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April 2021

Tubac Golf Resort & Spa

Where Past and Present Intertwine

By Sally J. Sportsman

Variety is the spice of life at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, in Tubac, Arizona.

When in 1959 a group of businessmen, led by crooner Bing Crosby, bought the historic Otero ranch, dubbing it the Tubac Valley Country Club, the land had been settled since the 1700s. Today it is home to a luxurious resort featuring Spanish Colonial architecture and 27 holes of golf, where players hit over the Santa Cruz River on two holes. The resort was made famous by the 1996 film Tin Cup, starring Kevin Costner and Rene Russo, when several scenes were filmed on site.

“Golf is the heartbeat of the resort,” said Kristie Fowler, LPGA and PGA member and head golf professional at the facility. “With the river and the cottonwood trees, it’s not a typical Arizona atmosphere.”

Also atypical is the number of minority staff members at the property. In addition to Fowler, who arrived in March 2017 with a wealth of golf experience, women fill assorted leadership roles: golf shop merchandiser; the directors of sales and marketing, accounting and resort rooms; wedding coordinator; and gift shop coordinator. Other minorities are represented on the staff, too. Some employees are Latino, and many of their children, and children of the club members, participate in the junior golf program Fowler started, with 30 participants the first year and growing annually. Most of the junior players are bilingual.

“My thinking in building the teams was that these kids represent our future players and workers,” said Fowler, who has played and won on the Symetra Tour. “On the range the other day were one pre-med student and one pre-engineering student.  We are preparing for our future.”

Of rounds played at the property, 40% are by resort guests, 40% by local drive-in customers and 20% by club members. Resort revenue has increased 10% since Fowler’s arrival.

In addition to increasing junior play, Fowler has set a goal to expand female play. A Women’s Golf Day was initiated, conducted virtually in 2020. Specific clinics and lessons help women overcome fear of the game. Ladies’ golf getaways also are part of the program.

In the resort golf shop, at least half of the merchandise is women’s apparel and accessories; in most resort shops, 20% is women’s merchandise, according to Fowler. In 2019, sales revenues from women’s merchandise at Tubac was $92,000, while revenues from men’s merchandise was $68,000.

“We have women, both golfers and non-golfers, who come here to shop,” said Fowler, whose many accolades include 2018 Merchandiser of the Year, Southwest Section PGA, in the resort division; and Tubac Golf Resort & Spa Manager of the Year for 2020. “We have a great selection.

“When I talk to my female friends in the golf business, it’s clear that women are important consumers. They take more lessons, and they buy clubs and merchandise.

“For a resort, they will create more business and more clients.”

Fowler has displayed her merchandising creativity in a number of ways at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa. For example, in addition to the original resort logo, Fowler introduced Tin Cup logoed merchandise as well as another line of merchandise featuring a cow logo, reflecting the cattle-ranch history of the property. All three logos have been big hits; staff caps feature all three.

“My staff loves the idea of multiple logos, helping sell our merchandise. People often say, ‘Am I on the Tin Cup course?’

“It’s the atmosphere of the place that makes it fun.”

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