From Four Corners Golf Magazine
In 1999 the City of Monticello, Utah took action to create The Hideout, an 18-hole course set at the foothills of Blue Mountain. Four Corners Golf arranged an interview with golf course architect Forrest Richardson to discuss the history and some of the subtleties of the renowned layout. Richardson co-designed The Hideout with his mentor, the late Arthur Jack Snyder.
How did The Hideout come about?
Well, some recall the old Blue Mountain Golf Course, a 9-hole layout at the same site. I heard about the City’s plans and called Jack [Snyder] to see what he thought about us doing the work. I can still recall his reply, “Not only do I know about Monticello, that little 9-hole course is my work,” he said. I was shocked, because I pretty much knew every course Jack had done…so I thought. But, he had apparently designed this one as a favor back in 1960. Jack only made a few trips to help some local guys get it done. He never listed it as his work, which is why it wasn’t familiar to me. That’s how we got involved. Jack had been there 40 years earlier and it became a good story for the city to have us back to transform the site into something great.
What made Monticello want an 18-hole course?
Monticello was home to a Uranium mill for many years. After it shut down there was a lot of clean up and a major project to reclaim the old mill site. Working with the Federal Government, the town brokered a deal to get funds to use the old site. That’s where the idea for a golf course came to light. From there it became a program to create a point of pride in the community, something that would provide recreation and also attract visitors.
It seemed to take a long time…why?
Anytime you are working with Federal agencies there are hurdles to jump. While it seemed slow to those waiting to tee off, it went really fast considering the approvals and process we had to go through. At one point there were four separate Federal agencies, each having to sign off on parts of the project. I still have headaches from that part.
While we hear a lot of courses cost $10 million to build, how did you manage to get it done for under $3 million?
We had to find holes rather than construct them. Most people forget that the best golf is usually the natural sites where golf fits into the terrain. Golf developers often forget that beginning with a great piece of land will eventually save them millions…not to mention making the golf much better. Fortunately the City allowed us to select the new areas for the course and we spent countless days walking the land to find that ideal blend of holes so we could build it easily.
The Hideout is consistently ranked high among Utah courses…what gives it that edge?
I think it begins with the routing and the site. Jack and I made sure each hole had its own personality, and that the course was an adventure. These qualities are really important in golf design, but I see examples where they are all but forgotten. The best attribute we can give a course is having holes that you will not find anywhere else. This is the reason people want to play a particular golf course…to experience something unique.
Is any of the old Blue Mountain layout left?
Not really. Although the No. 14 hole is basically in the same location.
Were there any difficult areas to build?
Yes, of course. No golf course comes together without some struggles. Monticello has some natural underground springs, and we found a few during construction. These had to be piped and diverted otherwise they would saturate the soils around greens. And, we found a bit of rock that had to be creatively worked around.
Jack Snyder was in his 80s at the time you were creating the course. How many times did he get to the site?
I made more than 40 trips before, during and after construction. Jack was along for at least ten visits, and most of them were during the essential planning and shaping work. His glasses are still lost somewhere near the No. 5 tees. We spent about an hour searching for them when Jack announced that I would simply have to read the fine print on the maps. We had some great memories together, including the drive to and from Phoenix across the Four Corners.
How did Jack feel about the finished course?
He was a very passionate man. He cared deeply about people and every detail was important to him. When we attended an opening celebration he could not have been more proud. Many golf course architects would have stayed at the course for the prescribed time and them hightailed it to the airport to get home. Jack took time to speak with every person who attended. He even thought to ask why one of the secretaries at the City did not attend. When we found out she had to answer the phones at City Hall he had me drive by to make a personal visit. It meant a lot to her, but it also meant a lot to Jack.
What are your favorite holes?
I have always loved No. 13, the winding par-5. The ravine makes golfers think at every shot, and I enjoy a par-5 that begs the better player to try for the green in two. I also think that the par-3s are some of the best we have ever created. You have a variety of shots, downhill, uphill, sidehill and across a canyon.
What is the toughest part of the course?
For me it is stretch of holes at the end. I suppose most would find them difficult compared to the rest of the course. The tee shot at No. 15 is no easy shot. No. 16 plays very long for most hitters. While No. 17 seems a simple par-3, club selection from way up high at the tees is much more difficult than it appears. Finally, No. 18 is by far the most serious of the par-4s and it has the small pond fronting the green.
Any advice to players about how to master the course?
The first think a player notices is the length. It’s not long at all. So why take out the driver at every par-4 or par-5 tee? That is my best advice: Think twice about your tee shot. Next, I would suggest that the golfer remember that balls break on fairways and approaches, not just on greens. This is a hallmark of great golf courses…having the ball do things after you’ve whacked a tee shot or hit a long iron. The Hideout uses that design trait at nearly every hole. At No. 15, for example, you have to aim for the right portion of the fairway to get good position. Once you know little details such as this, the course feels like a puzzle you are about to solve.
Any final thoughts?
I would be remiss if I did not mention the great times we had working with Monticello and its people. It was truly a positive experience, and I am so glad Jack got to see it before he passed away. All we can ask in our life designing golf courses is to leave behind fun places to play golf, and courses that people want to come back to play again and again. It has always been my feeling that The Hideout qualifies in both departments.