New owners take over historic Turquoise Valley Golf Course
By Emily Ellis Sep 29, 2018
Joseph Lewis is one of the new owners of the Turquoise Valley Golf Course in Naco. MARK LEVY HERALD/REVIEW
NACO, Ariz. — Anyone who has driven to Naco has likely passed the rolling, tree-dotted hills and the trademark blue-roofed clubhouse of Turquoise Valley Golf Course, the oldest continuously operated golf course in the state.
12/9/2018 New owners take over historic Turquoise Valley Golf Course | SoCo Business | myheraldreview.com
For a time earlier this year, it looked as though the course — a xture in the Bisbee/Naco area — was about to end its 110-year run, the latest casualty of the struggling golf industry. However, when Phoenix-area real estate broker and business owner Joseph Lewis got wind of the closure rumors, he immediately thought the historic spot had potential.
“Given that it’s Arizona’s longest continuously running golf course, I wanted to look more into it,” said Lewis. “And having owned several properties in Bisbee, I thought it was a good opportunity to try and keep the course open.”
Lewis and anonymous partners from Phoenix ocially took over ownership of the course about a week ago, he said. Although he knew he had his work cut out for him as the fourth owner to take the helm in the past few years, the self-described optimist said he was looking forward to “energizing” the course.
“I think there’s a great opportunity to bring people in, both to play golf and visit Bisbee,” he said. “A lot of people don’t even know that there’s a golf course here, and it’s not far from old Bisbee, so that’s a huge draw.”
In a press release, Lewis wrote that previous owners Robert Weaver LLC would continue to own and operate the adjacent RV park. Lewis declined to comment on the purchase price of the golf course, but acknowledged that it was a tricky deal.
“The RV park is going with the previous owner, so it was kind of complicated,” he said. “It was losing about $200,000 a year, so the idea is to get it to break even.”
A large part of the responsibility for carrying out Lewis’ vision for the course falls to its new managers, Jane Chanik and Margaret Wolverton, who have about 60 years of golf course management experience between them, including stints at the nearby Rio Rico Golf Club.
Some of the previous owners of the course may have struggled with the business side of things due to lack of experience in the industry, something the new managers hope to correct, said Wolverton.
“I believe some of the other owners were too emotionally involved, from the area. I mean, the course was open in 1908, and it’s still here — that’s why we're here,” she said. “There are so many other things you can do with a golf course to have fun at than just the golf.”
Events and features designed to draw in the local community and tourists — including birding events, banquet hall rentals, consistent restaurant hours and golf clinics — are among the future plans for Turquoise Valley, said Chanik.
“Part of the charm is that there’s animals out here, there’s life happening out here,” she said, adding that the 747-yard “Rattler” — the 10th-longest hole in the world — was also a major draw. “(Golfers) are going to have challenges. They’re going to have views, and they’re going to have Bisbee.”
Bar manager Betty Simons, who had been working at Turquoise Valley for about a year, said she was “very enthusiastic” about the change in ownership.
“Prior to that, we didn’t have a manager. It was basically me doing everything, working 12 hour days,” said Simons. “When word got out that we were going to shut down, it took us a lot of time calling people, putting posts on Facebook.
“And now that word has gotten out (that we’re back), a lot of people have been coming who we haven’t seen in a while.”
Lewis said the new owners and managers hope to bring consistency and stability to the iconic course.
“We’re here for the long term,” he said.