Golf Crosses Arizona's International Border (2-4-03)

Arizonans will finally get a true linksland golf experience, although it will require a brief bit of international travel. The popular destination, Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point as it is known to locals, is a Mexican seaside destination just south of the border from Arizona. It has lured generations of Arizonans with its white sand and laid back atmosphere. But, when it comes to golf, Rocky Point has had what could be described as a 'rocky' time attracting a developer willing to build the resort and fishing community's first course. Although a Nicklaus course, Laguna del Mar, has been under construction off and on for the past few years, it's completion schedule is still not fully resolved.

Following work to design and oversee construction on a large-scale putting course back in 1999 - which was also never fully completed - golf course architects Forrest Richardson and Arthur Jack Snyder have been brought in to help envision what could become Rocky Point's first completed course. Richardson and Snyder are underway with plans for an 18-hole championship course to be called "Las Palomas." The residential/condominium project is being developed by a consortium of Arizona and Mexican based developers operating under the umbrella name: The Worldwide Group.

"Actually it's a 19-hole course," says Richardson. "Working on the great sand dunes along the coast made it difficult to choose from so many natural golf holes, so we opted for an extra 'bonus' hole and now we have 19." Players will encounter a different course set-up when the 19th hole is put into play, otherwise it will be an extra hole to settle bets or play for the fun of it.

Richardson, who just finished a book about golf course architecture, Routing the Golf Course , is no stranger to rugged or seaside sites. He and mentor Snyder have recently completed an exciting project in the mountains of Utah, The Hideout Golf Club, and are working in Canada, Las Vegas and California, all on tremendous pieces of land. Those familiar with Hawaiian golf will recognize Snyder for his work at the Blue Course at Wailea, Kaanapali and several other seaside layouts in the Islands.

"We will be nestling a true links experience into the great dunes," explains Richardson. "It's important to know that most of the great links courses of the world - those truly built on the sandy land near the sea - are nearly all in the British Isles or Australia. Here in America we have a few in the Pacific Northwest and some others on Long Island. Other than that we have 'courses on cliffs by the ocean,' such as Pebble Beach. These are remarkable, but they're not true links layouts. A true links requires the sand and the dunes."

At Rocky Point, located on a stretch of Sandy Beach, Richardson and Snyder are preparing final plans. So far it looks promising. "I've waited a long time to see this much bona fide effort and planning," notes Richardson, "I think finally we are seeing this once sleepy town come alive with golf. It's exciting to watch."

At just three and a half hours by car from Phoenix, Rocky Point represents the closest sea coast to the growing city of Phoenix. In fact, if not for the rectification of a vary famous surveyor's error during the Gadsden Purchase between the United States and Mexico, Arizona would actually have a small sliver of seashore to call its own. "That beachfront is almost thought of as being Arizona's," says Richardson. "Of course it's not, but with so many U.S. visitors enjoying the beach it's difficult not to come to think of Rocky Point as being close to Arizona in more ways that distance."

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