Forrest Richardson has developed a plan for a 20-hole layout on the site of the former Southern Ridge Golf Club in Phoenix, Arizona, which closed in 2018.
Southern Ridge originally opened in 1993 as a 36-hole facility, under the name Cotton Fields Golf Club, with holes designed by PGA player Dan Pohl. Since then, the club has gone through two name changes, to Bougainvillea and then Southern Ridge, was downsized to 18 holes in 2004 and has been renovated by Mike Conner and Dave Beckham.
“It’s sad to see a community golf course closed, let alone to see it overgrown with weeds and dying trees,” said Richardson. “During the past few years, the new owners have cleaned up the property and done all they can to get the hole corridors looking as good as possible – even though there is no golf being played. Finally, we’re closing in on getting golf back in the mix.”
Development group Laveen 140 purchased the golf course in 2022 and has spent the past 18 months working with the Cottonfields neighbourhood on redevelopment plans that include restoring golf and adding around 400 new homes.
Richardson brought the idea for two loops of 10 par-three holes to the table early on, having been tasked with developing a course to border the community’s neighbourhood, which includes 450 new homes that were built in 2004 when the club was downsized. “The first reconfiguration paved the way for homes,” he said. “When the 36 holes were built, it was all golf with no residential areas – the change to 18 holes was positive in many ways, but it unfortunately resulted in a golf course that simply had difficulty attracting play.”
Richardson’s proposed design needed to be able to host tournament outings. That decision was driven by National Golf Foundation (NGF), which provided advice based on analysis of the most viable golf uses in the Phoenix metropolitan area. “The conclusion was that a less-time-consuming course, and yet a course that could host 100 players for a tournament, would perform the best in this area of the Phoenix-Scottsdale market,” said Ed Getherall, director of consulting for NGF.
Richardson said: “Some will say that 20 holes is too many. But we also had the goal to provide enough golf frontage so all the homes that were built on the old course would have golf under the new plan. We also built in the flexibility to combine a few holes to create an 18-hole executive format with two par fours.”
The name of the proposed facility is The Score Golf Club, which relates to a musical element Richardson hopes to implement; the incorporation of geofencing technology and a phone app, which will allow golfers to listen to music selected to complement individual golf holes.
“A few years ago, I was watching two young couples playing Mountain Shadows [an 18-hole par-three course Richardson designed in Arizona] and enjoying music in their four-person party cart,” said Richardson. “It got me thinking how neat it would be if their music could fit the mood of the golf hole. When they got to the tee at the tricky seventh, a short half-wedge water hole, I smiled by imagining their speakers suddenly playing the ‘Jaws’ theme music. I kept thinking of music that would match certain holes – The Beatles ‘Long and Winding Road’, ‘Nothing to Lose’ by Kiss, a French melody for the Biarritz – I knew it could be done, we just needed a place to try it.”
According to Richardson, Arizona-based IZON Golf has already laid the groundwork for a smartphone interface that will allow golf staff to create a daily playlist of licensed music. As players transition from one hole to another, the music will change. Plans are also being refined to allow players to select their preferred music genre.
Contractor Landscapes Unlimited has been brought in as a strategic partner and to execute construction should the project gain approval. Richardson said: “The most asked question we hear from the community is, ‘how fast can the course be finished?’ I can understand that because the abandoned golf course was something they never expected. With Landscapes at the table, we’re getting ready with a plan of attack that allows things to happen sooner than later.”
Laveen 140 is aiming to begin construction in spring 2024. “We’re doing everything possible to get the ball rolling,” said Richardson. “It’s been a steady process by the team to get individual homeowners to vote, and the results are looking very encouraging to save the golf and create this new concept.”