Troon Privé Adds Pine Canyon & Torreon Clubs

From “Huff’s Stuff” Arizona Golf Blog by Bill Huffman at the Arizona Golf Authority

After five years of relatively sluggish-to-no growth, or in some cases financial disaster, the private golf scene in northern Arizona seems to be on a bit of a resurgence. Amazing, when you consider that pretty much every club north of Payson but Forest Highlands in Flagstaff has been through the wringer.


Pine Canyon Golf Club, Flagstaff, Arizona


Especially coming out of this economic funk in good shape are the Pine Canyon Club in Flagstaff and Torreon Golf Club near Show Low. One of the reasons I can say this is because both private clubs recently hired Scottsdale-based Troon Privé to manage their operations and agronomy. Troon Privé is the private arm of Troon, and includes about 40 elite clubs around the globe, including the Ocean Club in the Bahamas, Cordillera in Colorado, Pronghorn in Oregon, and Silverado in Napa, Calif., to name just a few.

Both Pine Canyon and Torreon fit into that spectacular mold, perhaps Pine Canyon a tad more than Torreon. I say that because, if you’ve ever been to Pine Canyon, the clubhouse complex is off the charts. Located east of I-17 and south of I-40 on the outskirts of Flag, Pine Canyon would dominate any other small-city market if not for the presence of Forest Highlands, the pioneer of all that’s private about summer golf in Arizona.

Still, Pine Canyon, which opened in 2004, has made its niche by being a little bit more family-oriented than its Flagstaff rival, and I’ll take Pine Canyon’s clubhouse any day over either of the two retreats at Forest Highlands. Some of my golf buds that are lucky enough to tee it up at Pine Canyon tell me it’s got a membership that is “really friendly,” and I think that’s a big deal if you’re in the market these days. Flagstaff, with its Northern Arizona University campus and lots of great eateries and breweries, also is nothing but fun for a mountain town.

Rather than quote you a bunch of prices about how much property is going to cost at Pine Canyon, let’s just say plenty. I can be a little more specific about golf memberships, which range from $60,000 (refundable) to $30,000 (non-refundable) to $10,000 (sport membership with limited golf). There’s even a $40,000 (non-refundable) membership available to non-residents.

Besides a new management company, Pine Canyon also has new owners. That would be Taber Anderson’s True Life Companies. If that last name looks familiar, it’s because Taber is the son of Lyle Anderson, who developed many of Arizona’s most influential private clubs, including Desert Highlands, Desert Mountain and Superstition Mountain.

Kevin Betts, the new general manager at Pine Canyon, says that all of the newness has translated into lots of interest in his club. And while he’s just getting used to Flagstaff, “everything so far has just been awesome.”

“Pine Canyon is a wonderful club, whether you’re talking about the golf course, the clubhouse, the pool, the membership, or just walking through the pines,” said Betts, who was the GM at The Phoenician for the past nine years.

“I guess most perceive us as a summer club, but we’re year-round (with skiing in the winter). And with our new owner and their visions, the future could not look brighter.”

As for the Jay Morrish-inspired Pine Canyon golf course, it boasts some picturesque holes although I’ve always thought it was more on par with the Meadows Course at Forest Highlands and not the Canyon, which is the highly-decorated, Morrish-Tom Weiskopf design that set the standard for mountain golf in Arizona way back in the mid-1980s. It’s a standard that no one has ever equaled.

Sure, there are holes at Pine Canyon like Nos. 16 and 18 that give a little bit of that Augusta National-like feel. But the ones I always remember are Pine Canyon’s pair of “19s” – the 85-yard tee shot over water to an island green that ends your round (No. 19, the betting hole), and the traditional bar in the clubhouse. I can’t imagine a better way to end your round.

Like I said, if you’re thinking about a place to play for the entire family that’s just a two-hour drive from the Valley, Pine Canyon looks pretty good these days. It’s basically established, and its financial problems seem to be in the rear-view mirror. You can check out other details at www.pinecanyon.net.

Torreon, too, is all about the dad, mom and the kids, maybe even more than Pine Canyon when you consider they’ve dedicated 10 acres to family-friendly facilities that range from a trout pond to an equestrian stable, as well as Torreon’s 36 holes of golf.

Yes, it’s about a three-hour drive from the Valley, or three-and-a-half hours from Tucson, but that will get you up to about 6,300 feet above sea level, which is the altitude you need to be at to receive noticeable relief from the heat.

According to Joe Long, the general manager at Torreon, his club is no longer Arizona’s best-kept secret.

“After four years of recession, we’re finally starting to bounce back, and a big part of that has been the arrival of Troon Privé,” said Long, who happens to be a tennis pro who somehow found his way into private golf.

According to Long, Torreon always has been a stable club financially thanks to its long-time owners, Desert Troon. But the club had relied more on word-of-mouth than a major marketing campaign, which is why when the economic downturn came it dropped Torreon from 485 members down to around 400 members.

“Troon Privé has got us back in the big picture, which is very important when you consider how many clubs we’re competing with for summer golf,” he pointed out.

Long is right down the middle of the fairway with that assessment. And the difference between Torreon and Pine Canyon, besides 36 vs. 18 holes of golf, is that Torreon is more affordable. You’re talking about million-dollar-and-up homes at Pine Canyon versus homes at Torreon that boast more of a range, from $199,000 to $1.4 million.

Memberships at Torreon are a deal, too, and the formula is simple: $20,000 initiation fee if you own property, and just $350 a month. Seriously, it’s hard to find those kinds of numbers for such quality golf.

About the only drawback, Long added, is the nearby town of Show Low.

“It’s our weakness,” he said, sheepishly. “The place is just a little too sleepy compared to Flagstaff, probably because we don’t have any college students.”

That may be a plus or minus, depending on your view of college kids. And forget about Show Low, as Pinetop is just up the highway along with Sunrise Ski Park.

Laurie McCain, who has been selling homes at Torreon since it opened in 1999, said there are numerous reasons why people love the club, which is located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, where the pines don’t grow quite as tall as they do in Flagstaff’s Coconino Forest.

“We’re affordable, casual, friendly and family-oriented, and it’s a mix of avid golfers from both Phoenix and Tucson, as we draw from both metropolitan areas,” McCain explained. “People really enjoy the atmosphere, and it’s easy to meet friends.

“Plus, people really love to play our golf courses, both the husbands and the wives. I mean, we had a ladies day member-guest recently, and we had 144 players.”

That’s impressive, when you can get 144 women to turn out to play golf at a destination golf course. But we’re not surprised, either, as Robert von Hagge’s two gems, the Tower (original) and Cabin, are dramatic and distinctive. The club itself designates four holes as signature – No. 8 and No. 15 on the Tower, and No. 9 and No. 12 on Cabin – but we would bet there are at least a dozen or more that could easily merit such status.

I’ve always said that von Hagge, who died in 2010, was the van Gogh of golf course architects, and there were certainly moments of sheer brilliance at Torreon. In fact, you can check it out at www.torreon.com.

So what’s it going to be: Pine Canyon or Torreon? The feeling here is, the time is right (again) and you can’t go wrong with either of them, especially with Troon Privé in charge.

Click “Huff’s Stuff” Arizona Golf Blog to visit Bill’s complete golf blog archive at the Arizona Golf Authority.

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