during the housing crisis and recession that hit Arizona hard a few years ago, and baseball is doing its part to boost golf revenues. Carmella Ruggiero is the director of the Arizona Golf Superintendent's Association. 

“People are now coming to Arizona not only for spring training but to play golf in the morning and go to a spring training game in the afternoon,” she said.

Ruggiero said this year’s premature spring-like weather has created awesome green grass and allowed golfers to play without any worries about frost on the ground. 

"So they are able to tee off a little earlier,” Reggiero said.

Ruggiero joked that golf is coming on so strong this year that it could join copper, cotton and cattle as the state’s top industries.

This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Carmella Ruggiero's name.

Updated 2/24/2014 1:29 p.m.

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