Sunday, October 25, 2009

Southern Dunes - An Unmitigated Disaster!

Today I played one of my favorite courses in Arizona, Southern Dunes Golf Club, and made a mess of it! For whatever reason I cannot translate what I do on the driving range onto the golf course. As soon as I get to the first tee box I tense up and get the hooks. I am starting to think that I need a sports psychologist to join my entourage. I played with Chad Feldheimer, which is enjoyable because he is such a fundamentally sound player.

Southern Dunes Golf Club, formerly known as Royal Dunes Golf Club, is in unincorporated Pinal County, adjacent to the City of Maricopa, which is about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Maricopa is the poster child for the boom and bust real estate market in Phoenix. Even the Wall Street Journal piled on! The starter homebuyer mantra is "drive to qualify". The further you get from the metropolitan areas, the lower the home prices and the easier it is for the first-time homebuyer to qualify for a mortgage. As I was driving to the course, I passed a number of subdivisions in the City of Maricopa in which I represented the homebuilders. There were kids twirling signs advertising homes starting at $59,000! The entry areas of the subdivisions looked like they were being reasonably well-maintained, but there have been so many foreclosures and homebuilder bankruptcies that houses and lots are not being maintained. We are starting to see a resurgence of investors buying finished lots to sell to homebuilders, but most of the activity is closer to Phoenix. The subdivisions in Maricopa and other communities in Pinal County will probably not be fully developed for another 5 to 10 years.

Southern Dunes Golf Club is a gorgeous Scottish links-style golf course designed by Schmidt-Curley Design, Inc. and Fred Couples, one of my favorite golfers, located in the middle of nowhere. The idea for this course was clearly someone's brain freeze! The golf course was originally a private club for men only, although it was designed to have home sites within the 320 acre master plan! Women were not even allowed in the clubhouse restaurant. I am trying to picture the poor homebuilder's salesperson explaining to a prospective buyer couple, "John can play golf on our fantastic Fred Couples-designed championship golf course and smoke cigars with the guys while Susan stays home taking care of the children, cleaning the house and cooking dinner." That will go over well! Surprisingly, a number of very well known athletes and local celebrities were founding members of the golf club. The golf course and surrounding residential property have been taken over by the lender and it is now a daily-fee course open to men and women.

The golf course clearly has a Freddy Couples feel; if you hit high fades you will love the course! Check out the hole-by-hole pictures on the website under golf club and then course flyover. I, of course, was hooking the ball. Even when I hit a reasonably good shot, it would trickle into the gorse-like native high grass never to be found. I shot a forgiving 98 not following the USGA/R&A Rules of Golf. The golf course was in great shape. We played the gold tees, which are about 6,900 yards with a slope rating of 131. The course was not overseeded so the bermuda grass was dormant. The fairways were cut very close so they had a links-style feel and if you hit your drive in the fairway you got a lot of run (I only know this because of my partner's drives). The greens were overseeded and were fast and true and receptive to approach shots (I only know this because of my partner's approach shots). Chad was hitting the ball really well from tee to green, but was having trouble pitching and putting and shot in the high 70s, except that we both played 18 so badly that we walked off of the course without finishing! It was a disappointing day, but I love this golf course and we played in 3 hours and 15 minutes, which makes up for the travel time!


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