Recreation Centers of Sun City has recently renovated Riverview Golf Course, with updates to Willowbrook and Willowcreek golf courses planned, but some golfers want the renovations to stop, arguing that the golf courses “have not come back to playable condition as fast as was promised.” The group also argues that the renovations have been done in a way that makes them harder to play for seniors and presents a physical hazard.
Some Sun City, Ariz., golfers are not happy with the results of course renovations and are taking steps to try to stop major work on another course, the Sun City-based Your West Valley News reported.
Recreation Centers of Sun City officials spent between $4 million and $6 million per course to renovate several golf facilities in recent years, most recently Riverview Golf Course. RCSC officials are spending $565,400 this year for any irrigation pump station installation and lake renovation at Willowbrook Golf Course, the News reported.
That work was described as a lead-in to 2017 when RCSC leadership plans to spend $6.284 million on renovation efforts at Willowbrook and Willowcreek, just adjacent. RCSC officials also plan to spend in 2017 $1.39 million for turf reductions on both courses, the News reported.
A group of Sun City golfers are circulating petitions to stop the renovations at the Willow courses. “I have never seen the courses in this condition,” said Bob Feeken, a longtime resident. “We want to stop the renovations at Willow because the others have not come back to playable condition as fast as was promised.”
They also believe the renovations at other courses have been done in a way that makes the courses harder to play for seniors, and presents a physical hazard to older golfers, the News reported.
“I blew out my knee in a sand trap and I know others who have been injured,” said Bobbie Pelligrino.
Brian Duthu, RCSC golf and grounds director, stated in an email that RCSC received complaints prior to renovation that the bunkers were causing injury and needed to be updated, the News reported.
“Bunkers will always be problematic for those with unsure footing,” he said. “The bunkers have all been designed for ease of entry and exit, unfortunately we do have golfers that choose to exit bunkers on the high side, and this provides unsure footing and can lead to slipping and stumbling.”
RCSC officials claim the main focus of work at the Willow courses is a new irrigation system, a key point in an agreement with the Arizona Department of Water Resources regarding significant water leakage at Viewpoint Lake. That agreement avoided a $7 million to $10 million cost to replace the lake liner, which would also have brought a forceful smell for residents, the News reported.
“We have been given relief from our yearly water allotment based on our intent to optimize water usage by replacing the irrigation systems on the courses that were underperforming,” Duthu said in an email.
The Willow projects will also reduce the acreage needing irrigation by converting much of the course perimeter to low water use landscaping. Duthu acknowledged that work unrelated to water issues is planned, as all 18 greens at Willowcreek will be redone because of their age, the News reported.
“The United States Golf Association recommends a green renovation on a 25-year basis,” Duthu stated. “After a period of time the amount of effort to keep a green healthy and playable increases. It makes the most sense to renovate the greens at this time, so their design can be tied to the design of the new irrigation system.”
He added if RCSC officials chose to not renovate at this time, but chose to 10 years from now, money would need to be spent on redoing parts of the irrigation system. Golfers argue that the Willow courses were renovated several years ago and question why they need that work again. In response, Duthu repeated the statements about the greens renovation, the News reported.
Golfers opposing the renovation also claim work has been done on courses to make them more challenging to attract more younger players, including non-resident players. RCSC officials believe this is an allegation made to create false outrage, the News reported.
“The focus of the renovations has been to modernize the courses to be attractive to future residents, while remaining playable for current residents,” Duthu said.
He added RCSC courses, as rated by the Arizona Golf Association, remain on the low end for difficulty, when compared to other retirement communities in the area. In addition, each newly renovated course has a set of “Play it Forward” tees, which allow golfers with diminishing skills to play the courses from a much shorter length, the News reported.
Duthu stated golf course irrigation can be renovated without the additional renovations. However, combining these efforts are the most cost effective means, he added.
Resident Barbara Waltz believes the courses are harder to play for older players, including problems on the greens. “They have made them so the ball does not stay on the green, and they don’t roll the greens,” she said.
Waltz added that course difficulty is affecting even younger players. “I was playing in a foursome behind a group of younger golfers with 3-4 handicaps,” she said. “They told me they could not play Riverview.”
Golfers opposing the Willow renovation said they have no problem with younger players on Sun City courses, as long as they do not infringe on residents’ ability to play, the News reported.
“It is irritating when outside groups displace resident golfers,” said Steve Williams.
While he understands the desire to bring in more outside play to help build revenue for Sun City course, David Masters believes that will come in time. “Golf is waning in popularity right now, but I think golf will pick up again after the leading edge of the baby boomers comes through,” he said.
Pelligrino also understands RCSC’s desire to bring in more golfers, but she added the golf course deed restrictions established when Sun City was built call only for the courses to be kept in playable condition, not for full renovations, the News reported.
Masters said his concern is because Sun City remains a strong draw to potential residents due to golf, it will affect other aspects of living in the community, the News reported.
“The quality of golf is down so much it will affect the quality of life in Sun City for years,” Masters said. “People are leaving; and we came here to play golf. What it boils down to is a lack of knowledge and management.”