With seven golf courses to choose from, members of Desert Mountain – Scottsdale, AZ's exclusive luxury community and private club – never stand the slightest chance of improving. Starting this fall, thanks to some changes in the grasses used and maintenance procedures, these courses are greener, greener and more playful than ever.
"All seven of our courses are open and green from November 1st to June 1st, when most of the members are here and the weather is spectacular," said Shawn Emerson, Director of Agronomy at Desert Mountain. "We asked the question," Would our members prefer to play golf in October or August? "We have decided to convert some of our golf courses to cool season grass so they can play in the best possible conditions all year round."
To achieve this, some of the golf courses were re-landscaped while others were left as they were with a Bermuda grass base. This creates more variety and allows for changes to the maintenance schedule so more courses are open and green at the best times.
It also gives Desert Mountain the distinction of not only having the most golf courses in the Arizona desert, but also the greenest courses in the desert. Especially when the weather becomes more pleasant, members return from summer trips and the golf season begins.
"Until two years ago, all of our courses had Bermuda grass fairways and warm-season tees that had to be littered in the fall," Emerson said. “They were all good at the same time, but had to go through 30 to 40 transition days at the same time in October. Probably the best weather month in Arizona! Switching the grasses allows us to climax them on a varied schedule that is better for our members and always has access to golf. "
The changes started when the Renegade course – one of six Jack Nicklaus Signature courses on the property – was renovated ahead of the 2019-20 season. At the same time, a new par 3 course, No. 7, made its debut on Desert Mountain.
"Both have curved grass fairways, which is cool-season grass," said Emerson. “When we saw they were very successful, we switched two of the other Nicklaus courses, Apache and Chiricahua, to a different kind of cool season grass, rye. The results have been great. "
The other Nicklaus courses – Geronimo, Cochise, and Outlaw – have Bermuda grass, a grass that thrives in summer and is strewn with rye in fall.
"With the new schedule, all courses are green and open November 1st through June 1st," said Emerson. “All courses have to be closed for two months at some point, but now you can walk Desert Mountain every month of the year and play on more than one green, high quality course. Nobody else in the entire state of Arizona can offer this. "
This is a particularly nice advantage in autumn, as the conditions for golf become perfect. Having wall-to-wall green means great playing conditions at the best time of year. For many other clubs in the region, however, October means overseas as courses have to close or their members are otherwise harassed. Not on Desert Mountain.
Members and the club have seen other benefits as well.
The cool season courses are more cost effective without overseeding waiting, which requires additional preparation, seeds, fertilizer and personnel. Water usage is also declining – Emerson estimates 5% to 10% per course – which is important to the Arizona climate.
And played both rounds and new memberships are opened.
"The members are happy," said Emerson. “Due to Covid we played more rounds than ever before from May to August. We were able to do that because the courses didn't have to be changed and were in better shape. "
The variety of grasses gives Desert Mountain members another bonus, according to Emerson.
"You can come to Arizona and play whatever grass you can find in the other 49 states," he said. “We have the same grasses as New England, Chicago, Oregon, Florida and Texas. And they can choose a seat that best suits their game. So if they like chopping a 9 wood and need a surface with more lint, they can find it.
"We want to bring more green golf to our members and we don't want to spend more," continued Emerson. "This system checks all green boxes."