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Foothills Golf Course up for sale for $5M | News

The Foothills Golf Course is up for sale but owner Wilson Gee said it won’t face the turbulence that two of Ahwatukee’s other courses have been facing.

And he said the same holds true for the community’s fourth course, the Ahwatukee Country Club, which he has not yet decided whether to sell after he unloads the Foothills and The Duke at Rancho El Dorado, a course he owns in Maricopa.

“The Ahwatukee Country Club will always be a golf course – and so will the Foothills and the Duke – only because the houses are in a different configuration” from Club West, he said.

“The legacy of the Foothills and Country Club will always be golf.”

The future of the Club West Golf Course – now a barren piece of desert since Gee put it up for sale in 2018 – is mired in litigation over whether the four men who bought it in 2019 can sell parts of it off for new-

home construction.

Built in 1988, the 166-acre Foothills Golf Club is priced at $5 million. That includes both the clubhouse and the course.

Designed by Tom Weiskoph and Jay Moorish, it has been rated 4 stars by Golf Digest Places to Play and “meanders through a very upscale desert layout combined with a links flavor, minus the extreme carries that golfers often associate with desert designs,” according to its listing on Loopnet.com.

Touting the site’s “allure and challenge,” the listing also notes that the clubhouse includes a 160-seat theater, pro shop, room for restaurant outfitting and spacious patios and views of South Mountain “and an aesthetic quality that makes a round here memorable – as evidenced by the gorgeous postcard quality backdrops behind the greens and tees.”

The 137-acre Duke is priced at $8 million – which might be a steal for investors since a financial statement attached to that listing claims that last year it generated a gross income of $3.3 million and a $789,000 profit.

No financial statement is attached to the Foothills course listing.

Gee also owns the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course and is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars under a court order to restore that site by September after two homeowners sued him for closing it in 2013.

Gee had an $8.5 million deal to sell the Lakes to The True Life Companies, which wanted to build houses there. But the deal collapsed after True Life failed to persuade enough homeowners to change the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions governing the site’s use to allow for home construction.

So why is Gee and his partners dismantling his mini empire that once made Ahwatukee a mecca for duffers nationwide?

“I’ve been in business 31 years now and I’m 70 years old,” he said. “And none of my partners are in the business, my kids aren’t in business – they have their own careers. So, I decided it’s time. My partners: same thing. You know usually partnerships don’t last 31 years in the golf business. So we actually made the decision five years ago, that once I reached 70 that we get serious about selling.”

That decision initially was made in the Great Recession, Gee said, when the golf industry began hitting a years-long slide.

But Gee said the time is not only right for this stage in his life but also for anyone willing to get into the golf business.

“I think it’s a good time,” he said. “The golf businesses are doing much better now.”

Industry statistics support that statement. And the golf industry has COVID-19 to thank.

During the first year of the pandemic, golf recorded a 12% spike in the number of rounds played in the United States at public courses, with rounds at private courses spiking nearly 19%, according to the National Golf Foundation and independent market research firm Golf Datatech .

Still, the National Golf Foundation earlier this month reported, “The downward trend in golf course closures that began in 2020 has continued into its third year. Through June, the NGF golf facility database team has discovered just under 50 18-hole equivalent closures, a 25% drop from last year at this time.”

The Golf Foundation’s analysis of half of the country’s estimate 16,000 golf courses projected that by the end of this year, the equivalent of 95 18-hole courses would close. It also noted the vast majority of closures involved nine-hole public courses.

“Approximately 40% of closed courses have already been earmarked for residential or commercial development,” the foundation reported on July 7.

“If our projection for 2022 closures is on target, that will mean that less than 1% of the nation’s 18-hole equivalent golf supply will have closed. Where could it go from there? Not to zero. There will always be owners choosing to close shop and retire, hoping to sell the land to help finance their retirement, along with others who find their golf course business is no longer financially viable. Furthering the point of inevitable closures: as the industry opened almost 2,700 18-hole-equivalent courses from 1996 to 2005, almost 500 shut down during that same 10-year stretch.”

As for whether Foothills homeowners should start worrying they face the same plight that their Club West neighbors have been going through since February 2018, Gee said they can relax.

He said the Foothills course could be expanded from its approximate 7,000 yards to about 7,300 yards. “There’s plenty to lengthen if you want to make it more championship style,” he said.

“It’s a good golf property,” he continued. The 202 freeway is built and there’s more than 1,000 new homes coming in and we’re the only course there,” he said, referring to the impending development of the 1,050-home Upper Canyon community.

But Gee also said the clubhouse should be replaced, explaining that it was originally built to be a training facility.

“That clubhouse was not made for golf,” he said, adding it had been a training facility for an earth-moving company.

“Hopefully, whoever comes in there will have the money and the guts and there’ll be a whole brand new clubhouse there. It’s a nice view and everything else. But it’s up to the next guy as far as whether they want to do this.

The Foothills also does not share the problem that led to Club West’s demise: city water.

Gee closed Club West initially in 2016, saying he could not afford the annual bill for irrigating that course with potable water.

The Foothills course, like Ahwatukee Country Club, relies on well water – though Gee conceded that could be an issue down the road, depending on what federal Interior Department officials want in the way of new restrictions on water use because of the rapidly declining availability of Colorado Riverwater.

Gee said golf course operators, including himself, are already trying to cut down on the green areas because most feel it’s only a matter of time before use-restrictions hit them.

“New rules are coming down the pike,” he predicted. “And you will have no choice.”

“Even at the Foothills and our golf courses, we’ve cut down on turf already,” he said. “Every year we reduce turf to little here and there. We save maintenance, we save water.”

As for the Ahwatukee Country Club, Gee said he’s in no hurry to sell. He said he wants to first make sure the restoration of the Lakes course passes muster with the judge and the two homeowners who sued him.

While Gee said the Lakes course will be ready to open by Sept. 1, as a judge ordered, he also said the special master overseeing its restoration wants the judge to delay the opening until October so the new grass has a little more time to take root.

As for what he wants to do instead of overseeing golf courses and answering court subpoenas, Gee said he wants time to spend with a nonprofit he has started in Los Angeles, where he lives.

“This phase of my life is over,” he said. “I’m going into the second phase.”

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