Closing Golf Courses Can Be Bogeys For Neighborhoods: But One Ahwatukee Community May Show A Compelling Way Forward

Many golf courses are closing across the country and Arizona, which can be perplexing for neighborhoods.

This means that innovation, adaptability, and creativity can’t just be redevelopment buzzwords these days. They are requirements.

Fortunately, these ideals appear to be the approach for creating a new community park and greenbelt at the closed down Club West Golf Course in Ahwatukee. If successful, the emerging redevelopment plan could provide a successful revitalization model for neighbors and defunct golf courses around the state, and across the country.

The Phoenix golf course has been closed since 2016. Conditions are not pretty, literally. A sale of the course has been finalized and the new owners are suggesting appropriate plans with maximum park space and minimum development. It helps that members of the new ownership group either live in or own property in Club West. What happens is not just business.  It’s personal.

Few if any are suggesting that reopening the shuttered golf course is feasible while allowing the property to remain fallow provides no benefit to the community. So, what to do?

A collaborative planning effort between neighbors, the HOA and the City of Phoenix has commenced.

Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has encouraged the new owners to work with the community and vocal opposition who surely do not want the current course condition and status quo to remain forever. That is terrible for property values and quality of life and will only be detrimental for the community.

Golf courses are usually complicated land-use matters involving CCRs, HOAs, public and private open space and other particulars. So, finding an alternate use for them can be challenging. The declining economics of golf and the specifics surrounding Club West do not allow the course to be reinvented by a new owner. So, the choice becomes redeveloping a course as in the case of Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley, see it go away altogether as happened with Villa Monterrey in Scottsdale and is now taking place in Glendale, or insert new homes as a compromise to keeping the course as occurred with the Arizona Biltmore.

It’s important to note that the new owners recent attempt to create a new golf experience similar to Mountain Shadows in Paradise Valley was met with enough resistance to preclude the golf plan from a community vote and require a pivot to the current “Park” Plan.

The renewed effort appears to be transparent and well intentioned. Preserving the vast majority of open space with a minimal amount of new home development in appropriate areas such as the old clubhouse and large parking lot makes sense. The reported process will include meetings and open houses with neighbors, approval of the park and greenbelt plans by homeowners as well as the city of Phoenix. With an eventual conveyance of the park to the Club West HOA, ownership would be vested in the community.

Landscape architects and designers are being brought on to develop plans in concert with community. Opponents need to realize that Jack Nicklaus is not showing up any time soon.  Such a realization from them is just as important as the commitment by new owners to work with all voices.

Executing golf course revitalization and salvage plans are rarely easy. And sometimes they can be irrational. Take the current legal attempts by the “Club West Conservancy” to deny even the creation of a new plan.  This makes little to no sense.   Ultimately, compromise will be required by all for the greatest good.

The Club West community needs creative solutions. Done right, a community challenge can be turned into a unifying community asset. Other neighborhoods have done it. Now it is Club West’s turn.