Category Archives: Southland Golf

May Southland

Southland: Drought-Busting Winter Rains A Boon For SoCal Golf

May Southland

You can find the digital version of the story at Southland’s site here.

The winter rains may have been a wet blanket for tee sheets to start 2017 in Southern California, but the weather windfall since is the end of the drought and summer-quality course conditions months early.

The lush landscapes golfers are enjoying are helping courses recover from the drought, and the wet winter, in more ways than just through increased rounds.

Torrey Pines Golf Operations Director Mark Marney said the course scored a fiscal birdie in Feb. via a water savings of $75,000.

“It’s definitely going to help us from a budget standpoint,” Marney said. “But overall the rains have been really beneficial. The course is looking much crisper than it normally would at this time of year.”

Other course general managers across Southern California are echoing similar sentiments, saying spring course conditions are the best they’ve seen in years if not unprecedented.

Arroyo 18

Arroyo Trabuco

At Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo not only the course but the surrounding hillsides are so green one could almost confuse Orange County with Ireland. Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club Director of Golf Geoff Cram said the verdant coincidence is uncommon but very welcome.

“It never got cool this winter so our turf never really went dormant,” Cram said. “And then you had fresh water on top of it, so it’s incredibly green. Usually our turf ramps up slowly, but here it is the middle of March and it looks like the end of May.”

Colin Radchenko, General Manager at Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul, is witnessing similar surrounds at his course and is amazed by what he sees at courses throughout the county.

“It’s amazing what the water has done not just for us but for every golf course throughout San Diego,” he said. “It’s incredible, and our golfers are loving it.”

Radchenko reports strong play this spring after a winter that was solid as well despite the heavy rain events.

But the best news of all, of course, is that what’s largely regarded as the wettest winter in Southern California since 1983-84 busted the drought. Mike Huck, a water management in San Juan Capistrano who monitors usage by the state’s course, said he never expected a seven-year deficit to be caught up in one wet winter wallop, but it’s blessing that it did, especially for golf courses.

It’s assumed the state will lift some water restrictions of previous years, and if so, courses are indeed looking at a big boost to their budget for one of their largest expenses, Huck said. Various common sense restrictions will remain in place and become permanent such as bans on hosing off sidewalks, washing cars without a positive shutoff hose nozzle and irrigating narrow street medians with pop-up sprinklers.

“There’s probably a 10 percent savings or so that they can look forward to,” he said. “Courses may be able to prolong their savings when they begin heavily irrigating this spring due to the deeply wetted soils.”

There could be an additional savings through continued smart management practices that were born of the drought. While the drought was a painful maintenance circumstance, Huck said Southern California superintendents might now be better resource managers because of it.

“They learned they can live on a little less water than they had in the past and still have acceptable course conditions,” he said. “It forced them into using less, but it might not be a bad thing that it changed their approach a little bit.”

Some practices born of the drought, such as painting fairways and driving ranges, Huck expects to now be common practice regardless of future rains.

“I don’t think you’ll see people over seeding like you did in the past,” he said, “and that’s definitely a good thing.

“During the drought, they made great use of paints and dyes that helped them save on water. And it gives the course just enough color to keep it looking good. There’s no reason that shouldn’t continue.”

The upsides to the end of the drought are obvious for courses, but for some it came at a price. The sometimes severe storms of 2017 took down trees at some courses and caused other on-course damage through localized events, such as flooding.

16 TP North

Torrey North

Marney said course officials at Torrey in particular were holding their breath during storms after a re-designed North Course was still taking hold. It re-opened in Nov. and hosted the Farmers Insurance Open in Jan. Marney said Torrey’s courses mostly weathered the storms, but on occasion grounds crews were sent racing.

“We had some drains on the North that still need to be touched up and fixed, but it was a good test, and it passed,” he said.

Marney in particular noted the bunker maintenance disparity between the North and South Courses in preparation for the Farmers during the rains.

“It would take us two or three days to get the bunkers on the South back in play and on the North, we had no issues at all,” he said. “So in that respect, re-doing the North course really paid off in terms of reduction of time it took to get the course playable again.”

While Torrey was working feverishly last summer to get the project completed, it was also battling an infestation of bark beetles that were threatening its precious Torrey Pines. The lack of rains had sapped of the trees of their natural defense – sap – and the beetles were at one point killing four or five trees a month before Torrey’s maintenance crew introduced better methods to help the trees cope.

The beetles are always around, but Marney said the drought gave them the edge they needed to do great damage.

“You’d see a few trees in severe decline and then they’d quickly move onto another tree,” he said. “It was just moving much faster than it had in the past.”

Thanks to maintenance assist and the return of the rains, however, Marney said the remaining Torreys are recovering and the beetles are at bay for now.

“We’ve learned more and we’re in a different climate condition,” he said. “Both things are helping us out on this one.”

Huck said a handful of other courses faced beetles issues but for most the common fight is the toll years of continuous drought have taken on their trees, many of which Huck says won’t recover.

“Even with the rains, some of them are so far gone that they probably won’t come back,” he said. “It just depends how far into the cycle of death they are at this point.

“When you go through a dry spell like that, it puts real pressure on the trees.”

California’s groundwater reserves have been similarly stressed, which Huck said will be a decade-long recovery process because gains accrue so slowly. But he notes that, for some courses, the droughts did bring previously dry wells back into use.

One of other maintenance practices several courses in SoCal turned to during the drought was turf reduction. They removed turf to make the course more sustainable and replaced the turf with drought-tolerant plants.

vineyard course

Steele Canyon

Steele Canyon was one course that made a unique use of the reduced area by planting grapevines and establishing vineyards. This spring marks year two of the project and Radchenko is pleased to report buds forming on the still nearly virgin vines.

“It hasn’t really been warm yet, but when it heats up, we expect them to really take off,” he said. “But the water started things popping in the spring and definitely gave them a boost.”

The vines won’t produce a wine-grade grape until next year, but they did produce sporadic fruit a year ago that Radchenko hopes will be followed by lots of rain-fueled bunches and clusters this year.

“We won’t have our first real harvest until 2018, but it’s still great to see,” he said.

The drought ending is a happy ending for courses and hopefully the dawn of a new fruitful year after being hampered by a lack of water, and high water costs, for much of the decade.

The return of business as usual is certainly welcome by staffs at all California courses and Radchenko said golfers are celebrating it as well.

“Our rounds up and people are excited to get out and play,” he said. “But mostly it’s just nice to look at all the surrounding areas and see everything green after years of brown, brown, brown.”

Torrey

Southland: New-Found Status For The New North At Torrey

Torrey

You can find the digital link to this story in the print issue here – it’s at the bottom.

The North Course at Torrey Pines has long lived in the shadow of the more prestigious South Course, but fresh off its renovation the new North is finally enjoying a bit of its own celebrity status.

Torrey Pines Golf Operations Director Mark Marney said requests to play the North have risen dramatically.

“The demand for the North Course is off the charts right now,” he said.

Rounds have not risen in kind partly because the course is still rationing them on the North while the course grows in and a bit of remaining maintenance from the renovation is completed.

When it re-opened in November, the course only hosted play for four hours a day. That was later bumped to eight hours, but twilight rounds were withheld. The course will finally be open for play all day in the middle of May, Marney said, after Torrey completes its spring maintenance.

Restricting play has been done to protect the course, Marney said: “We’re trying not to love it to death.”
But Marney said the renovations and updates made by course architect Tom Weiskopf have been received positives reviews from locals and visitors alike.

“Players at all level have been pretty happy with their now being five sets of tee options so there’s a little better variety there for folks,” he said. “The greens are also 20 percent bigger on average, and are there are still approach where you can run the ball up to the green. All in all, it’s worked out pretty well.”

And the difficulty of the course didn’t increase, which was a primary concern of residents. The South Course, host to the U.S. Open and the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, remains by far the tougher test and a destination course for tourists.

However, after the renovation, it’s now the North’s time to shine and Marney said he hopes see an increase in the appeal of playing 36 at Torrey.

Historically, Marney said there’s been about a 20 percent disparity favoring the South for non-resident rounds.

“We’d like to get more people playing both courses,” he said, “and right now, the interest in the North is certainly there.”

March Southland

Southland: REALiTEE Golf To Become A Reality In 2017

Southland spread

REALiTEE Golf will become a reality in 2017.

The indoor golf concept created by Dave Shultz of Anaheim found a venture partner the Lummi Nation Indian tribe in Washington and is developing a plan to open its first location at the Silver Reef Hotel Casino and Spa in Ferndale, Wash., before the end of the year.

Shultz had been shopping his concept since launching the company vision in Feb. 2016 at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego and considered a number of possible starting locations. The fit with Lummi Nation came before the new year and was what Shultz said he was looking for in a partner all along.

“They had been interested in the golf entertainment world and took the step of hiring a business development resource to look for emerging opportunities like this,” Shultz said. “When they saw we were doing something this innovative, they jumped on it. It really resonated with them. They had even considered buying an actual golf course, but chose this because of its unique approach as an entertainment and real golf solution.”

Follow the link to read the rest of this piece.

March Southland

Boxed in

Southland Golf: Chris Mayson Lesson Series

Feb. South

I thoroughly enjoyed producing these lesson pieces for the Feb. issue of Southland Golf with elite instructor Chris Mayson and photographer Joey Cobbs. February is the instruction issue of Southland and these pieces were part of the cover story. Enjoy.

tee shot - page one

tee up - page 2

Boxed in

Clock method

chuck

Southland Golf: A Look At The Success And Future Of The Links At Petco

links

When it debuted a year ago, The Links at Petco Park nine-hole golf experience did so with a snap San Diego popularity akin to craft beer and fish tacos.

Three days of tee times to play Petco as a par-3 course in 2015 sold out in a matter of hours. Callaway Golf and the San Diego Padres added two more days and extended the hours each day and it sold out again.

A sixth extra day was added this year and tickets for the encore moved nearly as swiftly – save for a block of premium night-time tee times priced at $450 for a twosome and $900 for a foursome that eventually sold – and allowed 2,700 golfers to experience the event as opposed to 1,600 in 2015.

Callaway Golf Marketing Manager Nathan Adelman said the expanded tee time availability and upgraded course all proved to be big hits in the 2016 edition of The Links.

“The enthusiasm for (The Links at Petco) was just as much as a year ago, if not more,” he said. “We had a lot of come back, many of whom said they had an even better time this year, and we also had a lot of people participate who didn’t get to play last year.

“There was more energy in the stadium this year because we spaced the tee times closer so there more people in the park at once.”

chuck

Among the course upgrades included tee boxes being staged at four levels of the stadium as opposed to three a year ago, but the awesome opening tee shot, hit toward center field and the San Diego skyline, remained at home plate.

From the tee boxes, golfers get two shots at an outlined green with a colored pin flag. A circle drawn around the flag serves as a birdie target. A ball hitting outside the circle but on the green is a par. Any shot landing outside is a bogey. The best-ball score is recorded for each hole.

Unlike last year, when the layout used several shared greens, this year, each hole had its own green, including an island green on No. 9. Course architect Geoff Shackelford, who worked on the Olympic course in Rio, consulted in this year’s layout to help evolve the course experience.

“He helped shape greens, bunkers and hazards to be true to where actually golf shots would be coming from,” Adelman said. “One of the reasons this event appeals to people is that despite being in a baseball stadium it’s an authentic golf experience. It’s a legitimate golf course.”

Shackelford also helped Callaway stretch the course a bit, extending the length of the longest shot to 165 yards. The shortest was 68 yards.

Two other changes this year included the incorporation of live scoring and also a non-profit partnership with Pro Kids and The First Tee of San Diego. Pro Kids sold mulligans and generated over $23,000 in donations, Adelman said.

“That’s really rewarding for us to see,” he said.

gates

After last year’s event, Adelman said the Callaway team spent the year brainstorming upgrades to the experience and entertained conversations from 15 organizations about holding a similar event for them.

Ultimately, Adelman said, Carlsbad-based Callaway chose to focus on its core business and improving the event in “our backyard.”

“We need to focus on selling golf equipment,” he said. “It’s a lot of energy and resources to pull off an event like this. We want to continue to focus on doing it here and doing it the best.”

Adelman noted imitators of The Links experience are coming out of the woodwork. For one, the Atlanta Braves hosted a similar event that didn’t involve Callaway or another equipment partner.

Adelman said The Links is an ideal environment to introduce people to Callaway equipment. Golfers not only hit Callaway clubs on each hole, each hole is manned by a Callaway staffer.

“That means we’re getting a touch point with them on every hole,” he said.

Adelman credited the partnership with the Padres as being critical to the event’s continuing success.

“It really is a collaboration,” he said. “We could not do this without their event team and their staff making sure everything runs smoothly. But they also couldn’t do it without us because there are a lot of golf nuances built into this event.”

As for the future of The Links, Adelman said Callaway and the Padres now have a two-year track record of proven success that he’s confident will continue.

“I have an inclination we’ll be back.”

links-at-petco

lee

Southland: Golf Artist Lee Wybranski Paints Major Masterpieces

lee

Golf artist Lee Wybranski has created a unique niche for himself: He paints for the majors. You saw his work at Torrey fo the U.S. Open in 2008 and you’ll see it again when the Open returns in 2021. Also of local interest, he’s working on a project for Goat Hill Park in Oceanside. You can read my Southland Golf interview with Lee here: http://www.southlandgolf.com/articles/grinding-617-powers-leg.html

Southland: GolfBoard Making A Splash At Maderas

Eight Gboards

Photo: Gabe Abdou

Maderas Golf Club recently doubled its GolfBoard fleet to eight. Go to here read more about GolfBoard’s success at Maderas: www.southlandgolf.com/articles/new-510-maderas-golf.html

Have you surfed the earth yet? Go to www.maderasgolf.com to see tee times and best rates and then contact the golf shop at 858.451.8100 to inquire about GolfBoard rental availability.

GolfBoard parking

Southland: Callaway’s Truvis Triumph – A Q & A

Callaway Truvis

When Callaway Golf launched the Chrome Soft golf ball a year ago, it dubbed it as “the ball that changed the ball.” Callaway doubled down on that sentiment when it added Truvis technology, a soccer ball-style patterning that helps increase the ball’s visibility.

Truvis is a patented technology Callaway purchased and has the exclusive rights to in North America. Since launching last summer, the ball has developed a sizeable following that has surprised even Callaway officials, according to Jason Finley, Callaway’s Director of Brand Management for Golf Balls and Packaged Sets.
Callaway recently launched the second generation of Truvis, a black and yellow ball to complement the original red and white design. To keep up with demand and production, Finley said Callaway just installed a third Truvis machine in its golf ball plant.

Golfers are getting a kick out of the golf ball that looks like a soccer ball, and Finley said Callaway is kicking around a bunch more ideas for Truvis use. In its brief history, the ball has turn into quite a tale of innovation success and even won more such traditionalists as Tom Watson, who literally walked into the opportunity to be the de facto Tour spokesman for the ball (more on that in a minute). Finley shares that story and the evolution of the ball’s technology and popularity in this Q & A.

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Jan. Southland

vineyard course

Southland: Steele Canyon Renovation Includes Adding Vineyards

vineyard coursevineyard

A wave of tax-incentivized turf reduction projects swept over Southern California golf courses in 2015 in response to the drought.

Steele Canyon in Jamul was among the last to complete its work, but course management is banking it will be worth the wait.

“We looked at four other courses that did turf removal,” General Manager Colin Radchenko said. “They were all different, and we realized we had to make it fit what we wanted to do.”

What they did was use the opportunity to revamp and upgrade the course while adding a vineyard to a nine-hole stretch they were looking to rebrand. The concept works because grapes qualify as drought-resistant plants, one of the qualifications for receiving turf-reduction funding.

That’s why there are now grape vine shoots sprouting adjacent to tee boxes and greens on a nine Steele Canyon rebranded Vineyard from Meadow, the last of three nines to be built and the one always deemed to be the lesser of the course’s 27 holes by players, according to Steele Canyon CEO Larry Taylor.

“Nobody really wanted to play it,” Taylor said. “It wound through the homes, and it didn’t have the character of the other two nines.

“We wanted to make it on par with the two others.”

Steel color

The vineyards are situated on the reduced turf area around holes 2, 3 and 4. A stone bridge was added to No. 4, a par 4 that involves a creek carry on the second shot, to enhance the hole’s character.

The renovated nine that will eventually yield grapes is currently yielding compliments.

“People love it,” Radchenko said, with Taylor adding, “We accomplished our goal.”

The vineyards currently consist mostly of wire and shoots watered by a drip system. There are 1,200 vines that need nurturing that will eventually annually produce enough grapes to generate 2,400 to 3,600 bottles of syrah and sangiovese.

flag

Greg Maness, owner of Maness Vineyards in Jamul, is advising on the product, including educating the Steele Canyon maintenance staff on cultivating the grapes. His first task was to help the ownership determine that the land was suitable for growing grapes and then, along with vineyard design partner John Kelly, to assist in determining the angles of the vineyard plots to maximize sun exposure. Maness said the property is ideal for growing grapes largely because of favorable wind conditions.

“It has two real good airflow patterns that are just perfect,” he said. “One is the cool breeze off the Pacific and then the warm breezes from the desert. It’s a double whammy, versus all hot or cold.”

The soil composition was also ideal given 30 years of fertilization as a golf property.

Maness said he’s been approached by course owners over the years about growing grapes but hadn’t had any takers until the drought worsened.

“It’s a novel concept … one that the drought finally put into play,” he said. “It’s innovative thinking, and it increases the property value and gives you usable product at the end.”

The novelty factor and eventual aesthetics are ideal benefits too.

“It’s an elegant low-water plant and the beauty of looking at the vines is captivating to people,” he said.

vine

All that can be seen of the vines at present are a few green leaves peeking out the top of a plastic sleeve that protects them from pests (rabbits, gophers, etc.) and acts as a greenhouse to nurture the vine as well as gives the plant guidance to grow vertically.

“Those plants have to grow in; they’re just getting started,” Radchenko said. “We will for sure have grapes next year, but the real bounty is years three and four.”

The question now turns to what can the club become.

The course renovation came after ownership purchased Bear Creek Golf Club in Murrieta, a private course. The two courses are now being cross promoted under a combined premier membership.

Taylor said the Bear Creek purchase also played into the decision to upgrade Steele Canyon.

“We’re trying to create a dual branding where the members here can play there and vice versa. And we wanted to elevate this course to be comparable to Bear Creek.”

The two courses are very different playing experiences. Bear Creek is wooded and tight, while Steele Canyon is much more open and offers dramatic elevation change.

One cool aspect of the pairing is that Bear Creek is a signature Jack Nicklaus course and Steele Canyon is a signature Gary Player design.

“Both courses cater to better players,” Taylor said, “and we consider ourselves very lucky to have two premier golf courses.”

Steele Canyon aspired to be a private club in 1991 when it opened, but it never quite achieve that status. But the renovated and rebranded club has renewed local interest, Taylor said, and memberships are again on the rise.

Radchenko said the club depends on local play, but also benefits from being just 20 minutes east of downtown San Diego.

“We have a strong relationship with the local business community downtown,” he said. “We do a lot of tournament rounds that are from convention business.”

The course’s most popular nine is the Canyon nine, which, as the name suggests, winds between two canyons. It features three stunning and challenging par 3s all involving elevation – up and down.

The Ranch nine also begins with elevation change and plays its way around a working ranch.

Steel elevated

Taylor said holes on both nines were renovated to elevate the playing experience even more. All 94 bunkers on the course were also refilled with Caltega white sand to enhance the visual impact.

The work began last May and was completed in Dec. Taylor said the money spent already has been worth it long before the first cork will pop from the new vineyard.

“On Canyon and Ranch, we took some of the tee boxes up another level. The tees we added really enhanced the visual experience,” he said. “We’re really pleased with what (the construction company) did.”

<clock

Steele Canyon By The Numbers

1991 –
The year it opened as an 18-hole Gary Player signature course

1994 –
The year the third nine (Meadow) was added

35 – Acres of turf removed in 2015

1,200 – Wine vines planted in the reduced area

2,400-3,600 –
Expected eventual annual yield in bottles of wine

2 – Types of grapes being grown

9 – Number of new tees added during the renovation

3 – Number of par 3s on the Canyon nine

behind No. 3