People who’ve played the executive course at St. Mark Golf Club in San Marcos in the past might not recognize the place these days.
What was once a bit of dilapidated course and pro shop has been given new life via a year-long $4 million makeover.
The course itself has new tee boxes landscaped in stone and drought-resistant plants as well as new cart paths, reconditioned greens and a re-designed first hole that now includes a waterfall. There are even staircases to all the elevated tees.
But the real jewel of the project is a sparkling new clubhouse that features stone columns and glass doors for its entrance and hardwood floors and high ceilings in its bar and grill, Tap In Tavern, which serves breakfast and lunch at a place where on only concessions existed previously. And you can dine on a patio overlooking the 9th hole that can accommodate up to 30 people. There’s also a swing simulator for play after your round or a warm-up before.
The clubhouse alone cost $2 million. What could merit such an investment for an 18-hole executive course? Partly a play for the future of junior golf, says Brett Miller, CEO of the course’s management company, Eat.Drink.Sleep.
“We’re trying to grow our junior golf base. That’s the future of the game and our older members love seeing them here,” Miller says. “We introduce a lot of kids to game every day. It’s got to start somewhere, so why not here?”
The executive course is a sister course to the St. Mark regulation course. Between the two, the courses will host at least a dozen junior golf tournaments in the next year, including 250 golfers between ages 6-14 in the first week of July for the Future Champions, a qualifier for the Junior World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines.
St. Mark General Manager Frank Iannuzzi expects golfers discovering the executive course for the first time to have the same reaction to the renovated facility as local youth, such as the members of the San Marcos high school team, have.
“They are completely blown away,” Iannuzzi says, noting the course also supports the SCGA’s Youth on Course program. “They love how cool it is now with the simulator. They’re ecstatic.”
And their parents have gained a new hangout, something Miler says also factored into the investment.
“Now when mom and dad drop the kids off, they don’t have to go. They can stick around,” he says. “And we’re in the middle of a community with 2,700 homes where a lot of people can drive a golf cart here, because it’s legal. We have a lot of people come dine with us who aren’t golfers.”
The menu ranges from breakfast wraps to skillets in the morning to a gourmet hamburger, a prime rib sandwich and flat breads in the afternoon.
Miller is hoping the new clubhouse will entice people to give the place a try, or a second chance in many cases. Years of maintenance neglect left the course itself needing an image makeover as much as a few rounds of aeration and irrigation.
“(When we took it over) half the sprinklers were out and the pumps barely had pressure,” Miller says. “So you’d go around the golf course and you saw a lot of neglect, so we injected a lot of capital into the course. It’s a golf course so you could spend an infinite amount of money doing that, but we wanted to do it efficiently.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but right now we’re pretty proud of it.”
Miller used the first hole, formerly a par 3 partially over water, to make a statement. The tee box was repositioned for aesthetics and mandatory water carry and a waterfall was added as well as a practice putting green. With the backdrop of the new clubhouse, the transformation is stark.
And Miller says it’s intended to send a new message about St. Mark to a somewhat skeptical local community.
“Our biggest thing is getting you here the first time, or if you remember the place, getting you to come back, because you might not want to,” he says. “As a team, we’re out there asking for people to give us a try. We think you’ll like it.”
“We’re really trying to elevate the place and provide a value.”