Category Archives: Torrey Pines

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.”

zimbio-com

Ten Questions About Tiger Woods In 2017

zimbio-com

Photo: Zimbio.com

After more than a year out of competition on the PGA Tour while recovering from back surgery, Tiger Woods finally made his tournament return in December in what some might deem to be the biggest story of the year for golf.

Four rounds at the Hero World Challenge against a field of some of the world’s best players is a small sample size, but it’s just enough to speculate about what 2017 might look like for Tiger. Here are 10 questions that we have while waiting for word of Tiger’s 2017 schedule.

Is he back?

Yes – with a qualifier. We’re not talking about the old Tiger in his prime. That guy will probably never be back. We’re talking about the return of Tiger to competitive golf and being able to tee it up on Tour. When Tiger leads the field in birdies, which he did at the Hero World Challenge, putts like he did in your prime AND, just as important, walks off the course pain-free, that’s back in our book.

16th-hole-torrey-north

The renovated North Course at Torrey Pines


Where will be play next?

His only commitment thus far is to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in LA, a tournament he hasn’t played since 2006 but to which his foundation now has a tie. That’s Feb. 13-19. Tour stops at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego and the Waste Management Open in Phoenix loom prior on the West Coast swing.

Tiger has a stellar track record at Torrey, where he won his last major in 2008, and has played Phoenix in the past as well. Is he ready to take on consecutive tournaments or will he choose one over the other? You’d think he wouldn’t pass up the comfort of Torrey, but there’s also a wild card in play: His agent has indicated foreign tournaments have come calling. It will be interesting to see what he chooses.

What might success look like for Tiger in 2017?

Playing and finishing tournaments, to start. Just doing that will be more than he did in his most recent tournament stints. Getting back into the groove and grind of the Tour will be accomplishment enough in the early. But if he can do that, then we start to ask …

tiger-trophy

Can he win? Can he win a major?

Merely playing is one thing. Contending is another, winning is something else and a winning a major is a meteoric leap from there, but if he would happen to put a jolt in a tournament early on (lead for a round? Finish top 10?) such talk will quickly stir.

His putting was stellar in the Bahamas and his swing speed measured up to Tour specs, however, he’s conceded his days of overpowering courses are over, which means he’ll lean more on course management and a strong short game. That formula reminds us a current Tour star: Jordan Spieth. That game plan nearly won Spieth the Grand Slam two years ago. If it worked for Jordan, it can work for Tiger, who historically is one of the best putters ever.

Why might fate favor him for a major in 2017?

Tiger’s winning track record has somewhat been amassed by piling up wins at a handful of courses (Torrey, Bay Hill, Augusta, etc.) Quail Hollow, where he won in 2007 and has three top-11 finishes, is considered a Tiger-friendly track and home to the 2017 PGA Championship. The British Open is at Royal Birkdale, where he contended in 1998. The U.S. Open is at first-time venue Erin Hills.

Could the Masters be his best chance?

See the previous reference to Jordan Spieth. A hot putter can master Augusta National, especially when there’s veteran savvy behind it. The only caveat is that Tiger hasn’t won in Augusta since the course was “Tiger-proofed” in 2006. Another factor is how tournament-ready to contend he can be by April. A better bet might be the British, which is later in the calendar year and has a better track record of producing random winners due to the factors of weather and the quirky breaks of links golf.

What’s the biggest obstacle to him being competitive again?

The Tour itself. This is the Tour Tiger wrought, where fitness, equipment, training and talent has never been better. To illustrate the depth and balance of the field, golf had four first-time major winners last year, when it was predicted a Big Four (Jordan, Rickie, Rory and Jason) would carry the year. It didn’t happen. Is there room for Tiger to get back in that mix? That’s a very tall order for a Woods far removed from his prime and now past age 40.

What would even a semi-competitive Tiger mean for the Tour?

Two words: Ratings. Buzz. His return tournament posted one of the highest ratings in the history of the Golf Channel. He still has the “it” factor and attracts eyeballs and galleries to the game like no one else. Having some of that back can only be good for the game. The pursuit of the major record is likely lost, but Sam Snead’s career wins record is still within reach. He needs four to tie Slammin’ Sam at 82. While a consolation prize give what was once possible for Woods, it’s not nothing.

Worst case: What if his back goes out again?

Oh, boy. Woods has admitted he contemplated retirement when his back woes were at their worst. You’d think a relapse would be competitive curtains, the only fate worse than a return of the short-game yips that plagued his last comeback but seem quieted for now.

Best case: What if it doesn’t – and it looks like he’s really BACK?

The dream scenario for the PGA Tour. Tiger stalking leaderboards and chasing championships again would put a serious second wind into the game and hopefully give it a much-needed boost in interest and participation. This is the Woods windfall many believe he delivered to the game in his prime and having a little of that back would be refreshing on several levels. A competitive mix of young lions and steely veterans would be also be a great one for the Tour and its fans.

Now that the Chicago Cubs have finally won the World Series again, you could say another major win for Woods is the biggest story left on-deck in sports. Can he deliver? The safe bet: the world will be watching if he does.

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

Tanay

PGA Magazine: The FIO Pro-Am Completes A Dream Month For Seattle Golfer

Tanay

Photo by David Mulvaney of www.pacificphotodesign.com

You can find this story in print here

Billy Tanay once smashed a drive over 500 yards in a long drive competition. That’s the shot the now 59-year-old sees in his dreams.

In terms of his golf life, however, that shot is like another lifetime ago for the Seattle resident as age and injury had eroded his skills and limited his play.

Tanay didn’t recapture that titanic distance during a dream playing opportunity in January, but he perhaps got the next best thing: Three days of playing and practicing amongst the pros.

Tanay won an online contest sponsored by Hyundai to participate in the pro-ams of the first three PGA tournaments of 2016. After being the only one chosen from around 17,000 entrants, he slogged through the rain in Kapalua alongside J.B. Holmes, strolled in the Palm Springs sun next to Stewart Cink and hiked the lush fairways of ocean-side Torrey Pines paired with Billy Horschel.

Tanay didn’t card a birdie over three rounds, but you’d never know it from the wide smile he flashed walking off the final green on Torrey’s North Course in January.

“It was a great day,” he said. “Being around these guys in an environment like this, it’s hard not to have a great day.”

Tanay’s Bunyan-esque stature towered over his group, including Horschel, but he admitted feeling humbled by the game at which he used to excel. He played sparingly a year ago after having reconstructive shoulder surgery. He then made about “six to eight” trips to the driving range after getting the call about the contest in early Dec.

In his prime, Tanay had a drive measured at 486 yards in a long-drive competition. That’s his recorded record. The aforementioned 500-yard drive comes with a bit of lore.

“It was off the end of the grid. They couldn’t find it. But it was estimated north of 500,” he said, adding, “Unfortunately, I’m at least 100 yards short of what I used to be.”

A reminder from J.B. Holmes to take the club away “low and slow” helped but Tanay says he never really regained his old swing during his three-week “whirlwind golf career” in January, though he did have a promising range session at Torrey.

“But I lost it on the first tee,” he said. “It’s frustrating to get this opportunity and not play well, but I’ve just lost touch with my swing after being away this long.”

The highlights, instead, belonged to Tanay’s professional playing partners, most notably J.B. Holmes on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

“J.B. Holmes played so well in Maui even though it poured rain and we had 30 mph wind for the first nine holes. It just didn’t affect him at all – and it killed everybody else.

“He had a 20-foot putt and got his hat blown off. He still drained it.”

Tanay said moments like that were the real lessons of his tour.

“Just watching them play you can learn so much. It’s fun. It really is.”

Tanay’s wife Debbie traveled with him to each stop and called it a thrill to see her husband have the experience.

“But I think I’ve been more nervous than he has,” she said. “He just gets up there and plays.”

Tanay said his competitive long-drive days got him accustomed to crowds. He wasn’t fazed by the galleries, nor hitting alongside the pros.

“All three were fantastic to play with. And the caddies and everybody were just great.”

Horschel gave Tanay a signed caddie bib after the Torrey round. Tanay said he’ll also have a few autographed group photos arriving in the mail from his tour.

“Those are fun,” he said. “They’ll take up a nice wall somewhere.”

But Tanay said the best takeaway was a re-discovered love of the game.

“This made me realize how much I miss getting out there and playing like I used to. I will get out and play a lot more from this point. It put me back in touch with the game,” he said.

Michael Stewart of Hyundai, who played with Tanay at Torrey, said that’s the outcome Hyundai wanted for Tanay and what it hopes to instill in more players.

“Golf has been a great sport for Hyundai. All of golf is a good audience for us and we want to get more people interested in playing,” Stewart said.

Tanay will have a new set of TaylorMade RSI irons in hand while he ramp his rounds in 2016.

“I’m glad I jumped at the chance to do this,” he said.

north pano

Southland: North Course Renovation Finally On Tap For Torrey

north pano

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.

north3green

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.”

north no. 1

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.”

No. 5

Maderas: Maderas’ 2016 Farmers Insurance Open Preview W/Chris Mayson Pick and Predictions

No. 5

When the PGA Tour arrived at Torrey Pines a year ago, it was a Tour in transition. A year later, there’s raging debate about whether golf is being led by a Big Three or a full-fledged foursome.

Two of the players in golf’s most prestige pack – Rickie Fowler and Jason Day – are in the Farmers Insurance Open Field this week. Fowler is fresh off a win in Abu Dhabi over major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIroy. Day is the defending champion at Torrey, but reportedly battling the flu.

This is set to be Day’s 2016 Tour debut and first chance to make a statement against his peers. He ended the 2015 major season by capturing the title at the PGA Championship by shooting 25-under to set a major championship scoring record. He briefly thereafter vaulted to No. 1 in the world.

Day’s win a year ago at Torrey started to set the Tour on a new course during a week that began with Tiger Woods withdrawing with a back injury. This week Day and Fowler have a chance to contribute to golf’s great debate. Will they deliver? We’ll start finding out on Thurs.

http://www.maderasgolf.com/The-Maderas-2016-Farmers-Insura.blog

Torrey sun

GC

Golf Channel’s Top 5 In San Diego

GC

In case you’re looking for a round during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey … a pretty strong list, but we’re obviously fairly partial to No. 2.

But there’s certainly fodder for debate here amongst San Diego golfers. Let the debate begin …

Torrey

torrey art

Maderas

Maderas__09B_7-15-Edit-smart-copy-Edit

The Grand

grand No. 1

Aviara

Aviara Golf Club

Aviara Golf Club

Coronado

Coronado

Photo: www.golfcoronado.com

Day

FIO 2016: Best of Jason Day at Media Day

Day

Jason Day showed on Monday he’s a champion in the interview room as well as on the golf course. The defending Farmers Insurance Open champion, and 2015 PGA Championship winner, gave a great performance for the assembled local media in advance of next week’s FIO at Torrey Pines.

Day was alternately insightful, funny and enlightening during a 20-minute group Q & A. Here’s a bit of the best from a guy who seems incredibly easy to root for:

On Jordan Spieth:

“I never thought there’d be a player you can compare to Tiger Woods, but slowly people are doing that.”

spieth

On his wife being bowled over by LeBron James at a Cleveland Cavaliers game:

“Does anyone think they could’ve stopped LeBron?”

On the related risk of being a spectator in golf:

“People take a risk. Unfortunately I’ve hit lots of people.”

The North Course vs. the South at Torrey:

“The North is where you go to make up what you lost on the South.”

torrey art

On personally predicting his first major:

“I honestly thought it was going to come at the British Open – and I even told my agent that.”

On the key to winning a tournament:

“The biggest part of winning is wanting it more than anyone else in the field.”

On the one change he would make to golf in the Olympics in 2016:

When told the media was about to play a six-hour round on the North:

“Oh God.” (laughing)

13 flag

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.”

waves 1

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.

torrey 3

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.”