A ‘repulsive’ golf course pond has landed an Arizona country club in trouble. Who is to blame?

GLENDALE, Arizona — A country club here finds itself in hot water over a pervasive and repugnant stench coming from one of its golf course ponds that has frustrated nearby residents of the Arrowhead Ranch subdivision.

Stephen Kyle Bais, the golf course superintendent for Arrowhead Country Club, is suspected of violating a city code related to odors and is scheduled to be arraigned in Glendale Municipal Court on Monday afternoon, local officials confirmed.

For years, homeowners have smelled what they described as sewage lingering around the affluent community. It’s usually worse around the summertime but subsides when it gets colder. But this past winter, the odor only got worse, increasing complaints from neighbors.

“It’s repulsive, a repulsive smell,” said Helena Johnson Bodine, HOA president for Arrowhead Ranch Phase Two. She added that “it’s nauseating.”

After years of dealing with the foul smell, a group of six fed-up residents filed separate odor petitions to the city last fall. They logged their observations of the pond at the golf course, located along the south side of Loop 101, between 67th Avenue and Union Hills Drive.

The city presented the petitions to the Glendale city prosecutor’s office to consider filing charges, Deputy City Manager Rick St. John explained. The odor violation charge was then filed Jan. 16.

The Republic made multiple attempts to contact Bais, golf course management and Arcis Golf, the company that owns the country club. None returned phone calls and emails by deadline.

It’s ‘hard to miss’ the stench at the Glendale golf course, some say
It was roughly two years ago when Johnson Bodine said she first noticed the smell. It would go away temporarily when the cooler weather rolled in, but then it returned with the summer heat.

“I thought it was a city sewer smell,” she recalled. “And then this summer, I was smelling it when I would go out for a walk or on a run or go in my own backyard.”

That was in the summer when residents expected the odor to be at its worst. But in December, when residents like Johnson Bodine planned to have holiday parties with their families, the smell was stronger than ever.

“We had people over for Christmas Eve. We were setting up the backyard for dinner, but we were so worried about the smell, it was terrible,” Johnson Bodine remembered. “A lot of residents complained that they couldn’t have their families over. They were embarrassed.”

Last August it became clearer where the stench was originating: the pond by the course’s sixth hole. Describing their experience as “unlivable,” a few homeowners near the lake had contacted Johnson Bodine asking for the HOA’s help.

In late September, Johnson Bodine, along with Tom Cramer, HOA president of Arrowhead Ranch Phase One and other HOA officials, met with Glendale Councilmember Lauren Tolmachoff and the course’s then-general manager.

The HOAs wanted to work with the golf course to address the smell and had offered up their own vendors that treat the neighborhood lakes as a resource. The Phase Two community, Johnson Bodine explained, has six lakes that use effluent, or reclaimed, water.

“We treat it chemically and we use that water for irrigation,” she said. “And all of these lakes, they have a shelf life, they have to be maintained. It’s the cost of doing business.”

Johnson Bodine recalled offering to create a “frequently asked questions” section on her HOA’s webpage where the golf course could address resident concerns and build a relationship with the neighbors.

The former manager “was interested in that, and he would work on putting together those questions and answers,” Johnson Bodine said.

But soon thereafter, he essentially ghosted her.

“I never heard from him again, he never responded. I sent an email with the vendor information that might be helpful,” she said, adding, “He never responded.”

Tolmachoff represents Glendale’s Cholla District, which includes the country club and subdivision.

She described the smell as “quite hard to miss,” noting that there are odor issues at multiple golf course lakes, but the sixth-hole pond has been “especially problematic” for quite some time, lasting through numerous general managers.

“I understand the frustration of the residents,” she said. “I’ve been in that area multiple times over the past several months and I know the odor is offensive.”

The golf course has been cited for code violations related to the odor, Tolmachoff noted, adding that the case is working its way through the city’s unresolved complaint process.

“Unfortunately, the issue just remains unresolved,” she said. “As far as the city, the issue is being addressed by our multiple code violation process.”

What is causing the smell on the sixth hole?

Before going through the courts, the city had been regularly communicating with golf course representatives to determine both short- and long-term solutions, St. John said. According to him, odors from lakes tend to be a seasonal issue.

“As temperatures rise, the algae in the lakes grows at a rate faster than the water circulation and chemicals used to mitigate growth can handle at times,” he said in an email. As a result, he continued, odor emanates from the algae in the lake.

“We all concur that the algae is the source of the odor,” St. John later wrote in the email, referring to the city and the golf course.

In a Feb. 23 membership newsletter, Arcis Golf stated it had worked with lake management experts who attributed the cause of the odor to the algae.

“It appears that algae has been stimulated by an abundance of organic sludge that has been built up over time in the bottom of the lake,” the newsletter states. “Arizona Lake and Pond Management LLC is currently treating the lake on a weekly basis.”

The company never explained why it let the sludge build up.

Plans are also in place, the company added, to continue treating the lake through the rest of the year.

“These experts are confident this should eliminate the problem,” Arcis wrote. “We will certainly continually to monitor the problem and make course corrections if need be (sic).”

Previous newsletters the country club sent to members said the chemical treatments to eradicate the algae have been “showing some positive results.”

Residents have seen people with Arizona Lake and Pond treating the water, Johnson Bodine said. As to whether it’s working, she has doubts.

“We don’t believe they’re treating it the way it needs to be treated and we believe it’s beyond treating at this point because it’s coming from the bottom of the lake,” she said. “It looks like they’re just trying to put a Band-Aid on it now, rather than treat the cause, not the symptom.”

What’s next at the Arrowhead Country Club?

A meeting between the HOAs and golf course management to discuss the ongoing mitigation efforts is planned for the coming days, Cramer, the president of Arrowhead Ranch Phase One’s HOA, said Friday.

In the city’s case, Bais faces a Class 1 misdemeanor criminal charge, according to St. John. If found guilty, Bais could be sentenced to six months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. A Class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious crime without being a felony.

Bais, St. John added, is aware of the resident petition and the complaint filed in court.

He “has indicated a desire to correct the violation in the immediate and also in the long term,” St. John said of Bais. “Additional chemical treatments have been added to reduce the odor for now and long-term plans are being developed.”

Shawn Raymundo covers the West Valley cities of Glendale, Peoria and Surprise. Reach him or follow him on X @ShawnzyTsunami.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek