A group of private investors and a Native American marketing organization with a nationwide network of golf courses have bought Club West Golf Course, apparently ending the uncertainty surrounding its future as a duffer’s destination.
The ownership group includes the Inter Tribal Golf Association, which offers “seasonal reciprocity” memberships that allow members to golf at any one of 110 courses owned by 63 tribes across the country.
Rene’ L. Couchee’, a spokesman for the new owners, declined to give immediate details of the sale until later this week, but told AFN, “Big things are going to happen. Stay tuned.”
Former owner Wilson Gee also declined to provide many details, noting the transaction will not close until Dec. 1. Gee was selling the course for somewhere between $1.3 million and $2 million.
Gee did say that under a lease-purchase agreement, the new owners have assumed responsibility for overseeding the course and running the clubhouse. He said he understood they already had contracted with a local restaurant to eventually begin serving dinner there.
The Inter Tribal Golf Association was founded in 2012 “to identify sustainable economic development best-practices for the least sustainable enterprise of all tribal investment – golf,” according a self-description it posted on eliteevents.co, a fundraising website that arranges charity golf and other sports-related outings.
“ITGA became and is the only American Indian-owned and operated for-profit company in the world that sells an individual golf membership valid for play at any tribal golf course in America,” the site states.
The association “developed an online, nationwide, Self-Redemption Loyalty Rewards Platform, built for the benefit of all golfers and all tribal golf destinations,” the site states, saying the platform “sets ITGA apart as the premier marketing firm for promoting the game of golf in Indian Country.”
“ITGA touts our combined 100-plus years of expert tribal government service, impactful reference source for Tribal policy experience, our one-of-a-kind unique trademark promotional branding for social presence and our unwavering commitment to the betterment of our tribal communities,” it also says.
Its slogan is “Golf Native.”
Jim Lindstrom, a Club West resident who tried unsuccessfully early this year to have other homeowners in his community buy and restore the course, said he met with owners to discuss the business plan he had come up with when he was trying to engage homeowners in a purchase of the course.
That plan estimated the cost of restoring the course at $4 million.
Lindstrom’s “Buy Club West” movement began last summer after Gee curtailed irrigating the course, claiming his annual city water bill of $700,000 was too expensive.
That move prompted the HOA board to sue Gee, asking a court to order him to restore the course, which had begun turning brown from insufficient irrigation.
Water remains an issue, Lindstrom said, saying the course “just looks horrible” right now because Gee has not watered it since June.
“I’ve never seen it this bad,” he said. “The condition of the greens is very distressed.”
Lindstrom sent an email to Club West residents late Tuesday, Oct. 17, that said:
"Save Club West Association has had several meetings and telephone conferences with Richard Breuninger of Inter-Tribal Golf Association (ITGA) / Club West Golf Management, LLC. ITGA is NOT part of the Gila River community. The website is www. http://golfnative.com. Breuninger has informed us that he, Bill May and Christa Jones (in some combination and perhaps through Club West Golf Management or another entity) have purchased Club West Golf course from Wilson Gee last week, and that they will be operating the course. We were told that the course will be open year round. Club West Golf Management, LLC, reserved that name with the Arizona Corporation Commission and the entity is pending approval.
"Breuninger is a long time Ahwatukee resident who says he is committed to improving our community. Over seeding of the course started today. Breuninger says the course will open the first part of November. Breuninger, Day, and Jones say that they have many new exciting ideas for improvements that they will be sharing with the community. We welcome them to the neighborhood and wish them well in their new endeavor.
"There is still a lot we don't know. Rich Breuninger says he has found a solution to the water problem for the course, but he has not shared the details. The last we heard before the sale to Breuninger’ s group was that a pipe could be built to carry canal water (owned by the Gila River Indian Community and managed by SRP) to the Foothills course for about $800,000, and that canal water would be about 1/2 the cost of potable City water. There is a pipe from the Foothills course to Club West. According to Wilson Gee, the Foothills HOA has agreed to share the pipe construction cost because they are concerned about the long term viability of the Foothills' existing well. Sal DiCiccio agreed to push through the necessary permits for the line routing. We do not know if the new owners will pursue the pipeline, and/or if the pipeline can be built after the freeway is completed. Gee did say that the water pipe that runs from the Foothills Golf Club to Club West was not included in the sale to Breuninger.
" It is not clear how the purchase will affect the lawsuit by our HOA against the course. Since the HOA recorded a Lis Pendens (a formal notice of the lawsuit) last year, the buyers' title to the land is subject to the lawsuit. The golf course land is still burdened with the CC&Rs that require operation of a golf course, no matter who owns it."
Gee told AFN that the pipeline is included in the sale, although half is owned by the city, which is expected to make it a part of the final deal.
Lindstrom earlier told AFN that negotiations had been underway with the Salt River Project and the Gila River Indian Community to get water at half the cost of city water from an SRP canal at 40th Street and Pecos Road.
But even if an arrangement can be made, the new owners still will have to figure out a way to get the water to Club West.
Gee at one time owned all four golf courses in Ahwatukee. He closed Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course in 2013 and eventually sold the 101-acre site to True Life Companies.
He said he currently has not been shopping the other two courses on the market, though he suggested he would not be averse to selling either if an attractive offer was made.
Gee also said he’s still battling with the Phoenix Water Services Department over his bills for Club West’s irrigation.
Suncor, which sold the course to Gee in 2010, use recycled water for Club West, taking advantage of a treatment plant that the city ran not far from the community.
But the city closed that plant in the late 1990s, forcing the course’s owners to rely on potable water from the city instead. Gee said his water bill totaled more than $700,000 a year – an amount he said he couldn’t afford.