As three south Salt Lake County cities ponder the latest proposal for a golf course along the Jordan River, what lies beyond the rough may be more important than the greens within.

Officials from those cities say the golf course plan that eventually gains their support will probably emphasize commercial rather than residential development on the surrounding land.The new proposal submitted by Allred, Soffe and Tuttle & Wilkinson, a construction firm based in Murray, features a 27-hole course named Riverwood, commercial parcels and extensive residential development from 9000 South to 10600 South in Sandy, South Jordan and West Jordan.

Sandy Mayor Lawrence P. Smith said city officials want to determine whether the proposal's residential element is excessive. The city's master plan designates the area as a primarily commercial business and park zone, he noted.

"It's one area we have to kind of hammer out and come to an agreement," Smith said.

The issue of an appropriate business-residential mix is expected to be raised when the proposal is discussed Thursday night by Sandy's Planning Commission.

The proposal hasn't yet been officially submitted to South Jordan, but officials in that city said they, too, will be looking for a strong commercial element.

"Our purpose is to encourage development of a golf course that will spur commercial and industrial development," said Tony Murphy, South Jordan's assistant city administrator.

He said the city particularly prefers a plan that offers commercial rather than residential development on the bluff adjacent to the freeway.

However, he and officials from the other cities say they are definitely in the market for a golf course at the core of any development. Sandy and South Jordan have been working together for years to promote a golf course in the area, and the latest proposal brings West Jordan into the picture as well.

West Jordan granted preliminary-use approval for the part of the project within its city limits on May 1. Officials are awaiting more details before taking final action.

"We think a golf course would be an excellent amenity at the entrance to our city," said West Jordan Manager Terry Holzworth. "That part of the proposal in West Jordan involves the possibility of some real fine residential development and a spot for a hotel and restaurant."

About 41/2 of the holes would be on the West Jordan side.

Whether the course is municipal or private is not a major issue, Murphy said. "As long as a private developer is capable of doing it, we have no problem with the principle."

Smith agrees, saying Sandy would support an adequately funded private development. If the cities develop the course, they would issue bonds that would be retired with course revenues.

Byron Jorgenson, Sandy's chief administrative officer, said city officials would even be content to have the developer retain ownership of the course.

"Several have asked us about the option of joint venture with them or some sort of arrangement where they build the course, operate it for 20 years and then turn it over to the city. We are happy to look at all those options, but it really would be our first choice to have developers come in and do it," Jorgenson said.

If the project is put together properly, Holzowrth said, "We would just as soon have the course run privately."

Smith said, "We think that any golf course in the river bottom area would be real boon to the city. It would be a good economic development tool for both Sandy, South Jordan and West Jordan."

He also believes it is important to the area's recreation needs. "It's tough to get on a golf course around here," Smith said.

Riverwood would have both 18-hole and 9-hole courses, a clubhouse and driving range. Along with the commercial and residential elements, the planned, mixed-use development would cover 467 acres.

Sandy planning officials said property owners in the area have indicated a willingness to sell the land.

Brian Maxfield, senior planner for Sandy's community development department, said interest in developing the area is growing.

"This one has been a hot issue," Maxfield said. "It sounds like the river bottom is going to be golf courses from one end to another."