For Doug Westcott, golf is more than a game, it’s a lifestyle, and Scottsdale is where he and many others have come to live it.
Westcott, director of golf at the gated Desert Highlands residential golfing community in north Scottsdale, moved to the city in 1993 because of the area’s reputation among golfing aficionados.
Not only does his job revolve around Desert Highlands’ 18-hole, members-only course designed by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, but he plays there on his days off.
“It’s a great lifestyle. I pick a couple of days a week. It’s the first thing to go on my calendar,” Westcott said. “I feel it’s the pinnacle of golf. It was on my radar to get a job like this.”
Around this time — the end of October — is when golfers begin to descend on Scottsdale, one of the country’s premier destinations for enthusiasts, said Carey Fassler, Desert Highlands’ marketing and real estate coordinator. About 70 percent of the community’s residents leave during the summer, she said.
“You can see the difference overnight,” Fassler said.
An event called Golfest, celebrating the “golf lifestyle,” is set for Nov. 10-11 at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, to cater to die-hard golfers. The event, sponsored by Golfweek magazine, is billed as “the Southwest’s largest outdoor golf lifestyle event and demo day,” where visitors will be able to meet some pros, try out or buy the latest equipment, attend free clinics, and enjoy golf-related entertainment, according to a Golfweek statement. It will mark the fourth time the event has been held in Scottsdale.
And, of course, the city is also home to the FBR Open, the PGA’s most well-attended event, at the Tournament Players Club’s Stadium Course, at Scottsdale Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard.
Many avid golfers, like Bob and Ellen McCarthy, who split the year between Chicago and their home on the ninth hole of Silverleaf’s golf course at DC Ranch, come to Scottsdale for the weather, the desert environment, and the amenities the city has to offer.
“By living right on the course, basically all we see between us and the mountains is a pretty golf course,” Bob McCarthy said in a phone interview from Chicago, where he and his wife live on another golf course.
The couple are preparing this week to return to Scottsdale, he said.
“We’d come back sooner, but they overseed the golf course and it’s closed in October,” he said.
While golf may be central to the lives of Westcott, the McCarthys and many others, it’s also of primary concern to Scottsdale, which has 42 golf courses spread over 26 golf facilities. The city holds more than one-fifth of the Valley’s courses, according to a 2005 analysis of golf’s impact on Scottsdale, conducted by the city’s Economic Vitality Department.
Those facilities employ about 1,800 people full time and provide about 960 part-time jobs. The 26 golf facilities in Scottsdale have a combined annual revenue of about $78 million and had a direct economic impact on Scottsdale of about $49 million in 2004, according to the city report.
“When visitors come to Scottsdale to play golf, they not only spend money on golf-related products and services, they also spend money on food, lodging, shopping, entertainment, and transportation,” the report states.
There’s also the prestige factor for Scottsdale, which translates into higher tourism and investment dollars.
“Scottsdale also receives tremendous media exposure from televised and published tournament play, which brings more visitors, and other economic drivers, to the area — thereby continuing the economic cycle,” according to the report.
The city has pioneered the evolution of golfing communities. Westcott said Desert Highlands was the first such development to require that members own property within the community.
“It’s a bigger buy-in,” he said. “You’re saying, ‘I want to exist there.’ It’s a big commitment.”
The golfing life doesn’t come cheap. Fassler said the development has attracted affluent people from the Midwest, East Coast and Colorado, with a median age of 55. Home prices in Desert Highlands range from more than $1 million to nearly $8 million, and there are about 614 club members, she said.
“For a majority of our members, this is a second or third home,” she said. “A lot of it is recognition. North Scottsdale has a reputation for having fabulous golf courses, homes, and, of course, the weather. You’re golfing right among the saguaros. It’s unique.”
While the development was founded on golf, many golfing communities are moving toward a more inclusive, resort-style experience for members, Fassler said.
That includes offering such amenities as tennis courts and fitness centers, and planned events to help residents meet others with similar interests.
Gregg Smolenski has been coming to Scottsdale from North Carolina for about 25 years. He owns a home in Desert Highlands with his wife, Barbara, who teased him about his collection of golf equipment.
“We have a storage room, and how many sets of clubs are in there?” she said.
Jeffrey Hertz and Brenda Koblick, a married couple visiting from Connecticut, took advantage of Desert Highlands’ course last week, even though they haven’t yet built on the homesite they recently bought within the community.
The couple said they enjoy north Scottsdale because it’s quiet and has a sophisticated atmosphere.
“We’ve always liked Scottsdale,” Hertz said. “A lot of the people from the East Coast like Florida. It wasn’t for us.”
By the numbers
Scottsdale golf courses
1985 — 10
2004 — 42
1985 — 286,183
2004 — 1,748,821
When: Nov. 10-11
Where: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road
Cost: $10 at the gate, 16 and under free