Monthly Archives: May 2015

Southland: SoCal Golf and the Drought

Southland June

For the worst-case scenario, look up 1977, a year when drought conditions resulted in courses on the Monterrey Peninsula having water usage cut in half or more, causing many to struggle for survival.

Mike Huck, a California water management and recycled water expert with Irrigation & Turfgrass Services in San Juan Capistrano, remembers photos of Pebble Beach from that period.

“It looked like this carpet,” Huck said, pointing to the brownish-yellow material beneath his feet at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. “Except for the greens and tees.”

Follow the link to the rest of my cover story in the June issue.


Maderas: You Can Vote For Us In The SCGA’s Par 3 Contest

green view

The right pin position on No. 4

The Southern California Golf Association is polling golfers about their favorite par 3s in Southern California. You can vote here:

Maderas Golf Club would appreciate your support if there’s a par 3 at our course you especially enjoy. To assist your voting, here’s a quick overview of our four par 3s.

Par 3 1

No. 4164 yards (m), 164 (b), 150 (w)

Overview: This mid-length par 3 plays like two different holes depending on the pin location. A left or middle pin is the most direct route and spares you from much of the hazard. The far right pin location is touch to reach from the tee and sets up some long and devilish putts (Speaking from recent experience, I just lagged one to 30 feet and was only too happy to make par.)

par 3 2

No. 7 – 190 (m), 190 (b), 181 (w)

Overview: This seemingly narrow par 3 is roomier than it looks. There’s especially room to miss left, but a miss right makes you susceptible to the cart path and a possible ball OB. Basically, there’s room to recovery, but this green is large and scoreable. You’re looking for par or better here.

par 3 3

No. 15 – 240 (m), 240 (b), 220 (w)

Overview: This long, downhill par 3 comes in the middle of a three-hole stretch that’s as demanding as any in the county. The green slopes back to front, so it’s receptive, but a long putt to a front pin is a tricky proposition here.

Chris Mayson gives you a few tips below for how to handle Maderas’ toughest par 3

par 3 4

No. 17 – 165 (m), 165 (b), 142 (w)

Overview: This hole features a downhill tee shot and thus plays shorter than its yardage. No. 17 provides a chance to get a stroke back if you’ve lost a few during the previous stretch. A front pin here is especially a prime birdie candidate.

Again, you vote in the SCGA’s contest at We appreciate any support you can give and look forward to seeing you on the first tee soon.

Southland: La Costa Celebrates 50 Years

Valley Promenade cropped

Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of my piece in the June issue of Southland Golf.

Tiger Woods won here. Gary Adams tested some of the first TaylorMade clubs here – and the metalwood made its PGA Tour debut here. Richard Nixon and Jackie Kennedy stayed here.

Yes, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa has packed a lot into its first 50 years. As it celebrates its milestone anniversary this year, the challenge now is to balance a prestigious past with a progressive future.

The first steps toward that future were actually taken 10 years ago when La Costa embarked on a $50 million renovation that included a new spa, two new restaurants and layout tweaks to its two championship golf courses.

The renovation was completed two years ago when the Legends (South) Course re-opened. New Director of Golf Pat Miller arrived shortly after and discovered a resort with a balance of new sparkle and classic charm.

“A lot of times new owners want to change things, but I give a lot of credit to past owners that so much has stayed the same,” he says. “La Costa has largely stood the test of time. There’s a nice balance now been what has worked in the past and what’s new.”

On the golf side, what’s most recently new is an experience now weighted more toward player/game development and improvement. Among other things, a Cobra Golf Tour truck – nicknamed The Snake Pit – is on the range to provide custom fittings, and La Costa has established The Golf Performance Institute (GPI), a comprehensive training center meant to enhance the golf lifestyle.

“It’s now more of an overall experience here than just a place where you show up and tee off,” Miller says.

And the experience after you tee off has significantly evolved with the re-designs of both 18s and continues to, Miller says. He says the Legends Course is still settling into its new greens but is starting to discover its peak shape.

“There’s been a little of a learning curve from a maintenance stand point,” he says. “The greens started out very hard on the Legends, but we’re working to soften them. That side isn’t as its peak yet, but it’s still very good.”

Legends Course [15]

The Legends plays as the tougher of the two sides, especially when an ocean wind is whipping, making the home stretch, the famed “Longest Mile in Golf,” even longer.

“We do get the ocean breeze, and it can make as much as two-clubs difference,” Miller says. “I played it like that the other day and it’ll make you work to get it to the green in regulation.”

LaCosta_Champions Course Hole 11 Wide cropped

The Champions side tends to be a little more welcoming to first-timers and higher handicaps, Miller says, largely because of its wider fairways.

“It’s easier to hit the fairways, but the greens are more protected with bunkers. You’ve got to make a lot of carries,” he says. “Both courses are challenging in their own right.”

In its heyday, professionals from Snead and Nicklaus to Mickelson and Woods competed at La Costa, most notably in the PGA’s annual match play. That relationship ended in 2006.

Miller says La Costa is seeking to re-raise its competitive profile. The course held the SCGA’s state amateur last year and will hold the Gifford Collegiate, a top-tier men’s event hosted by UCLA, this fall.

The course also hosted an industry cup for staffers at Southern California’s major equipment companies.

“We’re always looking for ways to showcase the facility,” Miller says.

And for ways to correct a common misconception about La Costa: That it’s members only.

The course is actually a resort course that rotates member and guest play between the two courses on alternating days.

“We want outside guests, hotel guests and people traveling for business to see what La Costa has to offer,” he says.

What they’ll find, Miller says, are a couple of still classically great golf courses, a whole host of new amenities and an all-encompassing golf experience.

In its 50th anniversary year, Miller still finds the nostalgia factor for La Costa to be a strong one and would like to do more to capitalize on that.

“I love the history of the game and hearing about the great stories of the past and seeing the old photos,” he says. “This is where a lot of golf history happened, and I want to do more with that. That’s part of what makes golf here meaningful and memorable.”

Coastal Events Center fountain 240dpi 6x4

La Costa By The Numbers:

1963 –
The year two future owners and developers discovered the property while riding equestrian

1965 – The year La Costa opened as a golf, tennis and resort facility

1969 –
The inaugural year of PGA match play at La Costa

2006 –
The final year of PGA match play at La Costa

$50 million – Cost of La Costa’s extensive recent renovation

$1.5 million – The cost to build the original golf course in 1964

La_Costa Champions 18 at 8x6 200dpi

SD Tourism: Four Great Golf Finishing Holes in San Diego

Editor’s note: This post is part of an occasional series for the San Diego Tourism Authority – – promoting golf in San Diego.

Like the ending to a great book or movie, the 18th hole of a golf course should offer an experience that’s both satisfying and memorable.

Few things in golf beat a walk-off birdie, so consider this a short bucket list of places you’d like be lucky to score one in San Diego. The following is a list of some of the best finishing holes San Diego golf courses have to offer:

RBI 18

1. Rancho Bernardo Inn –
William Bell, the designer of Torrey Pines and many other public courses in San Diego, did some of his best work on No. 18 at Rancho Bernardo Inn, a hole that’s as scenic as it is strategic.

This closing par 5 begins with a decision off the tee: Do you try to drive the culvert crossing the fairway at around 250 yards or do you lay up? From there, it’s all about positioning to this uphill hole protected by ponds and a stream. That’s a lot of watery waters for things to go wrong trying to reach this narrow, triple-tiered green. But whether you make birdie or bogey, the setting, which includes two fountains, makes the hole and experience unforgettable.

Aviara Golf Club

2. Aviara Golf Club – Possibly the most beautiful finishing hole in San Diego is also its most difficult. This dogleg right par 4 wraps around a lake with a magnificent waterfall and offers a gorgeous view of Batiquitos Lagoon on the left. The lake is a popular destination for tee shots – and second shots, as finding the fairway is no guarantee of anything. The second shot, while played to a sizeable green, is deceivingly difficult. The approach is played into a Pacific Ocean breeze that can push your ball right into the water or out of bounds left. Par feels like a birdie here. The pros on the LPGA Tour are even tested by this one.

new Maderas 18

3. Maderas Golf Club –
This straight away par 5 starts with an elevated tee shot over a ravine to a fairway where a majestic giant oak marks the right side. Aim for the oak and then pour all you’ve got into your second shot on this long finishing hole. The green is situated in front of the Maderas clubhouse, which has the look of an Italian villa. You can putt out and then retire to the patio and enjoy a great view of the hole you just played.

18 torrey

4. Torrey Pines (South Course)
– Design-wise, this flat, straightaway closing par 5 may seem fairly ordinary, but what’s happened here makes it extraordinary. As the finishing hole for the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, it gets the most TV time of any hole in San Diego. But the lore of No. 18 really ties back to 2008 and the iconic U.S. Open. This is where Tiger Woods trickled in a tricky 12-foot birdie to force the playoff with Rocco Mediate that made that Open legendary and turned Torrey into hallowed ground in golf. Here’s your chance to recreate history.

Honorable mentions: Golf Club of California, Balboa Park Golf Course, La Costa, The Vineyard, Coronado Municipal Golf Course

Chris Mayson on KUSI: Lesson No. 6 – Playing No. 14 at Maderas

Chris Mayson’s latest video lesson is about the monster par 5 14th at Maderas, which is arguably the course’s signature hole. It’s certainly the most talked about and a favorite despite its difficulty.

Chris walks you through how he plays the hole. Most critically, he tells you to figure the yardage for the approach over the canyon. It’s difficult because it’s even more uphill than its looks and a side wind is sometimes a factor. If you’ve played this hole, you’ve likely sacrificed a ball or two to the canyon gods before you learned to club up significantly.

Anyway, as always, Chris is here to help.

Video/Photo Post: Baseball At Altitude

stadium b & w

I day tripped the Padres game on Sunday, somewhat as an excuse to visit one of my favorite views of the city and to experiment with my iPhone. So here some shots and scenes from the Altitude Sky Lounge atop the Gaslamp Marriott. From 22 stories up, you can see directly into Petco and get a stunning panoramic of Coronado. For a city with a million great views, this is certainly one of them. Enjoy.


Grab a chair. There’s plenty of room to watch the action and soak up the sunshine.


Since baseball action is a bit unpredictable, I used a switch between innings to show how well you can see the action, which is pretty well – as long as the play the middle and right side of the field.

Or you can simply stare at Coronado Island …


And watch the ferry and sailboats pass …

But eventually you have to come out of the clouds and back to ground level, which in San Diego is still pretty great.

street level

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Callaway Joins The Mini Movement

bertha-mini-1pt5-sole-b-2015-5x7-RGB bertha-mini-1pt5-toe-2015-5x7-RGB

Following TaylorMade’s lead from two years ago, Callaway has launched its own mini driver – the Bertha Mini 1.5. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it’s an oversized 3 wood – 35 percent larger than the XR Fairway Wood – made for the tee and with a loft that gives you greater accuracy with a slight sacrifice in distance from your driver.

See the video explainer:

The Bertha Mini 1.5 will be at retail stores on May 29 and golfers can pre-order starting May 15 on The club will be available in 12 degree and 14 degree lofts, at a price of $299.99 each.

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