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Southridge Golf Course in the rough
Sheep are now grazing on the greens at Southridge Golf Club.
The 18-year-old golf course, nestled at the base of the Sutter Buttes, closed several weeks ago with no immediate plans to reopen, management said. Those who recently tried to stop by for a round or two were met with a locked gate and the sight of sheep on the back nine holes.
The family is evaluating the golf side of the business and seeing if it makes sense to continue to operate, said manager Neil Kumar. A final decision should be made soon.
Members and those who spend a lot of time at Southridge were notified of the closure, Kumar said. The club continues to maintain the front nine holes while sheep graze on the back nine, and it is still open for banquets and special events.
The closure, members say, was a long time coming.
Irrigation and mowing issues had made quite a divot in the number of players in recent months, said Frank Frost, a partner in Yuba City's Golf Etc. and Southridge member.
"Maintenance had gone from very poor to almost nonexistent," he said. "Customers here in our store really for the most part enjoyed going out there when it was well-maintained. The course had huge potential."
The decline in play, linked to a decline in recreational spending because of the economy, all trickles down to the product, Kumar said. Southridge did struggle a bit with irrigation last summer, but those issues no longer exist, Kumar said.
"Going through winter, the course has a very natural way of repairing itself so the greens are in good shape," he said.
If the club does reopen, the back nine holes will likely not be included to make the course easier to maintain, Kumar said.
Amenities for golfers had been decreasing in recent years, including closure of the back nine holes and removal of the course's portable toilets, said Yuba City resident Gary Huckabay. That might have been the final straw for some members.
"With a man, all outdoors is a urinal, but for a woman it's different," he said.
He'd been a member for almost a decade before the course's upkeep and management attitude — whether intentional or not — prompted him to quit paying his dues in October.
"If there was a time when anybody went out there and felt like they were wanted, I would really want to talk to them because, boy, you must have been special," Huckabay said.
Rumors about the venue's demise were swirling when the Yuba City High School Class of 2000 booked its 10-year reunion for the clubhouse in August, but organizers were told it would not impact the event, Raj Chima said. With almost 100 graduates already expected and a goal of 300 alumni to attend, Chima said Southridge was chosen because it was aesthetically pleasing, affordable and could hold a large number of guests.
"We wanted to use something nicer than the halls around town," he said.
Southridge, at 9413 South Butte Road, was a public 18-hole course, although the back nine holes had been closed recently for repairs. Course controversy began even before its opening in 1991.
Most recently was the undoing of a land deal that would have created 13 parcels ranging from 21 to 82 acres near the club. Plans for a companion housing development and 100-unit resort near the course were overwhelmingly nixed by Sutter County voters in 1990.
Existing facilities include a putting green, bar, restaurant, two banquet rooms and an outdoor wedding area.
The Sutter High boys golf team had played and practiced at Southridge for more than 10 years, as well as using the course for the site of its annual fundraising tournament, said Athletic Director Mike Ayotte. Amid talk of closing the back nine holes last year, the school sport was moved to Peach Tree Golf & Country Club.
But most residents were unprepared for the closure.
"I went out there the other day to play and the gates were all closed and the golf course was full of sheep," said Yuba City resident Norman Baker.
He paid $13,000 in the early 1990s for a "lifetime" membership. He's heard no word from Southridge about their closure but remembers Lucy Kumar told him in January not to pay his upcoming dues.
"I guess my $13,000 is down the tube," he said.
The closure, albeit expected, is still a pity, Huckabay said.
Southridge's scenic beauty was among the best he had ever experienced, with neat vistas and elevation changes.
"The whole thing is just a crying shame," he said. "A venue like that could be such an asset to the community, and it's gone."
Baker agrees. He played at the club almost twice a week since he first joined, but the course's condition and the weather have kept him away in recent months.
"I thought Southridge was one of the best laid-out golf courses I ever played," he said. "I'd rather play there than any place."
Southridge's golf course and pro shop phone numbers have been disconnected. It can still be reached for special events at 329-2496.
Other area golf courses include the private Peach Tree course in Linda and public courses River Oaks Golf Club in Nicolaus, Plumas Lake Golf & Country Club and Mallard Lake Golf Center in Yuba City.
CONTACT Ashley Gebb at 749-4724 or agebb@ appealdemocrat.com.