Category Archives: Southland Golf

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Southland: The Story Behind Rickie Fowler’s Hi-Tops

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While the golf world continues to debate whether it’s being ruled by a Big Three or Four, when it comes to fashion and flair, it’s a Big One.

Cobra Puma’s Rickie Fowler has long had the most emulated look on tour amongst fans and in January, he gave them another reason to walk in his shoes – literally.

A hi-top shoe Fowler unveiled at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua proved an instant hit and will now get a chance to back it up in sales when it hits store shelves in June.

But Cobra Puma CEO and President Bob Philion is already counting on the impact of the new IGNITE shoe to be nothing less than major.

“The feedback and response has been tremendous,” Philion said.

With a “perfect-fit” Velcro strap, the shoe recalls the look of an 1980s-90s-ish hi-top basketball shoe, but it’s for the course, not the court. Tour players Keegan Bradly and Michelle Wie have been reported to have worn something similar.

The idea for Rickie’s shoe stemmed from a conversation Philion and Fowler had last year in Japan. Fowler, long an influential voice for Cobra Puma style, expressed an interest in his course style reflecting more of his personal style. He then mentioned he wears high tops off the course.

“He expressed an interest in wearing a hi-top cleated shoe on the course,” Philion said. “The result is the IGNITE hi-top, which we paired with a jogger style pant. We work closely with our Tour players throughout the development and design process to ensure we’re pushing the limits of when it comes to performance and style. That’s very important to us as a brand.”

Cobra Puma Head of Footwear and Accessories Grant Knudson said the media buzz the shoes created at Kapalua coincided with a hugely positive fan response on social media.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it for a shoe,” Knudson said. “The shoes went viral. It was truly lightning in a bottle. It has blown everyone’s expectations away.”

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In its current design, the shoes is in black and white, which is a bit understated given Cobra Puma’s splashy use of pastels. Knudson said color may be incorporated into future designs, but the initial offering will only be black and white.

When the staff projected the target demographics for the shoe, Knudson said ages 12 to 30, Fowler’s usual target, was projected, but the interest has actually trended much older.

Knudson said the shoe was originally thought of fashion over function. The staff discounted older golfers who had lower body instability or injury and see the shoe as having an orthopedic advantage on the course.

“That was something we didn’t foresee,” Knudson said. “People are looking at it as a way to perform better, and it has started a conversation internally of what really is the best shoe for people to wear. This shoe has some excellent potential benefits.”

We’ll all start to learn more when the shoes, which will retail for $200, hit store shelves.
Further stoking the shoe’s popularity and visibility, Knudson said, is Fowler’s continued strong start to the season, which has included a win in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Golf Championship.

Adding a retail victory will only underscore for Knudson that Fowler’s career is soaring on all levels.

Knudson said, “Rickie’s truly at the top of his game right now.”

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Southland: Goat Hill Park Overview

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It’s a rare circumstance to be able to review a course with grass and without but alas that’s my opportunity with Goat Hill Park in Oceanside.

In 2014, I was invited to walk nine holes with course savior and new owner John Ashworth shortly after his plan to revive the course had been approved by the city to save the property from redevelopment.

Ashworth’s work at the course had barely begun. The pro shop was in the midst of a remodel, but the course itself, after years of neglect, consisted of little more than spotty greens, hardpan and acres of awaiting hard work. My most memorable shot was an approach to an uphill green. It missed by mere feet – and then came rolling back nearly 100 yards to mine.

I dubbed Goat Hill “the Charlie Brown tree of golf courses.” Ashworth coolly replied that the place simply needed a little love – and a lot of grass seed. He was right.

The turnaround is nothing short of miraculous. Aesthetically, Goat Hill is now a verdant gem dotted by wildflowers and other colorful landscaping, much of it the drought-tolerant variety.

The course now also glows with praise. The Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella in particular has heaped attention and adoration on the project. Last year he called it one of the best stories in golf and he recently rated Goat Hill among the top five short courses in the country.

The positive reviews and community support, which included 60 people showing up for a volunteer course maintenance day, has been gratifying and motivating, Ashworth said.

“People are loving it,” he said. “The response has been pretty overwhelming. We still have things to do, but it has come a long way.”

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Ashworth wanted to restore the course’s status as a social hub and he’s done that by, among other things, making the course accommodate disk golf as well as real golf. Ironically, the greens are like trying to land on a Frisbee, making it a tough test of target golf. Greens in regulation here are the sign of a true golf marksman.

As a 65 playing 4,454 from the tips, the course might not sound like much on paper, but you can throw out the stats. There’s plenty of challenge here, including elevated greens with severe slops that can make misses especially penal.
A good example is the par 3 5th, a 139-yard hole with a green guarded by bunkers right and long was well as a severe drop-off on the right. I actually missed left onto a hill. My chip hit the green and ran through into a patch of nearly impossible rough. I took two futile swings and picked up.

The course makes you earn everything you get – and trying to overpower it only seems to invite more trouble. You can basically bag your driver here. A hybrid and some skillful iron and wedge play will take you a long way at Goat Hill.

“It’s a tough course, but it’s playable,” Ashworth said. “We wanted to make it a lot more playable for everybody.”
That’s in skill and comfort level on the course. True to its motto of “World Class, Working Class,” the course has dropped dress codes. That made for the interesting scene of a player putting out in board shorts in a nearby foursome.

As a host to the North County Junior Golf Association, Goat Hill seeks to introduce more young players to the game. Ashworth said the course has succeeded in a being a local catalyst, but its growing reputation and good word of mouth is starting to make it a bit of a tourist draw.

“We definitely have a strong local following, but we are getting more tourists people from San Diego and tourists as they hear about it on things like the Golf Channel.”

Ashworth continues to balance his dual roles of managing the course and running Linksoul, his golf lifestyle clothing brand. Ashworth said balancing the two roles continues to be a challenge, but he truly treasures his time at the course.

“It’s a bit like being a caretaker, but I love the people who work here and who come here, and I meet a lot of new people. I spend a lot of time here because I love it.”

A strong month of play in January has given Ashworth hope the course will be sustainable and profitable sooner than expected.

Ashworth has some remaining projects at the course, but hopes to eventually hold a grand opening, possibly this summer. He said the staff and the community certainly have something to celebrate.

“It’s had its ups and downs, like anything, but for the most part, it’s been a real pleasure,” Ashworth said, “and it’s a real feel-good story for golf.”

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Goat Hill Park By The Numbers

3/8 – Holes that share a double green, a rarity in American golf

5 – Par 3s on the front nine; the back only has 3

6 – Number of the hole converted from a par 4 to a 3

450 – Length of the course’s only par 5 from the back tees

1952 – Year the course opened as a nine-hole country club

2014 – Year Ashworth took ownership, saving the property from redevelopment

$26-32 – Weekday/weekend green fee without cart

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April Southland

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The Treehouse at The Ranch at Laguna Beach

The story in Southland Golf: www.southlandgolf.com/articles/work-386-laguna-resort.html

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is on the back nine of its plan to become the coolest nine-hole resort course in the country.

More than two years of renovation and construction will finally come to an end this summer (May/June) when project opens its remaining guest rooms, spa and the building housing its Harvest restaurant, front desk and banquet and ballroom spaces. The de facto Presidential Suite, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom Treehouse – the remodeled former course owners’ home overlooking the No. 1 green – come online in Feb.

The Ranch debuted its first 62 hotel rooms last summer. While operating with those rooms, a patio to host breakfast and lunch, a pool, a pantry, a golf shop and the course, the resort has rocketed up the local rankings on Trip Advisor, reports Jim Tolbert, The RanchLB’s Director of Sales Marketing.

“We up to No. 5 (out of 22 resorts/hotels) in Laguna on Trip Advisor,” Tolbert said, “and that’s with only half the resorted completed during our preview period. Everything we’ve opened has been very well received.”

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Tolbert said the original preview goal for The Ranch’s marketing was to expand its tourist draw to a 150-mile radius to complement its strong local following. He said the property has already exceeded that goal and gone global.

“We’re getting people from all over,” he said. “We’ve had people from Germany to Great Britain to Arizona, and we had many folks from the East Coast over the holidays.”

After making a turn off the Pacific Coast Highway in South Laguna and taking a quarter-mile drive east from the ocean, guests are greeted by a vast expanse of canyon. That’s the scenic corridor that surrounds the winding nine-hole course.

Tolbert says guests are awed by the unexpected beauty of the canyon first and the rooms, decorated in a coastal ranch and beach cottage theme with a lot of local flavor, such as artwork of Laguna, complete the dazzling first impression.

“They walk into the room, their mouths open and their eyes get wide,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing to watch peoples’ reaction to this place.”

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The final plan to renovate the former Laguna Beach country club was approved by city officials in April of 2014. The clean-up and restoration of the course, built in the 1950s and suffering from neglect, was the first priority.

The course has enjoyed a strong local golf following for decades and caterers to all levels of players – and couples. (The course held a Valentine’s tournament in February.)

To foster a golf culture at the property, free 15- and 30-minute lessons are offered.

One of the beauties of having a nine-hole course, Tolbert said, is that it’s inviting to first-timers and plays fast at a time when time (slow play) is an issue at many courses nationwide.

“Golf is part of the culture of the place and the guest experience,” he said. “Our course isn’t intimidating so people should feel comfortable giving golf a try.”

The course is among the most walkable anywhere and offers a mix of par 3s and 4s and the discovery of wildlife, including deer midway through your round, along the way.

Besides golf, the resort has become a big dining draw for the food as well as the canyon views, Tolbert said. He notes that a number of menu ingredients will be grown on site at the Harvest Garden.

“It’s American-style cuisine using fresh California ingredients. We supplement the menu with things grown in the garden here on property,” he said. “Every dish is full of flavor and the items themselves are relatively simple but technically perfect.”

Tolbert praised the talents and creativity of chefs Camron Woods and Mary Catherine Woods.

Tolbert said the opening of the Harvest restaurant will only boost The RanchLB’s reputation as a local dining and social destination and make the resort even more formidable in the competitive local market.

“It’s going to be the coolest resort in Orange County for sure.”

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View of the Treehouse from the course

March Southland

Southland: CrossCreek Course Overview

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The “hidden” part of being a hidden gem is literally true when it comes to CrossCreek Golf Club in Temecula.

Located west of Old Town Temecula and its mountain backdrop, one wouldn’t immediately deduce a golf course resides on the other side – but one does, and it’s a beaut.

The course occupies the lowlands between the mountain surrounds and provides a rolling prairie golf type experience, akin to something you might be see in the Midwest. The course winds in and out of a forest and provides a pleasant progression of holes.

While off the beaten path, it’s the type of that one that when golfers discover it, CrossCreek Director of Golf David Garner says, they tend to come back.

“It’s a unique location and a very unique golf course,” he says. “We got a lot of comments where people say they didn’t know we were out here, but they love it when they see it.”

The benefit of the remote location is a secluded, solitary and exclusive golf experience. The drawback, from a marketing standpoint, is the need to advertise a bit more than most to raise the course’s profile against a bevy of courses in the area located off the I-15.

“We try to drive home the message of no homes, no freeways, no noise – just pristine golf,” he says.

One advantage Cross Creek has in the winter, Garner says, is having grass that doesn’t go dormant. That gives the course an edge when competing against courses whose Bermuda has gone brown for the winter.

“Us and Journey at Pechanga are the only ones in the area that don’t go dormant,” he says. “That makes us a great winter course.”

And more than just a local secret, Garner says Cross Creek successfully pulls golfers from Orange County and San Diego who are seeking a unique and affordable golf experience.

Locally, the course tries to catch attention by partnering with and promoting the thriving and rapidly evolving Temecula wine county.

Just as the wineries each have their niches and specialties, so does Cross Creek. Its best asset is a course experience, designed by Arthur Hills, that’s unlike any in the immediate market.

“You’re out in the wilderness and every hole is unique,” Garner said. “There are no copy-cat holes here.”

There layout opens with a pair of forested, mid-length par 4s before coming to a par 3 with a forest-framed green involving a creek carry.

The front is fairly flat, besides the severely elevated par-3 8th, before giving way to a more undulating back nine.

The signature hole is the par 3 17th, another hole featuring a creek carry to a forested-surrounded green that is set off in its own amphitheater. From the blue tees, it’s a pitching wedge approach at most, but the yardages stretches to 170 yards from the blacks.

“It’s probably the best shot on the course,” Garner said, adding that the hole is currently being aesthetically enhanced. “It’s a challenge because the green narrows as it moves to the right, but it’s the most beautiful backdrop on the course.”

There’s room to miss long, making it a bit more forgiving that it might present from the tee, but a birdie putt is the preferred outcome when you cross the wooden bridge to the green. The holes provides a bit of a breather after a challenging pair of par 4s.

The trifecta in that group is No. 18, the closing par 4. It involves a placement tee shot to an elevated fairway to an approach descent that presents challenges gauging distance and line of play for first-timers.

“It frustrates first-timers because they don’t know where to place their tee shot,” he says. “And the last shot is over trees and brush. It’s a great hole to close with a little money on the line.”

And it concludes a round at a course whose quality customer service and pristine play are likely to get you to tee it up again.

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Southland: North Course Renovation Finally On Tap For Torrey

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After three years of discussion and preparation, the North Course at Torrey Pines is finally having its date with a bulldozer in 2016.

The renovation is set to begin days after the Farmers Insurance Open and is slated to take six months to complete.

Tom Weiskopf, a PGA Tour veteran who had his first tour win at Torrey in 1968, and his design group are set to execute the redesign plan originally awarded to Phil Mickelson. City of San Diego Golf Operations Manager Mark Marney says the core concepts of the plan remain intact with only subtle differences in Weiskopf’s execution as opposed to Mickelson’s.

“There were core things we wanted to have and then it came down to what we could afford,” Marney said of a project that’s tabbed to between $12.6 million.

The core objectives are: Rebuilt, enlarged and re-contoured greens; new greenside and fairway bunkers; a cart path system; and a new irrigation and pumping system.

Players shouldn’t find the course tougher, Marney said, and some will find it more accessible.

“The course isn’t getting any longer, and we’re rebuilding a few tee boxes and adding an extra set of forward tees,” he said.

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Increases in difficulty and cost have been the primary concerns expressed by locals, some of whom play up to 150 rounds a year at Torrey. For them, the North is reprieve from the challenges of the tougher South Course, site of the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Opens.

“For a lot of them, it’d be pretty brutal to play the South all the time,” he said. “The North is a little more forgiving and we have players who prefer that.”

Marney said Torrey hasn’t raised its rates in five years and any future in case won’t be tied to the construction costs.

The North hosts between 80,000 and 85,000 a year – nearly 20,000 more than the South – and Marney said was long overdue for an update of the original William Bell design.

Amateur and professional players will benefit, Marney said, as the North is used during the first two days of the Farmers Insurance Open. During the tournament, the North on average plays three strokes easier than the South, a gap Marney said the new North course will be able to close if tournament officials choose.

“They’ll have an opportunity to pick some pin positions that will make it as tough as they want to make it,” he said. “But I’m not sure Tour players want us to close that gap. They like having the chance to go over to the North and shoot something lower and make hay when the sun shines.”

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As much of their play, Marney is look forward the Tour players’ reviews of the new North at the Farmers in 2017. Lots of dirt and sand will be moved between now and then – and possibly water. An El Nino winter could hamper construction, but Marney said delaying the project again wasn’t an option.

“Every time we delay, the construction costs increase. If we put it off again, the costs could’ve gone up another 10 percent,” he said. “Next year is uncertain too. We need to plan and be as ready as we can be.”

The project is scheduled to be done months before the 2017 Farmers. That’ll provide time for the course to round into shape, and sodding instead of seeding the greens is being done to expedite the conversion, Marney said.

“That’ll give us a finished green surface sooner but there are some risks involved,” he said. “We’ll have to put in extra work to make sure we don’t get a build up of organic material in the sodded greens, and we’ll have time to fix other construction scars.”

Overall, Marney said after years of delay, Torrey is finally poised to successfully give birth to a new North.

“We’ve got a good plan and a great designer and contractor who understand what we’re looking for,” he said. “I’m excited about the time a year when we’ll finally have the big unveiling.”

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Southland: Woods Valley Joins JC Golf

Jan. Southland

www.southlandgolf.com/articles/location-304-north-northern.html

Tucked away in Valley Center, in northern San Diego County, Woods Valley Golf Club has quietly remained a local favorite since opening in the early 2000s. JC Golf is looking to turn up the volume of players discovering, and talking about, the course.

JC Golf added Woods Valley to its popular JC Players Card in November and is hoping it entices more of its golfers to make the trek north.

JC Golf Director of Operations Erik Johnson said the initial response from players has been enthusiastic and positive.

“As soon as we announced it, it was really amazing to see how many new golfers showed up,” Johnson said. “It’s a great golf course that’s been around for over 10 years, and we are excited to use the JC brand to broad their exposure in the San Diego golf market.”

A boost in play would complete a year that has seen a remarkable improvement in the course conditions at Woods Valley, Johnson said, despite the drought. He credits superintendent John Martinez, who formerly oversaw Journey at Pechanga, for coaxing the course to its peak.

“It’s in great condition,” he said. “It’s up to the standard we expect for all of our courses.”

As the name suggests, the course is indeed tree-lined, but the layout alternates between being tight and open, somewhat akin to another JC course, Twin Oaks in San Marcos.

The front nine is more open and receptive to scoring. Then the course ups the ante on the challenge on the back with what many regard as one of the strongest back nines in in the region.

“It’s one of the best back-nine layouts in all of San Diego,” Johnson said. “It goes in and out of the woods so there’s a lot of visual effect.”

The stretch begins with one of the more daunting tee shots in San Diego. The par-4 10th has an elevated tee with water on the left and a wooded out of bounds right. There’s a narrowing landing area to hit to position yourself for an uphill approach. The wind often comes from your right, which makes the tee shot even more demanding.

Perhaps the most picturesque hole is the 15th, a strategic short par 4 with a sharp dog-leg right played from an elevated tee that offers a gorgeous overview of the valley and mountain surroundings. Carrying the dogleg with a driver brings the green into play, although the more sensible play is a hybrid or long iron aimed at the turn to set up a wedge approach.

The course has a few drivable par 4s and reachable par 5s that bring low numbers – and also usually risk – into play.
Johnson said the myriad shot options give the course a high degree of repeat playability.

“You could play this course several times a month and not get bored.”

Throw in some eye-pleasing and playable par 3s and you have a layout that offers something for everyone but has flown under the radar despite being 15 minutes from Escondido and the I-15.

JC Golf’s mission is to let the secret out and invite more golfers to the experience.

“Golf courses can be challenged in a lot of ways, but with Woods Valley it’s simply getting the word out, because it’s a great product,” Johnson said. “With our marketing and the JC brand, we’re expecting the course to see sizable growth in rounds (in 2016).”

Woods Valley is also unique, Johnson said, in that it’s a pure playing experience, meaning there’s no attached resort or additional amenities, making it a great place to escape to work on your game.

The course has an all-grass driving range – “They don’t even own mats” – and boasts the current Southern California PGA San Diego Chapter 2015 Player of the Year, Grant Strobel, as its head golf professional.

A personal word of advice for first-timers at Woods: You’ll look at the overall length (6,291 from the blues; 6,670 from the blacks) and want to step back. Play the course once before you do. That decision really hits home on the back, where you’ll want to see the holes once before you take on the extra distance.

“It’s a really unique place to play,” Johnson said, “If we get people here once, they’re definitely going to come back.”

By The Numbers

2003 – Year Woods Valley opened as a nine-hole course

2004 – Year it expanded to 18

2015 – Year it was added to the JC Golf Players Card

15 – Number of minutes it takes to reach the course from the I-15

6,670 – Number of yards from the back tees

0 – Number of practice mats the club owns; the range is all grass

$59/$79 – Public weekday/weekend rate

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

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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.”

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Southland: UVO

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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.

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Southland: Warner Springs Ranch Overview

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The digital draft on the Southland Golf site is available here: www.southlandgolf.com/articles/let-225-cousin-time.html

If you’ve ever seen a golf course that’s been let go, you know it’s not a pretty sight.

Well-maintained grass and greens revert to a pasture/prairie state quickly as the course becomes an unkempt cousin of its former self.

Re-taming what the wild has taken back takes time. How much time?

“In the golf business, for about every year you let a course go, it takes you three years to get it back,” said Byron Casper, Corporate Golf Director and Golf Professional recently re-opened Warner Springs Ranch Golf Club. “This course was let go for the better part of almost three years. I think we’re ahead of the game by getting it in this condition this early.”

Using Casper’s calculation, that’d be nine years of regression for Warner Springs, which closed in 2012 amid bankruptcy proceedings for the course and adjoining resort and hot springs. Pacific Hospitality Group, led by Chairman, William H. McWethy, Jr. and President Fred Grand, claimed the property and hired Casper to oversee the course renovation.

The course is now open three days a week while under renovation and is being targeted for a grand opening around November.

warner

While the course remains rough around the edges, Casper said the progress made in 18 months, especially amid the state’s prevailing drought, is rather remarkable.

“This course was let go for the better part of almost three years. I think we’re ahead of the game by getting it in this condition this early,” Casper said.

During a September visit, several cart paths remained to be laid and the course had more than its share of bare spots, but the sizeable greens were rounding into shape and most of the par 3s played as fairly finished golf holes.
Casper said the detail work that would catch up the rest of the course was just ahead.

“If it’s 80 percent ready (right now), that remaining 20 percent is the most important part,” he said. “That 20 percent is the aesthetic beauty that people want. That’s what everybody sees. It’s the part that makes a course look like a proper golf course. And we’re at that level of detail right now.”

“When I open this course for the grand opening, I don’t expect a weed to be out of place or a pond to be unfilled, etc. All of that will be taken care of.”

warner 3

That would complete a most remarkable transformation of a course that Casper said was in a dilapidated state when he first toured it, presenting him a challenge unprecedented in his career.

“I’ve opened golf courses from scratch, but I’ve never taken one over. This was a huge challenge, and that appealed to me,” he said. “But I liked the ownership group and wanted to take this on.”

Amidst the neglect, the thing that gave Casper hope were the course’s many stands of old-growth trees, which were still healthy and had given the course its character since it opened in 1984.

“The infrastructure was absolutely perfect. I thought we could have a pristine, desert-type course that looked like we just naturally dropped it in. That’s what this looks like.”

wall

Casper and the ownership team have taken a classic parkland-style layout and added bunkers and, on the par-4 8th, even a pond on the right side that stretches from the fairway and to near the green. Casper says that’s now one of his favorite holes.

“I love No. 8 since we added the lake,” he said. “It’s a great risk-reward hole. If you rip it, you’re looking at having a wedge in your hand into a green that’s front to back. But if you fade your drive, you’re in the lake. In a tournament scenario, you’re probably taking a 3-wood, hybrid or long iron there. It becomes a placement hole.”

While it puts some teeth into the hole, Casper said the intent remains within the guidelines of those handed down to him by his famous father and mentor, Tour Hall of Famer Billy Casper.

“He always said that you don’t make a course for Tour players. You make it for the average golfer. That’s a 17-handicap.”

The course is open three days a week during its renovation partly so Casper can capture the play and opinions of those players whom he sees as vital to returning the course to its place as a recreational and social hub for the community.

“I wanted something people could respond to, and I’m getting some great comments and feedback,” he said. “But when you’re letting people play a course at this stage, you’ve got to be in constant communication about the things you’re still working on.”

Casper’s father passed shortly after he took on the project, but he gave his blessing to his son’s involvement and commended him for continuing the family legacy of maintaining and preserving the game.

Like most teenagers, Byron Casper and his father didn’t always see eye to eye; however, as the two grew older, they found a mutual appreciation for each other and worked closely for several years before his father passed. Casper said striking out on his own and working overseas, including a stint as the head pro at St. Andrews, earned his father’s respect.

“It changed the dynamic,” Casper said. “The last seven years, he became so much more than a father to me – a coach, a friend, religious advisor, etc. – as well as my dad.”

In that regard, Casper said Warner Springs has unintentionally turned into a legacy project, which only bolsters his dedication to the outcome.

The course – and actually any golf course – is a constant reminder of his father’s memory and influence, one that is unavoidable for Casper.

In some ways, Casper said that’s forced him to face and quickly reconcile his feelings for his father.

“My dad thought I was good enough for the Tour and good enough to teach. He sent all his friends to me,” said Casper, who intends to make Warner Springs a destination for coaching and teaching.

“At the end, you either feel like you had enough time or you didn’t. I felt I had enough. I would’ve loved more, but I felt like we had enough.”

“I don’t have any regrets. When my father died, I knew he was proud of me and he knew how much I loved him. And he knew I’d do the job he’d wanted it terms of the family legacy.”

Warner Springs Ranch Golf Club By The Numbers

3 – Number of years the course was closed

8 – The hole undergoing the biggest change. A lake has been added.

2012 – Year the course closed

2014 – Year Pacific Hospitality Group claimed the course and resort out of bankruptcy

18 – Months of renovation put into the course since then

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No. 8 fountain

Southland Golf: Pala Mesa Course Overview

No. 5Sept. Southland

Editor’s note: This got dropped from the printed draft, but I wanted to mention it because I think it’s a telling detail about playing Pala Mesa for the first time. My playing partner, Tony Starks, with me caddying him in his first round there, struck the ball fairly flawlessly tee to green on most of the front nine – and didn’t make a birdie (though he did hole out for par on No. 9 and gave a club flip for the ages). The greens here are notoriously touchy and tough to master. If you don’t end up shaking your head over putts here, your last name just might end in Spieth. But the putts, and course, are fun to get to learn. Just don’t expect to get it the first time.)

You can find Southland Golf’s online version at: www.southlandgolf.com/articles/golf-185-california-remains.html

When it opened in 1964 in Fallbrook, Pala Mesa set the standard for golf in the area and along the I-15 corridor.

More than 50 years later, its classic California layout remains untouched, but that’s about to change.

To offset the distance gains in club and ball technology, and to stay relevant on the tournament circuit, Pala Mesa is looking to extend the tees on eight holes of the 6,500-yard layout to push it past 7,000, a target distance for tournaments.

Pala Mesa General Manager Kevin Poorbaugh says the course is fortunate to have the room to grow.

“We want to put in some tournament black tees – like on 9; take that back about 50 yards (to 468 from the tips),” he says, referring to the straight away par 4 adjacent to the driving range. “And we’ll build some new tees boxes on the other holes.”

No. 9 teeNo. 9 green

No. 9

Pala Mesa Golf Sales Manager Mark Mittlehauser says the course is being proactive with the move to maintain a strong tournament business.

“The tournaments haven’t specifically asked for that, but we can broaden our opportunity if we do,” he says. “We’re going to stretch it as much as can. Every little bit will help.”

Four holes on each side have been targeted for extension on a course that has a mix of driving holes and tight strategy holes.

The added distance will add challenge to Pala Mesa, but the true challenge – its signature slippery greens – will be unchanged.

The day I played, my playing partner hit the ball flawlessly tee to green on the front nine in his first round ever at Pala Mesa … and didn’t make a birdie.

Time and again, he watched short- and medium-range putts dodge the hole.

That’s the classic Pala Mesa experience and one of two reasons people who judge the course by its scorecard underestimate it, Mittlehauser says.

“The course isn’t super long but it plays longer due to some uphill shots. But the real test is on the greens, no doubt.”

No. 4Pala Mesa par 3

Nos. 4 and No. 7, both par 3s

The course’s strength is its par 3s, each of which prove a par 3 doesn’t have to be 200-yard behemoth to be challenging. The longest is only 166 yards from the blues. But finding the green off the tee on a par 3 at Pala Mesa is no guarantee of anything.

Undulating greens and strategically defensive pin placements have coaxed many a three-putt on the par 3s. But they are fun to play nonetheless and score-able with solid iron play and a steady putter.

Overall, course management is a premium to score well at Pala Mesa, Poorbaugh says.

“It’s a very favorable course,” he says. “It rewards goods shots. A But the ones that aren’t as good will penalize you.”

With the closing of San Luis Rey Downs in nearby Bonsall, Pala Mesa is experiencing something of a renaissance by inheriting many of those players. Its weekly men’s league has more than doubled to 80 players.

A course that normally hosts around 47,000 rounds already surpassed that mark in July.

That patronage and the drilling of a second well all bode well for the future of Pala Mesa as does the opening of college residences for Palomar College nearby in three years.

“It’ll be great because we’ll be able to introduce a bunch of college kids to golf,” Poorbaugh says.

That’s already happening of a junior level at Pala Mesa, which hosted the Future Champions tour in July as part of the Junior Worlds.

By the time the college students arrive, Pala Mesa will have undergone a management change and a renovation to its course and resort. The property is in the process of becoming a Hilton Doubletree.

bedpancakes

The resort has 133 rooms, which at 400-square feet are large by industry standards, but out of date.

The rooms will be refreshened, Poorbaugh says, which will only increase the lure of the property and boost its already thriving wedding business.

The property currently hosts 70 to 80 weddings a year.

weddingpond

Besides golf and weddings, Pala Mesa has found additional ways to utilize its space and introduce people to the property.

The course hosts an annual vintage car show which draws around 20,000 people and a country music festival.

Even with golf and weddings thriving, Poorbaugh says the staff is constantly considering innovative ways to introduce people to the Pala Mesa experience.

“It all gives us exposure.”

No. 8 fountainNo. 18

Pala By The Numbers

8 – Number of holes to be lengthened for tournament play

50 – Number of yards to be added to the par 4 9th, which currently plays to 418 from the tips

80 – Golfers in its men’s club, more than double from a year ago

47,000 – Past annual rounds for Pala Mesa, a number it has already surpassed in 2015

1964 – Year the course opened