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Dec. Southland: Is El Nino The Perfect Storm For SoCal Golf?

Dec. Southland

In the last week of October, almost exactly three months before the start of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Paul Cushing had no trouble picking a tournament favorite: El Nino.

Cushing, the maintenance manager for the City of San Diego’s golf courses, in fact had already effectively doubled down on El Nino by buying extra pumps and other heavy duty water removal equipment in advance to handle the deluge that could come with the type of potentially extreme weather event an El Nino portends.

A historic hurricane in Mexico the previous week had only further convinced Cushing of the forecast of a wet winter for San Diego and Southern California. A warm Pacific Ocean mixed with late-summer heat and humidity had cooked up the proverbial perfect storm for a perhaps record-setting El Nino.

“At this point, I’d be much more surprised if we don’t have a significant rain event than we do,” Cushing said of tournament week (Jan. 28-31.).

Raining on the Tour’s annual parade through SoCal would put a damper on the professional season but likely be welcome news to the rest of the region’s golf course community, as long as extreme events, such as flooding and mudslides, don’t coincide.

Four years of drought have drained the reserves of the state and pushed courses to their liquid limit through water restrictions. The latest data, Cushing said, showed the state needing 75 inches of rain to recover.

“We’re not going to get that all back in one swoop,” he said, “but we could put a pretty good dent it, maybe at least get us through another year or two by restoring some of the ground reserves.”

Mike Huck, a water management consultant in San Juan Capistrano who monitors usage by the state’s courses, said California’s courses caught a break in 2015 between timely rains and late-arriving heat. Despite mandated water restrictions, courses kept their conditions up and in some cases saved more water than the mandate.

“The rain fall came with perfect timing,” Huck said. “Some courses had just started to go yellow after the cuts and it’s like they were given a breath of fresh air. Some courses you couldn’t even tell where the water had been shut off.

“I had one (Orange County) super tell me, ‘We’re as green as we’ve ever been.’”

But the superintendents are now ready for nature to really open the hose. And past experience and current conditions lead Huck to believe that relief is coming. Huck is more concerned with how the rains will come.

“How much will we capture?” he asks. “These storms can be really intense. If that’s the case, we won’t capture as much as if it was a nice, slow rain that drizzled for 10 days.”

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Like Cushing, Huck believes a best-case scenarios buys courses a couple years of supply and could even result in the lifting of water restrictions, which are due to be re-evaluated in the new year.

Or, Huck said, water boards could look at how courses got by on less in 2015 and stay conservative.

“It all depends on capture,” he said. “In the spring, they could say we’re comfortable with where we’re at, or they could press on restricting consumption.”

Huck said 2015 proved to be a huge learning year about conversation and resources for those in charge of course maintenance.

“Absolutely. It’s just like when we had the big drought in the late 70s. It really opened people’s eyes and made them take a different course and use less water. They realized you can maintain good course conditions with a lot less water.”

Huck would bet Southern California sees significant relief, but says there’s no guarantee Northern California would see the same. There can be regional differences, but Huck says the storms need to make an impact beyond the coast to really bail out California.

“What’s the snow pack is the big question,” he said, knowing the last two were the lowest in recorded California history. “Will the cold air mass come down to the Sierras or will it go to the Rockies? The experts seem split 50-50 about whether there will be a big snow event in the Sierras.”

Both ranges contribute to California’s supply and the snowmelt holds the potential for a more long-lasting impact than the storms themselves.

A worst-case scenario for courses, Huck said, is a winter that under delivers on El Nino’s potential. That downside is one Huck believes could be dire, not just drier, in 2016, meaning restrictions could increase.

“It could mean no water at all for some courses, or just water for tees and small percentage of greens,” he said.
The other downside is potential natural disaster conditions.

“Southern California could get flooding and mud slides. That could be almost as bad,” he said, noting courses that undertook turf reduction could be especially vulnerable to erosion.

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Art Miller, a 30-year Research Oceanographer in Climate Sciences at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, said unprecedented ocean climate conditions make an extreme event more likely.

“The northern Pacific Ocean has (abnormally) warm ocean temperatures all the way up to Alaska,” he said. “Once it gets set up like that, it takes a long time to fade away.”

Miller said some models show it could take ocean temperatures as long as six months to normalize, which provides a longer window of opportunity for rain or severe weather beyond December to February, which is viewed as the peak window for El Nino.

Cushing has seen El Nino at its most destructive extreme. When the last one came in 2005, he was working on building Vellano Country Club in Chino Hills. The rains made the project work impossible until spring, when El Nino had subsided.

“We’d work and then get 10 inches of rain that would wash out the entire project,” he said. “We’d pick up the pieces and it would happen again. And we were a course with 600 feet of elevation change. Water was pooled everywhere.”

That El Nine brought a hefty 44 inches of rain to the region. That same soaking wouldn’t erase the drought but it’d certainly make a dramatic impact.

California’s reservoirs wouldn’t be overflowing, but its bunkers would be. That’s the scenario Cushing is already planning for.

Of his 2005 El Nino experience, Cushing said, “I think we’re in for that again.”


Maderas: Meet Maderas Wedding Specialist Laura Magid


In the six months since Laura Magid joined the Maderas staff as its wedding specialist, she’s escorted many happy couples down the aisle on their big day.

She’s overseen a record year for weddings at Maderas and looking to be even busier in 2016.

As San Diego increasingly is being discovered as a destination wedding hot spot, so is Maderas, with its scenic panoramic golf course views and unique amenities, such as its private bridal-ready suite La Casa.

In this Q & A, Laura shares her story about arriving at Maderas and what she enjoys about her job and helping couples plan their perfect special day.

Can you share with us a little about the eclectic career route that led you to working with weddings?

I kind of fell into it. I went to school for fashion design yet was hungry to see the world so I ended up traveling the world doing international volunteerism. I worked in Costa Rica and Nepal at orphanages teaching English and managing volunteers.

When I moved back to California, I was able to utilize my management skills and love for fashion by becoming the manager of Coach on Rodeo Drive. We did a lot of press events in Beverly Hills, and I learned quickly how to deal with a demanding clientele.

Soon my love of helping others surpassed my passion for fashion and I was able to create a career in non-profit event planning where I created and managed anything from seminars, to golf tournaments to galas. I was asked to assist a local wedding planner with a wedding and I loved it. It fit my experience, and I was good at the nurturing side of it – and weddings need a lot of nurturing.

But it was actually golf that introduced you to Maderas?

I brought a golf tournament here in 2012. I thought personally that Maderas was a hidden gem. It was known for golf but that put it on my radar as a wedding venue.

In meantime, Laura started her own company and worked with about 150 weddings before joining our staff.

What do you like in general about working with weddings?

Love is beautiful. You only have a handful of events where you celebrate your life changing direction. It’s worth the celebration.

Weddings are a billion-dollar business. In some cultures, people save their whole lives for that one day. People are always going to be getting married. The trends will change, but people will always celebrate these moments in their lives. I found a career that I love, I’m good at, and will always be in demand.

That’s a big win in my book.

What does it mean to be a wedding specialist?

It’s like being a wedding concierge. I work with couples throughout the entire process. We don’t just save a date and then see you then. That’s a special benefit that you get here, having someone with you through the planning, from the catering to the design.

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That day includes La Casa. How have brides liked that experience?

The biggest thing people can’t believe is that it isn’t extra. It’s just part of the package. It definitely gives the wedding an extra wow factor.

You might get your own suite or a comped room at a hotel at other places, but here you get your own private house that’s fully furnished and with incredible panoramic views.

How do you regard San Diego as a wedding destination?
It’s a hub for weddings. It’s a great destination wedding spot for people all over the country, especially if that place gets a little colder than California. When you look at San Diego as a destination spot, you’ve got beaches, mountains and a great weather pretty much 365 days a year.

Plus, San Diego tends to be more affordable than Hawaii. It’s the perfect destination for a wedding, especially if you’d like to make a vacation out of it.

You are, of course, booking weddings well into 2016. What are you seeing as the trends for the new year?

The DIY weddings, where you hold it on a ranch or some non-traditional venue, are on their way out. I think tastes are shifting back toward the elegant, classic wedding where an all-inclusive is wanted.

Also, with the economy improving, people are putting more money into their weddings. They’re being a little more lavish and are willing to splurge on the details, things like extra outdoor lighting and lounge furniture to make their wedding seem like more of an event.

Call 858.217.2564, ext. 1327 or email Laura at lmagid@maderasgolf.com to book your wedding at Maderas. You can also get a tour of La Casa on Tues. through Sat. There’s more information at www.maderasweddings.com.


More Fun W/Instagram Course Layout Pages

Last week, I added a new tool to my social media toolbox when I began dabbling with the new Layout feature on Instagram.

For those aren’t familiar, Layout, as it suggests, arranges your photos into layout templates that you can manipulate to create collages. Those who know me know this is the kind of thing that can send me down a creative rabbit hole for hours – or days – and it did. I’m still experimenting and exploring as the possibilities became apparent.

My immediate application was for my golf course photos. I’ve received many compliments on them in the history of the blog – thank you – and sometimes for how I present them on social. Well, here’s the best way yet. The possibilities are far beyond just what I’m showing you here, but here are some samples for courses you should recognize from golfing in San Diego and following the blog.

What I immediately love about this is that when someone asks me about a local course, I can kick them one of these layouts because I think they capture the experience between than a single shot or series can.

Hope you like these. Get used to them because I can see manifest uses for this feature to enhance the visual presentation of the blog.

In case you aren’t following at Instagram: @socalgolfblog. I already have a veritable trove of videos and photos over there – and much more to come.



The Ranch at Laguna Beach

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Aviara Golf Club

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Torrey South


Links At Petco


Hawaii – Kapalua and Manele Bay

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Manele Bay Golf at Four Seasons Lanai

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Callaway Petco

The Links At Petco: A Home Run For Golf

Callaway Petco

If you love golf and you love Petco Park, Callaway Golf has designed your field of dreams on Tony Gwynn Drive.

On Wednesday, Callaway unveiled the Links at Petco, a nine-hole par-3 golf fun house set up inside the stadium giving you shots you thought you might only ever see on a video game. Seriously, who ever thought the fly balls at Petco one day would be golf balls?

Well, obviously, Callaway did.

In a genius dual use of a beloved sports venue, Callaway has given the game a much-need shot of creativity and pure golf fun under the sunny San Diego sky.

Our group teed off a little before 8 a.m. and was initially relieved to see the whole concept hadn’t been turned into a giant water hazard by the previous night’s deluge. What we discovered instead was an urban golf oasis set inside the familiar confines of a major league baseball stadium.

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The course includes a “Happy Gilmore” hole

Looking out toward center field, painted targets, flags and palms tree now stood where you’d otherwise find a pitcher and his defenders. Golf gloves replaced baseball gloves and mitts. And “Play ball” meant tee it up and discover an unprecedented day for golf.

The routing was nine tee shots scattered throughout the stadium – eight being from the concourse – toward targets painted on the field. Greens were outlined with a circle drawn around each pin. A ball on the green equaled a par. A ball in the circle equaled a birdie. Anything else was a bogey. And put your putter away. No one’s holing out here. Tee shots only. And this isn’t BYOC. You can leave your sticks in the car. Callaway’s got you.

At each tee box, a Callaway bag offered your options. The selections broke down into right- and left-handed clubs for men and women within the appropriate range of options for the distance.

I will tell you up front, this is a tough track, especially with the wind blowing in.


Our group got off the No. 1 tee, behind home plate, in good shape, but then came the elevation change. Hitting from the upper deck toward the outfield, we quickly discovered the Pacific offers up about a three-club wind when it decides to blow.

The goal of getting a hole-in-one to instantly win a new Callaway drive suddenly seemed a little more daunting.
But the real prize was nine holes of pure fun and, for me, discovering Petco Park in a way I never had before. From warming up in the batting cages (our on-deck circle) to actually being at field level, it was a day at Petco unlike any other.

The familiarities of the game soon settled into the new venue. When a tee shot found the brown strip of dirt short of the outfield fence, appropriate ribbing about having warning-track power ensued.

As we were escorted around the course by our female caddie, Heather, the competitive juices soon began to flow and the desire to pull off a golf shot grew as we realized the true challenge the course offered.

Our group eventually racked up a respectable number of pars and even a few birdies on holes ranging from 45 yards to, with the wind, up to about 140. You never went deeper in your bag than an 8 iron.


But I did, indeed, hit an 8 on No. 9, a lengthy hole played toward a green in deep center flanked by a palm tree – and I crushed it. Granted, wind was at my back, but I put one in the cheap seats, an outcome I relished and celebrated on the tee. You can keep your birdie. I just went deep at Petco. I dug that long ball.

But if ever there was a day you wished for a little slow play, this was it. It was over too soon, but given the success (the event sold out in hours at $50 a player) you’d have to imagine it’ll be back after it ends its run on Monday.

And who knows? Maybe it’ll be coming to other big-league stadiums. Who’s up for a West Coast swing? For now, Petco is the Pebble of major league baseball stadium golf courses.

I’m glad I crossed this one off my bucket list, but then again, who would ever thought it would exist.

Congrats to Callaway on an excellent concept and execution. What a great place to play through. Let’s do it again – soon.


Playing Nine At … Petco Park?


I’m participating in Callaway’s Links at Petco nine-hole golf event today. To get my updates, please follow me on Instagram @socalgolfblog. The blog will be updated later, but Instagram is your best bet for instant images and impressions of an event that has generated a lot of curiosity and interest. Looking forward to it … just hope they had the tarp on last night.

Capturing Torrey’s Toughness In One Hole – No. 12

Editor’s Note: I had planned to write this after my last round at Torrey in June, but the summer schedules, projects, etc. got in the way. I was prompted to revisit what I started, however, when Golf Digest named the South Course at Torrey the 17th toughest course in the country so I’ve revived and completed that post. I can asked about Torrey all the time when I travel. Here’s the underlying truth beyond all the unbeatable views and dreamy scenery: It’s tough.

Playing the South Course at Torrey Pines reminds me of the joke about eating an elephant.

How do you eat an elephant?

Punch line: One bite at a time.

Same thing with the South Course, although you never eat the elephant; the elephant eventually eats you (or more like sits on you). But you learn to savor the little victories, such as:

I’ve played the South six times. I’ve parred the postcard-perfect par 3 3rd five of them, including in June. Little victory.

I stayed out of the right traps off the tee for the first time during that round. Little victory.

I finally hit the fairway on No. 12. Then … reality showed up.

But first a little of my personal history with this hole, because I think I can sum up the challenge of the South Course for amateurs in one hole.

The 12th is a straightaway par 4 played back toward the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of several long par 4s at Torrey that eventually grind amateurs to dust – and here’s why. Being 280 off the tee doesn’t cut it here as it does as many courses. At Torrey, that often still leaves you 180-190 or more (given the wind) to get home. Amateurs might connect on one or two long irons or hybrids like that a round, but not five or six. But that’s what Torrey does – it seems like you’re always one club beyond your comfort zone, even when you’re playing well.

From the blue tees, No. 12 plays a daunting 462 yards, but you can forget that number. Add 20-30 for the wind. It’s now a short par 5 posing as a par 4.

This outgoing par 4 shares a common boundary with the parallel par 5, No. 13. I’m acutely familiar with this territory because I’ve visited it off the tee – nearly every time. And I’ll never forget the first time.

After pushing my tee shot right, I finally located my ball in some deep rough (Note: I found five others first. Yeah.). Fully prepared to take my medicine, I pulled out a 5 iron and simply wanted to get back in the fairway. I hit it flush and then watched my ball come out like a dying quail. The best shot I had in me came up 5 yards short of the fairway and left me still battling the rough.

This is the emotional toll that Torrey takes. Exasperation with a side of double bogies becomes your fate.

With that in mind, let’s go back to No. 12 last June. The Cobra Fly-Z driver I’m playing is the straightest I have ever owned, which left me hopeful I might fare better on the difficult par 4s and particularly No. 12.
And sure enough, I hit a bomb right down the middle which … still left me 185 yards into the ocean wind.


Playing the shot more like 200, I flushed a hybrid that started right of the green (good) and then started to draw (holding breath) and then got pushed by the breeze into the left greenside trap (uh-oh) and into a recovery with an awkward stance (ugh).


My recovery flew into the opposing trap. My next out ran off the front of the green. I ended up taking 7 – from what’s Position A for most of us. That’s the South Course.

Feeling like I’d like just suffered scorecard whiplash, I turned to my playing partner, a local head pro, and asked, “So I was supposed to take 7 iron there and play for a wedge shot and par?”

He replied, “Maybe … but what fun would that be?”

And that’s how scorecards become virtual confetti on the South, which is why I don’t keep one. You learn to live for the pars 3s and 5s, the far better bets for your scoring chances.

And, to be clear, Torrey isn’t a good walk, it’s a great one. I recommend it to everyone but with a caveat to be prepared for a dose of tough love about your golf game on a tough golf course. I’ve taken the test of the South Course and prefer to break it down into pop quizzes.

And if I ever “ace” No. 3, I’ll be more emotionally bulletproof about a round at Torrey everafter.

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Southland: UVO


Sun protection for golfers and others on the golf course can be a messy proposition.

Sunscreen that’s good for your health isn’t always so good for your golf grips and shirts. Laguna Beach dermatologist Dr. Bobby Awadalla has a cleaner alternative – UVO, a sun-protection supplement you drink.

This year, UVO has been available at a few Orange County courses, but Awadalla is hoping the product will be more widely available, and possibly national, a year from now.

The product is more prominent in the beach- and ocean-sport communities right now, but Awadalla says UVO is just as much a fit for golf.

“Golf is very right for this product,” he said. “The normal round takes between 3-5 hours, and golfers don’t like to get sunscreen on their hands and gloves so they can drink UVO to provide supplemental protection for the entirety of their game. Golf is an ideal sport for it.”

Monarch Beach Golf Links, Tijeras Creek and Marbella Country Club are some of the courses where the product has been available thus far. The product is best served chilled, so it’s been hosted on beverage carts and snack areas rather than in the pro shop.

The flavor is billed as Orange Peach, but it tastes more like a tangerine-flavored Gatorade.

The idea for a supplement solution for sun protection came to Awadalla after years of seeing people with preventable skin cancer pass through his office due to inconsistent, or lack of, use of sunscreen.

“It just boggled by mind that this was still happening,” he said. “I did some research of the use of topical medicine to treat skin conditions, include psoriasis. I found that people didn’t use it very consistently, even if they had skin disease.

“I thought, maybe we need to rethink this. What we do every day is drink and eat, regardless of what’s happening in our lives, and there’s a lot of evidence that shows vitamins, anti-inflammatories and phytonutrients protect us from the sun.

“After five years of formulation, I came up with scientifically based formula to provide skin protection, and that’s now UVO.”

In essence, Awadalla said, a sun burn is an inflammation, something the body’s immune system can fight. UVO’s special formula bolsters that ability.

In its first test among 15 people, Awadalla said UVO proved to increase sun protection, measured in the amount of UV radiation required to burn, by 40 percent 30 minutes after consumption. Then came a positive result Awadalla hadn’t expected.

“We discovered UVO worked retroactively to stop a burn from happening and worked to heal the burn, so it works proactively and retroactively,” he said.

That made UVO a much more versatile and beneficial product than Awadalla ever expected and give it a major differentiator for sunscreen.

“You can compare sunscreen and UVO this way: Sunscreen does one thing well; UVO does many things well,” he said. “It also stops DNA damage, collagen damage and protects and repairs cell membranes. It also stops free radicals.”

While the drink has many benefits, it also has limits. For instance, it can’t match the maximum protection of a sunscreen.

“UVO will probably never get to the level of a 50 SPF, but even an SPF 5 provides 80 percent UV blockage so having baseline protection makes a difference,” he said. “Overall most people who drink UVO should have a good experience and will receive different levels of protection from it. We encourage people to be conservative in the trial phase while finding out exactly how it works for them.

“We all have different skin types and we all absorb and utilize supplements differently, so there will be variation. That’s why we say 3-5 hours of protection on the bottle.”

You can find more information about UVO, including an FAQ, at drinkuvo.com.

SCGA: The Comeback At Callaway


Without even taking a swing, Chip Brewer knew one of the first clubs to cross his desk as CEO of Callaway Golf was a miss.

Looking at the prototype, a 3-wood, Brewer shook his head. As the new President and CEO, just a few weeks into his tenure in the spring of 2012, he was unimpressed. Perhaps worse, as a golfer, he was bored.

The club, just by its look and feel, was … ordinary.

This is what Callaway had become, which was not what it had been and certainly not what Brewer envisioned it would be again.

His play? “Send it back.”

Unaccustomed to rejection, a stunned R &D team’s response could best be summed up as: “He said what?”

“You’ve got to do better,” Brewer commanded.

Ultimately, that rejection changed the trajectory of Callaway Golf and started what has it soaring today.

You can find the rest of this article at: editiondigital.net/publication/?i=276926&p=44

Ranch No. 1

The Ranch LB: 9 for 9 – Nine Films That Capture A Day At The Ranch At Laguna Beach

Ranch No. 1

Taking a bit of inspiration from ESPN’s popular 30 for 30 documentary series, we present 9 for 9 – nine short videos that capture the experience of playing the nine holes at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. As you’ll see there’s much to see, do and discover during your day at The Ranch – and after. Have we mentioned the course is a quarter mile from the ocean?