Arizona Golf Courses – Arizona Golf Authority Golf Course Reviews
Phil Mickelson remains Arizona’s most popular golfer and now adds golf course owner to his resume, with plans to do so in a big way around Arizona.
Mickelson and his manager Steve Loy, CEO of Gaylord Sports Management, formed the M Club and added McDowell Mountain Golf Club, a daily-fee course formerly known as Sanctuary Golf Club that recently underwent a major renovation, to the stable of courses available to M Club members.
It is one of four golf properties that have been purchased by the pair as part of the M Club (M as in Mickelson) master plan, which ultimately will offer full access to about 10 courses – public and private – at rates far below what golfers normally pay for multiple memberships.
“In this day and age, it really doesn’t make any sense financially for golfers to pay membership fees at five or six golf clubs in order to have a variety of playing experiences,” Mickelson said. “We need to change that in a way so that golfers can have a private club experience at an affordable price.”
The concept, Loy said, is one that Mickelson came up with two years ago when the economy sagged and golf participation suffered with it. Along with McDowell Mountain Ranch, they now own Palm Valley Golf Club (with two courses) in Goodyear and the The Rim Club and Chaparral Pines Golf Club, which were built as private clubs, in Payson.
M Club members pay an initiation fee of $5,000 and monthly dues of $605 to belong to all of the courses in the stable. The Club’s courses are all in Arizona, primarily in the metro Phoenix area, and the Club concierge will operate at Gaylord’s offices in Scottsdale.
Located at the base of the McDowell Mountain Preserve, Randy Heckenkemper was the original golf course designer and also handled the renovation.
Heckenkemper widened the playing corridors, added some waste bunkers, reshaped several fairways, reworked bunkering, added new tees on several holes and “flipped” the two nines to create a more dramatic finish.
More than 20,000 cubic yards of new reshaping now defines the course, a half-million square feet of decomposed granite was added to desert areas to create more forgiveness on errant shots, and almost four miles of new hand-stacked rock walls added more aesthetic appeal.
“This is really the first time that we’ve ever had owners who emphasized the playability factors,’’ said Heckenkemper, who produced the Sanctuary design in 1999.
McDowell Mountain Golf Club now offers 80 acres of turf, compared with 72 acres on the original layout, but Heckenkemper pointed out that adding the waste bunkers actually provides more than 90 acres of playing surface. The renovation project was completed in just 100 days.
Mickelson said that, although the changes improved playability for the average golfer, they also added challenges for the low-handicapper. We couldn’t agree more.
His new tees added 460 yards from the tips, where the course now plays at 7,072 yards.
“We wanted to create an experience for all players that’s an enjoyable round of golf, regardless of abilities,” Mickelson said. “We wanted to present demanding shots for the better players but give the average player more shot options. We reduced the number of forced carries and provided opportunities to run shots up to many of the greens.”
Mickelson’s plans for the course include adding a Rick Smith Teaching Academy and a Callaway Golf Fitting Center.
“We want McDowell Mountain to be enjoyable for families, where parents and kids can learn the game, get fit for clubs and enjoy playing together at a professional facility close to home,” said Mickelson, who has won 39 PGA Tour titles, including four majors and two Phoenix Opens.
“There are more than 4,000 homes surrounding McDowell Mountain Golf Club and we want this facility to be a place where both families and avid players feel comfortable. The changes made will make the course fun and playable for the average golfer and if they have fun, they will come back. But it won’t be a pushover for the better player. If I want to come out and play from the back tees, I will need to play well to shoot a number.”
Avid amateurs take note; when Phil says he’ll need to play well from the back tees, it’s a fair indication that we don’t belong back there for any reason other than a great photo opportunity.
Read the Arizona Golf Authority’s Arizona Golf Course Reviews for every golf course in Arizona at www.arizonagolfauthority.com/coursedirectory/; it’s “All Things Arizona Golf” from the Arizona Golf Authority.