A transformation is taking place in west Phoenix. For the 2nd time in eight years, a City of Phoenix golf course is undergoing a major renovation. Maryvale Golf Course became the Grand Canyon University Golf Course when it opened on October 30th.
Grand Canyon University
by Scott McNevin
The golf course is just a small piece of the massive expansion of Grand Canyon University. Leading Grand Canyon University is CEO/ President Brian Mueller, who took the position after leading the Apollo Group (parent company of University of Phoenix). In the last seven years under Mueller, Grand Canyon has seen on-campus enrollment increase from 1,000 to 16,000 students, while the online enrollment has surged to 55,000 students (from 12,500). On campus there has been a $600 million expansion of new classrooms, laboratories, technologies and athletic facilities.
The university will be taking over the management of Grand Canyon University Golf Course, only three miles west of campus, through a 30-year operating lease with the City of Phoenix.
The Director of Golf at Grand Canyon University Golf Course is Jesse Mueller, who most recently played professional golf, before deciding to settle down with a steady job and 1-year old child. Jesse competed in various mini-tours, winning 22 tournaments since graduating from Arizona State University, where he competed from 2001-2005. The biggest event on the professional stage that he competed in was the 2012 US Open Championship at Olympic Club.
“The golf course is all part of the west Phoenix reinvestment Grand Canyon University is making in the local community,” Mueller explains. The university has many public/ private partnerships, and the renovated golf course is just one piece of revitalization. “Our goal is 50,000 rounds and we look to keep the city of Phoenix card holder rate active. GCU Students and faculty will be able to play at the city card rate as well.”
The individual behind the redesign of the golf course is renowned golf course architect and Paradise Valley resident John Fought. Fought, the 1977 US Amateur Champion and two-time PGA Tour Champion, brings a wealth of experience in golf course design as well as renovation projects. His original designs include The Gallery Golf Club in Tucson (North and South), Sand Hollow Resort (Utah), Sunriver Resort, Crosswater Course (Oregon) and Washington National Golf Club (Seattle). It’s Fought’s local redesign work, at the The Country Club at DC Ranch and Phoenix Country Club that probably had the most influence on his renovation project at Maryvale.
The original Maryvale Golf Course, designed by Ted Robinson, opened in 1961. Previously tipping out at 6600 yards as a par 72, the course became outdated to the scratch golfers, especially the elite collegiate golfers that Grand Canyon University is trying to recruit. There will be five sets of tees (compared to three previously), playing as par 71 and stretching to over 7200 yards. The 10th hole, which was a short par 5, has been turned into a lengthy par 4 with fairway bunkers. Due to the course being landlocked, with Indian School Road and homes bordering the north/ south, and 59th and 63rd Avenues bordering the east/ west, many of the greens were shifted slightly in order to build new back teeing pads. The biggest aesthetic change that John Fought made are the large bunkers, and elevated greens. Many of the bunkers are built up into the greens, very similar how the bunkers and greens were redesigned at Phoenix Country Club. By keeping many of the trees, the site-lines remain the same, which is a credit to Fought to keep the original character of the golf course.
According to Mueller, “The goal is to maintain the course at a very high level. The elevated bunkers, greens and undulating fairways will be the most noticeable changes.” Leading the agronomy is Superintendent Dean Hall. Prior to the Maryvale project, Hall worked at Tonto Verde Golf Club and The Golf Club at Estrella.
With the university taking over management of the golf course, both the Grand Canyon University Men’s and Women’s Golf teams will now have a true home course. Although both are now Division 1 programs (WAC Conference), per NCAA Rules the teams are ineligible for post season competition for two more seasons as they transition from Division 2. The new 10,000 square foot clubhouse being built will have a 2nd floor devoted solely to the men’s and women’s golf teams, which will include team room, lockers and coaches offices. The back-end of the range will be reserved for the team players. The Grand Canyon Men’s team is led by 3rd year head coach Mark Mueller, while the Women’s team recently named Lauren Giesecke as their new head coach.
Along with the opening of the redesigned golf course, Grand Canyon University launched the Golf Management Program within the Colangelo School of Business. The program allows students to gain a foundation in business management, while still learning the skills needed to work in the golf industry and earn their Bachelor of Science degree. Students will have weekly lab classes at the new GCU Golf Course utilizing the practice facilities. Key components of the graduation requirements, students will be required to have 100 hours of work in the golf industry and the Grand Canyon University Golf Course will help provide a platform for the students to accomplish this.
The Grand Canyon University Golf Course will again become a valley gem, a must-play for all golf enthusiasts. With the five sets of tees, the course will be playable for golfers of all skill levels.