Water is flowing again at San Ignacio Golf Course and a waterfall is tumbling downhill from one pond to another near the 13th hole. That's because new management took over San Ignacio and a second Green Valley course last week and secured an agreement to turn on the water.

Both courses had been closed for at least a month and their municipal water supply had been disconnected because of $90,000 in unpaid water bills, local water officials have said.

A partnership of restaurateur Bob McMahon and developer David Williamson signed an agreement with owner IRI Golf Group LLC on Wednesday, giving the two control over San Ignacio and the Canoa Hills course. They have an option to buy the courses in either December 2013 or December 2014, McMahon said.

An agreement also was reached with the Green Valley Domestic Water Improvement District to restore service. Water had been cut off since June, said the district's board chairman, Bob Hedden.

McMahon said water was turned on at San Ignacio Thursday and he plans to turn water on at Canoa Hills this week. He hopes to get both courses reopened a month after watering starts.

McMahon and Williamson, who is president of Fairfield Homes, had owned San ignacio and Canoa Hills before selling them to their current owner a decade or so ago, McMahon said.

"It's a lot of work. Everything is new and exciting," said an ebullient McMahon. "We will be in good shape for winter."

But "dead" was McMahon's only word for the courses' current condition, which neighbors say had gone downhill under the previous management.

"Grass in the summer, if you don't water it, it's dead," McMahon said. "The greens at Canoa Hills are all gone. We've already stripped the greens. It's too bad. Those were great greens."

McMahon declined to say what the potential purchase price will be for the courses in 2013 and 2014. He said he and Williamson agreed to pay $250,000 in debts owed by the course's owners.

All "300 or so" course memberships will be honored, he added.

Jeff Silverstein, IRI's chairman, "wanted to make sure the members are taken care of. He's in bad circumstances. He didn't want to be crummy about it," McMahon said. "I'm in full agreement with that."

As for water, the partnership will be on a payment plan that ensures the district won't face future unpaid bill problems, Hedden said. The parties are also negotiating payment of the outstanding $90,000 in water bills.

Neighbors of San Ignacio are delighted with the management change. Previously, along with the course becoming yellow and brown, the ponds near their homes had dropped and grown smelly with dead fish before the monsoon rains hit, they said.

"It's looking good, although things still need cleaning out," said Gary Hansen, who has lived at the end of the 13th fairway for 10 years.

David Downer, whose house overlooks San Ignacio's lower pond, said both ponds probably look better now than they have in five or six years. "My sense is that these guys … have some sort of vested interest in the area, where IRI seems to care less," he said.

The new management comes as golfing nationally and regionally appears to have declined because of the bad economy and changing consumer tastes.

But Downer, McMahon and Jerry Hawkins, a vice president with real estate company CBRE, predict these courses can still thrive economically, in part because of Green Valley's long-held attachment to golf since it's a retirement community.

The key will be managing expenses, Hawkins said. "Whether you have one or 300 play in a day, the water expenses are the same either way. It makes managing the expenses difficult."


Restaurateur Bob McMahon and developer David Williamson already own the Torres Blancas and Canoa Ranch golf courses in the Green Valley area.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at tdavis@azstarnet.com or 806-7746.