The oldest continuously operating golf course in Arizona was recently rescued from closure, thanks to an article in the local paper seen by a business owner and real estate broker who decided to purchase it.
The story about the imperiled Turquoise Valley Golf Resort near Bisbee caught the eye of Joseph Lewis, who decided to take a chance and purchase the 110-year old course in September with hopes of reviving it.
“Given its rich history as Arizona’s oldest course I reached out to the owner at the time to see if a deal could be done and here we are today,” said Lewis. “Bottom line is I have a burning passion for all things Bisbee and although I am not a golfer myself, this course has played an important part of that history since 1908.”
The course, which is technically in the town of Naco, Arizona and about ten minutes from Bisbee, is a sprawling 18-hole desert course adjacent to an RV park with sweeping views of the nearby Mule Mountains. Many golfers have no idea the course exists, but Lewis is hoping to change that by renovating the course, re-opening the restaurant and bar, making the grounds and clubhouse available for events, and offering stay-and-play packages to out-of-town guests.
Lewis said that being the fourth owner in as many years means they have their work cut out for them to bring the course back to its original, well-respected condition.
“This process has already started by hiring a top notch management team. Our new team and dedicated crew have already made significant improvements to the greens, sand traps etcetera,” he said. “Although we all recognize that the entire experience is important as well and thus have re-opened the popular course restaurant.”
Over a recent breakfast of Mexican specialties and Bloody Mary’s at the course restaurant, Lewis and his team of managers brainstormed ideas to draw in golfers and non-golfers alike, everything from delivering ice cold six-packs on the course, to organizing weddings, quinceañeras and music festivals.
“With our management team providing 50+ years of combined experience within the golf industry, the golf course conditions and traditional expectations of a golf course are covered,” said Jane Chanik, General Manager of the course. “The team also brings fresh ideas based on community participation, opening up the venue to weddings and celebrations, some bird watching trails, reviving the bar and restaurant and bringing in new events to the large banquet hall, including music events, community parties, and the like.”
Chanik says the biggest challenge is climate-based, as it is with most golf courses in the Arizona desert, and updating their water and irrigation systems.
“We have the team in place to address these challenges,” she said. “The other challenge all golf courses face these days trends toward introducing new people to golf, and keeping those new players engaged. TVGC will address these challenges by providing friendly instruction, fun tournaments for singles and families, such events as night golf, frisbee golf, perhaps foot (soccer) golf, and special events on the golf course itself to bring folks to the area. We believe once they see the course and surrounds, they will want to come back and enjoy it more and more.”
What puts Lewis in a unique position to draw out-of-town tourists to the area is his vacation properties in nearby Bisbee. Lewis owns several single and multi-tenant rental properties there which he offers through sites such as VRBO and Airbnb, but he’s also in the process of negotiating stay-and-play package deals with local hotels as well.
“Those that mention this article will receive two-for-the-price-of-one golf on Mondays and Tuesdays,” said Lewis. “For those out of town golfers that would like to experience Bisbee Golf for the first time we will provide packages starting at only $200.00 for a two-night stay and all of the golf you can manage to play.“
Lewis hopes to attract golfers to the course who want to experience something more natural than the typical Phoenix or Tucson suburban golf course surrounded by houses.
Lewis’ favorite part of the course?
“It has to be the natural beauty of the surrounding area. The view of the Mule Mountains is breathtaking and the natural riparian wet wash that runs between the front and back nine draws a wide variety of wildlife to it.”
Chanik says the course offers something unique for golfers who want to try something different.
“The front nine is a classic course design, with amazing views of the nearby mountain ranges. The back nine is more of a links design with more natural areas between holes. Bent grass greens, and an assortment of tee locations to provide challenges for all levels of play, from beginners to professionals, this course is truly unique in AZ as an integral part of the natural terrain, rather than tucked into a housing development.”
For more information about Turquoise Valley Golf Course, visit www.golfbisbee.com
For information about Bisbee vacation rentals, visit https://www.bisbee4fun.com/vacation-rentals