Through ongoing partnerships with the Maricopa Unified School District and the city of Maricopa, The Duke at Rancho El Dorado golf course wants to be known as part of the fabric of the community.
“We feel that positive interaction is key,” said Corey Parker, manager of The Duke. “We definitely feel very strong on that.”
The 18-hole, public golf facility at 42660 W. Rancho El Dorado Parkway is serving as the home course for the Maricopa High School girls’ golf team, which is preparing to begin its fall season.
“We donate the use of the practice facility and the range balls and everything,” Parker said. “I think it’s good to try to maintain a positive relationship between the business and the community. I played high school golf myself. I coached high school golf when I was in Michigan. It’s good; anything that we can do to help make sure that the game of golf is going to stay strong throughout the years, by implementing junior programs and everything else like that.”
To that end, The Duke also is partnering with the city of Maricopa’s Parks and Recreation Department to offer both junior and adult golf clinics at the course.
“The sign-up goes through the city, and we teach the clinics here,” Parker said.
Also upcoming at The Duke is the Maricopa Rams Football Booster Club tournament, an Aug. 28 event that will raise money for equipment and training for the high school football program.
“I think a situation like that, they have a lot of potential,” Parker said. “If we can continue to do our job to put out a good product and then make sure that in joint efforts we market it as well as them, they could really have a good event.”
The football booster club is aiming to raise $10,000 to $15,000 from the tournament through entry fees and sponsorships.
Golfers who tee it up at The Duke can look forward to playing an open but challenging par 72 layout. The 8-year-old course measures 7,011 yards from the back tees and 5,136 yards from the shortest of the four tee boxes.
“We cater to all calibers of golfers,” Parker said. “The green complexes here are pretty big, so that tends to add up some strokes there if you’re not close to the flags. You can definitely make it so you have some long putts out here.”
Parker said the course is well-suited for long hitters who like to grip it and rip it off the tee, but he added that precise iron play is essential.
“We have wide fairways, so you’re not going to really be penalized a ton if you’re hitting it sideways,” he said. “I would say hitting into the greens, your approach shots, is where you need to be accurate.”
Designed by David Druzisky, The Duke at Rancho El Dorado was named “Best New Course in Arizona” by Travelgolf in 2003.
The Duke is one of four courses owned by Ahwatukee Golf Properties, which also operates Ahwatukee Country Club, Ahwatukee Lakes and Club West Golf Club.
Parker, 28, recently relocated to Maricopa from Michigan, where he managed a golf course near Ann Arbor. He has been the manager at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado since February.
“I’ve been in the golf business for 12 years,” Parker said. “When I was 15-16, I started working as a cart attendant. When I was 18, I moved to maintenance – mowed greens and fairways. I got involved in the management aspect of it when I was 20, and then I took over my first property when I was 21.”
Parker first played The Duke while visiting on vacation.
“Ever since the very first time I played the golf course, I thought it was fantastic,” Parker said. “I was just fortunate to land a job here, fortunate enough that the company gave me the opportunity to be here. The area itself I visited numerous times when I was working in the Midwest, because when there is snow on the ground I had some extra time. So I visited the area, and I liked it. I thought it was great. It’s a very new community, and it just seemed like a place to raise a family.”
Parker and his wife, Chanelle, live in the Rancho El Dorado development.
As a former Midwesterner and current Arizonan, Parker has experience in maintaining fairways and greens in both wet and dry weather.
“It’s definitely a bigger challenge here,” he said. “There (in the Midwest), you have to contend with mowing a lot of grass. But here, you have to contend with maintaining the turf as well as the outside areas. We’ve got a lot of natural desert area around our golf course that takes a lot of time and finances to keep up with.”
While Arizona’s warm climate allows golfers to play year-round, Parker said the 12-month cycle creates a challenge for desert courses which see a steep drop-off in business during the scorching summer months.
“At least when you’re down the three or four months (during the winter months in the northern states), you don’t have some of the overhead,” he said. “Like now, yes, we can stay open for 12 months, but we have to maintain full operations for those 12 months. There are some certain aspects where we can try to save when the revenues drop. But back there, you would completely shut down. Here, you still need to maintain exactly a normal operation. So your revenues drop way down, but usually your expenses are maintaining.”
The Duke will close for a few weeks in late September and early October to over-seed the course with winter grass.
“Golf courses close down to over-seed with cool-weather grass because Bermuda goes dormant in the wintertime,” Parker said. “We will over-seed with rye on the fairways and tee boxes, and with Poa trivialis on the greens.”
Once the course re-opens after the over-seeding, business begins to pick up steadily as the weather gets cooler.
“And then by Thanksgiving, we’re getting into the swing of things again,” Parker said.
Golfers interested in playing at The Duke can reserve tee times online at www.thedukegolf.com or by calling the pro shop at 480-844-1100. Players also can register on the Web site to receive e-mail updates on course discounts and specials.
The Duke offers a fully-stocked pro shop, as well as a full bar and restaurant called the Silver Spur Grill, which is open year-round.
Photo by Tom Kessler