By Forrest Richardson
What are your memories of working with Arthur Jack Snyder?
Well, when you spend 25 years with someone, the memories amount to a long list. More than anything I recall Jack as a good and honest man, and one who was passionate about making the game fun and enjoyable. We spent time traveling to job sites, meeting with clients and — perhaps the most difficult part — selling ourselves during a time when name-brand tour pros were the “in-thing” for developers. Jack had opportunities throughout his career to work with pros, but he chose not to. His way of thinking was that the golf course architect should be in control, and that the designer was best equipped to bring all the aspects together — to make sense of it.
How did you meet Jack, and was that how you got into design?
I had an interest in golf architecture from age eight. I wrote to the ASGCA when I was 12 and got a small pamphlet back in the mail from Executive Director Paul Fullmer. Along with it was a map showing where all the ASGCA members lived at the time, perhaps no more than 40. Arthur jack Snyder was listed, and we had the same post code. I called him up and he agreed to meet with me. I rode my bike over and his wife, Ruth, answered the door. He probably thought I was in college until I showed up. From then on, we had a great friendship where he would give me topo maps and I would create imaginary plans. One year he carted a plan of mine off to an ASGCA meeting and reported back that one day I might be offered a job. While I never technically worked for Jack, we collaborated for many years beginning in 1985.
What are the highlights of the Mountain Shadows project?
First of all, I played there as a kid and actually was medalist during a high school match. Jack’s design from 1961 was amazing — 18-holes on just 40 acres. Truly it was well ahead of its time. A short course, fun for families, compact acreage and less time to play. In fact, the old ads from the 1960s sound like they might well have been written today. Jack had two par-4 holes, although those were short and in the last several years these holes became an issue due to errant balls. Our re-design is 18-holes, all par-3. The holes range from 70 to 195 yards. If I were to pick one highlight it is the setting. It is simply an amazing piece of property. If it were not a golf course the land might well fetch $35 million. But to the credit of the developers, golf has always been at the forefront of the overall plan for the resort, club amenities and new homes. I truly believe it will once again be a success, and is very likely to be studied by resort developers who may want to downsize their golf footprint or create a golf offering that is more in line with contemporary travelers.
Can you tell me more about the interesting par two hole?
We had this wedge of land that connects the new 17th hole to the 18th. This land used to be old No. 18, but with the new $60 million resort, our clubhouse location shifted. I wrote about the par-2 concept in 2001 (Routing the Golf Course, John Wiley & Sons) and have always looked for a project to float the idea. It’s funny, when I have spoken about the par-2 it is as if there are only two camps: Those who buy into the idea and those who, well, think I am off my rocker. Perry Dye was fascinated by it and has often told me he hopes one day I get to build one. That day has come, although the hole — which we have numbered 17.5 — is really a bye hole in the 19-hole round. The concept is simply, the tee markers are part on and off the green, so play begins with either a putt or chip. The green is long and narrow. Putts (or chips) can be anywhere from 20 to 45 yards in length. Par is two.
How does this course and this project tie into the ‘make golf fun’ philosophy?
I set out to recreate what Jack Snyder originally built, but now on a slightly smaller footprint. With just 13.5 acres of turf we have made sure to allow plenty of surrounds and ample tees. The areas not in turf is plated with a screened decomposed granite material that matches the native desert in this area of Phoenix-Scottsdale. It is playable. Lost balls will be hard to imagine. The greens are big. They are actually greens-within-greens. Some are wild with bold contours and quirky features. I only built 18 bunkers. Many holes rely on mounds, lows and green contours as a defense. The idea was to make each hole fun, and to give each its own personality. With generous tees, the holes can play differently from day to day. It will be a two-and-a-half-hour experience. And, as Jack would have put it, “I want people to want to come back to play,” which was a favorite saying of his that I can still envision him reciting.