An unusual thing happened when the irrigation system was first turned on at the new Sterling Grove golf course in Surprise, Arizona: Crop seeds left in the soil from the site’s former life as a farm briefly started sprouting on some of the brand new fairways. That flicker from the past illustrated the complete transformation taking place on an 800- acre property now home to the newest private golf community in the state.
Located in the West Valley — one of the fastest growing sections in the greater Phoenix area — Sterling Grove has been designed to offer a modern take on the country club experience. Sales of the Toll Brothers-built homes have already been brisk (2,200 are planned overall) and the community is quickly taking shape, according to Lifestyle Director Jessica Walls.
“Everything here will be very down to earth and not stuffy in any way,” she said. “It’s a place where residents will be able to enjoy a movie in our park, do a wine tasting, take kids for a swim lesson, or play golf. It’s a lifestyle you’re not going to get anywhere else in the West Valley.”
The club officially opens in late summer/early fall 2021, but the golf course, golf shop, men’s and women’s golf locker rooms, and a golf simulator opened in January, and the easygoing and friendly atmosphere is already in full effect among the first residents. “There have already been golf outings, ladies nights, neighborhood meet and greets, some of which have been virtual due to the pandemic,” said Walls. “Every time we host an event, the RSVPs fill up right away. People now more than ever want that sense of community.”
ON THE COURSE
The new golf course, managed by Troon Privé® and currently open to limited public play before it eventually becomes private to its residents, is high on the list of amenities, although the layout is not quite what you might expect for a course in the Grand Canyon State.
“This is not your traditional Arizona golf experience,” said General Manager Ryan Stemsrud. “The desert that we do have here are shrubs that we planted and decomposed granite rock. We don’t have the saguaros and other things that create a lot of difficulty that comes with target golf.”
Senior Designer Chris Cochran at Nicklaus Design was given a blank slate to work with on an essentially flat site without many contours. “I just tried to create as much variety as possible,” said Cochran, who worked as a design associate on the Nicklaus Signature Course at Pronghorn, a Troon-managed facility in Bend, Oregon.
As with all course routings, plans changed over time. “The first hole was definitely an evolution,” said Cochran. “We went back and forth with different ideas, but decided to start things off with a challenging hole (thanks to the small, elevated green) and kind of go from there. Hopefully it’s not too hard of a start, but I think it’s a pretty cool hole with a pretty cool green.”
Also full of character are the seventh green (golf architecture buffs will recognize it as a half-Biarritz, while others think it looks like a bicycle seat from back to front) and the par-3 13th, with a narrow green and memorable view of the White Tank Mountains to the west.
“Chris did a fantastic job of creating a unique experience on each hole,” said Stemsrud. “The fairways are wide off the tee but the greens are undulating (especially the first seven) and have multiple hole locations that can give you a very distinct look each time you play.”
A 50,000-square-foot putting course open to residents is expected to debut later this year, featuring a loop-style layout with a water feature running through it and music playing from assorted speakers. “We expect it to be used a lot given its location right in the center of the community and being close to the golf shop and the first tee,” said Stemsrud.
MEET THE NEIGHBORS
Homebuyers can choose from two types of neighborhoods in Sterling Grove: all-ages or active adult (ages 55 and up, with some exceptions). “We’re seeing grandparents buying a home in the active adult neighborhood that’s right next to an all-ages neighborhood where their children and grandchildren will be living,” said Walls. “You can ride a bike over to grandma and grandpa’s house if you wanted to. The individual neighborhoods themselves are not gated, but each has just one entrance/exit.”
Starting price points for homes range from the high $300s to the $700s. Eight collections offer 29 home designs from 1,500 to over 4,000 square feet. Both single story and two-story options are available and architectural design styles include Craftsman, Farmhouse, Prairie, Spanish, and Ranch. Every homeowner automatically becomes a social member of the club, with a monthly fee in addition to HOA dues. Golf memberships are available to both Sterling Grove homeowners and to the public, but the latter type is recallable beginning in 2025 as the course will eventually become private.
The social center of Sterling Grove will be the club area. Nine pickleball courts, five tennis courts, bocce courts, and men’s and women’s locker rooms will open in stages through late summer/early fall. Inside the clubhouse, the Flora Spa, state-of-the-art fitness studio and movement studio, a full-service restaurant called Copper + Rye, and The Market (for grab-and-go food plus general convenience items) will open this summer/early fall.
Three resort-style pools will also open later this year, with Bob’s Bar nearby. The latter will be situated right after the sixth green so golfers can stop by for refreshments. “It’s going to be a busy spot with plenty of activity,” said Stemsrud.
Outside of Sterling Grove, miles of nearby hiking trails await, as do stadiums that are home to the Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes, and the Westgate Entertainment District. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is approximately 40 minutes away.
“We are getting a lot of transplants from California and the Midwest who are moving here and don’t know anyone,” said Walls. “So they are relying on us to help them meet their new neighbors and create a sense of community. That’s what Sterling Grove is all about.”