Tag Archives: California

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.”

Arroyo Adjusted

19th Hole Media: Five Reasons Why Spring Of 2017 Is Prime Time For Your Golf Course’s Social Media

Arroyo Adjusted

The start to the 2017 golf season in California has been – pardon the pun – a water hazard.

A deluge unlike any seen in decades has washed away the drought but also plenty of tee times along with it. The windfall of a wet winter, however, will be paid forward in the spring when courses can boast impeccable course conditions and can look forward to significant savings on water costs.

Are you ready to capitalize and make a quick recovery from your lost rounds? Then look toward your social media.
Here are five reasons why spring of 2017 is prime time to leverage your social media and reap the benefits.

Green Equals Green –
A tour of courses in February showed course conditions the likes of which haven’t been seen in years in California due to the drought. It’s a perfect time to be updating your course photos and videos and let them work for you on social media.

Don’t tell golfers you have great course conditions – show them! Between Facebook, Instagram and your web site, you’ve got the tools to impress golfers and lure them to your course. You might even want to consider a drone shoot. Drone video footage is gold and plays very nicely with the changes to Facebook’s algorithm to help golfers discover your course.

If you rarely or infrequently post photos of your course, you’ll want to up your game this spring and help golfers visualize playing at your course under the best of conditions.

No. 13 collage

Tourism Traffic – We’re not out of the winter tourism window, especially when an otherwise mild winter is just starting to play the back nine in most of the country. And usually a winter reprieve means a prolonged ending that drags into spring.

If that pattern repeats, there’s still a chance for you to coax golfers to the coast … but they have to be able to find you! Your web site will do some of that work for you, but social media is the BEST way to reach to the golf world and show them what you have to offer.

Much of the rest of country’s courses don’t become truly playable until around May, thus giving you March and April to still re-capture some of that lost tourism traffic from the winter.

If you get active on social there’s still time to catch the eye of that buddy’s trip or other groups that might be looking to escape the winter doldrums for a few rounds under the California sun. There’s still time, partly because …

The Time’s A Changin’ – The time change kicks in on March 12, giving courses back those lost precious hours. If you want sure to keep your course stays busy til sundown, social is your ticket, especially if you plan to lean on discounted rounds, specials, etc. You’ll want to be aggressively communicating those to your golf audience, and social is the ideal way to do it.

Pent-up demand – After a few months of California cabin fever, your golfers are itching to get back to golf as usual, which means making up for lost rounds. You want to make sure that’s happening at your course.

Again, put your course out there to coax them – and it’s also a perfect time to dangle membership specials, lessons offers, etc. to help them get back in the swing of things. Help your golfers get back in the game by convincing them your course is the place to do it – and then engage them with online interactions that make it more likely to happen.

Every time you create a post, you create an opportunity for a conversation and an increased awareness of your course and the potential to book a tee time. But you’ve got be willing to invest the time and resources. That’s where 19th Hole Media is here to help. We specialize in engaging golfers and driving interest in your course.

If you don’t have time for your social media, guess what? We do! Because that’s all we do! Let us do it for you!


The Masters – The first major will be here before you know it, and in a way it already is. The TV commercial blitz has been going for some time now, stirring the hibernating hearts of golfers who live for April and Augusta, which ushers in the new golf season for much of the country.

Interest, enthusiasm and exposure for golf piques up to and during The Masters. You can play off that sentiment by talking about the Tour on your social channels, promoting The Masters countdown and maybe even by planning a Masters contest or promotion for your course.

Social media is the perfect platform for all of it. If your course is behind on its social media, it’s a prime time to catch up – and there’s still time, but you have to start now! Followers and engagement don’t happen overnight, but they can happen more quickly when you’re putting out the right messages and images.

I’ll close by saying, Congratulations! Your course has likely never looked better! Now you need to make sure golfers know about it. 19th Hole Media is here to help. Are you ready for a conversation and free consultation?

Contact me at corey.ross@yahoo.com to set an appointment and put your course on a path to spring social media success.

waterfall kiss

19th Hole Media: Seven Great Reasons To Get Married At Riverwalk Golf Club

waterfall kiss

Have you ever dreamed of getting married on a golf course? Riverwalk Golf Club can make that dream a reality.

Located in the heart of central San Diego, we offer a secluded venue that’s an oasis for golfers as well as couples on their special day. We’re just minutes from the airport, interstate and several hotels, but the hustle and bustle of a big city seems far away when you’re at Riverwalk. Our property is as romantic and unique as it is convenient and accommodating.

The following is a list of seven great reasons to hold your wedding at Riverwalk.

You can read the remainder of this post here:

Yellow & White Ceremony


Sunset Season

Image         While I lament the loss of sunlight that comes with daylight saving time, especially as it pertains to the shortening of golf rounds, last year I quickly learned the silver lining of the winter solstice in California: the sunsets.

If you’ve lived here for any length of time during this time of year, like I have now, you know there’s something different about sunsets in the late fall. Because of the angle of the sun, atmospheric conditions, etc., the setting sun takes on a new persona, a bit more mysterious and even artistic than the normal classically clean and brilliant California sunset we see most of the year.

We’ve already witnessed some of these sunsets in just the first week. One evening it was the setting sun playing peekaboo amongst the clouds, teasing you with glimpses and otherwise casting a brilliant backlight to the broken cloud layer as it made its slow decent.

Another night the sun set in a brilliant orange ball that projected an array of hues a bit beyond the summer spectrum.

Yet another night, it gave what has become one of my favorite performances: when it drops from a dense cloud layer into that thin atmospheric window before the marine layer and emerges as a hazy red dot for just a few wonderful minutes. These are the sunsets I learned never to give up on last year.

And that’s the thing about late fall in the western sky: you just never know. It’s this time of year when California sunsets become like Fourth of July fireworks. You get an occasional dud, but you’re also often surprised by something brilliant. You learn to always cast a glance west at dusk, just in case.

The photo at top was taken on one such night. It came after a day when the marine layer lingered all day and nothing suggested a brilliant sunset. Then this. The sun never made a full appearance, but it still managed to announce its presence by casting an incredible kaleidoscope of color and light as it subtly slipped away.

Two things about that photo. One, it was taken from an upstairs window, which is a tremendous advantage for enjoying sunsets in general. Having such a view is like having ever-changing contemporary art of your wall. Completely priceless, eternally valuable and inspiring beyond words.

Two, if you’ve tried to capture sunsets on your cell phone, as we all have, you know the live image is often many times more beautiful, wonderful and complex than the technology can record. I sometimes send those pics to landlocked friends with the lament, “wish you could’ve been there,” conveying this.

When I was on my California scouting trip for my new life in spring of 2013, I frequented art galleries and discovered the vast and diverse world of California sunset/ocean art. I often inquired about what went into capturing those brilliant images and discovered, as is often the case in great photography, that it’s all about lighting and timing, and largely that provided by this time of year.

After a year or so of capturing sunsets, it was by looking back at those photos that I truly began to appreciate the seasonal nuances. There’s a stark difference between last fall and, say, my first California summer and in particular my first sunset, which I’ll never forget.

I had arrived in LA around noon after seven days on the road. After a trip to the driving range – please tell me you saw that coming – my LA friend and I grabbed a bite on the Santa Monica pier and lingered to enjoy the day. I had been visiting him for four years had observed some great sunsets, enough to realize and appreciate what I was witnessing.

As the sunset started to position itself over the pier, it began to descend through a thin cloud lower, a white wanderer in an otherwise clear sky. In anticipation of what was about to happen, there was a camera-carrying rush to the beach. And then it happened.

Like an eclipse, the sun seemed to split in two as it passed through the clouds. At its most brilliant, it was hard to argue there weren’t two suns. This mesmerizing effect lasted for maybe 10 minutes before the full sun briefly reappeared to again be swallowed whole by the ocean.

I recall sunset enthusiasts approaching each other with gleeful inquiries of “Did you get it?!” and comparing images to appreciate the experience all over again and maybe find an image that shows them something they may have missed. I’ve got a dozen images of that sunset, each one wonderfully nuanced from the one taken seconds before.

Yep, I was hooked on California sunsets right there. Still am. Always will be. So tonight I’ll again look to my left at dusk and, camera ready, discover and appreciate what fantastic new way the autumnal California sky has crafted to say goodnight.

Discovering the Wild Side of Torrey Pines


When I moved out to California last year, I was looking forward to taking up hiking. I’d done it on previous vacations and found it an exhilarating way to explore the boundless beauty of our state in its many forms.

I stuck to my plan for the first two weeks of my move, hiking Roy Rogers State Park and The Pallisades in LA, but then I got down coast and something (OK, tee times) distracted me from my goal.

I’m not big on resolutions, but I’ve made hiking more one of them for 2014. Even though I live here now, I’ve tried to maintain a vacation’s curiosity about California, and hiking is a one of the healthiest and most cost-effective ways outlets for that.

To renew my resolve and seek some inspiration and motivation, I recently undertook the first hike that was recommended to me when I moved out – the state park at Torrey Pines.

I’ve walked both of Torrey’s golf courses and each time I looked at the ocean views and the vistas and wondered how much the landscape had in common with the state park. It turns out, not surprisingly, quite a bit, although the state park has many unique and wonderful surprises of its own.

I ventured out on a day in September when the marine layer lingered long into the afternoon, which kept the temperature ideal for a hike. I drove the PCH down to the park entrance just north of La Jolla and the golf course, paid my $15, grabbed a map and went exploring with water bottle in hand.

I discovered that the park consists of 2,000 acres that is best navigated by six trails of varying difficulty, distance and destinations. For instance, the Beach Trail takes you to the beach, while High Point Trail leads you to a viewing area with a panoramic view of the ocean and the reserve itself.

I didn’t walk all six trails so if you’re looking for a definitive trail guide, you’re better off going to the state’s online trail guide at www.torreypine.org. I wanted to keep my hike to two hours and leave some of the park to explore later.

The first trail you encounter is the Guy Fleming Trail, which is supposedly the easiest of the hikes and consists of a 2/3-mile loop through the forest and along ocean bluffs. Considering it’s the most easily accessible trail, I left that one for another day when I might not have as much time to explore available to me.

I chose the Beach Trail, although I experienced other trails on the way there and the way back, including a portion of the hike where I wasn’t totally sure where I was. The trails are marked quite well on the way down and not quite as well on the way back, although the fault was probably entirely mine. If you know me at all, you know I could get lost in my driveway without a GPS. I had a map, but a map only helps if you can absolutely ascertain where you are.

Anyway, in a roundabout way, I guess what I’m saying is that if it’s your first time, I’d recommended taking a hiking partner, although you can’t certainly do it on your own, even if you’re directionally challenged like me. I encountered several experienced fellow hikers who were only too happy to point me in the right direction.

Now back to our regularly scheduled hike …

One of the first things you encounter on your hike is a display explaining how the park came to be. The story I’ve inserted below tells the story, so I won’t bother repeating it, but it’s obviously quite a vision she had and a contribution that Ellen Browning Scripps made to have this land set aside and protected from development to ensure that future generations can enjoy this scenic and unique portion of the California coast line.


         After learning the story of the park, I set out to experience it, and after about 45 minutes of a slow, winding decent down sandy trails and through desert scape, I arrived at my desired destination – the beach, or at least the area overlooking it.

You actually experience the beach from the several viewpoints, and each of them gives you a different appreciation for this area is and how it came to be. And this is the major difference from the golf course, where you occasionally overlook the ocean, the beach and La Jolla, but you don’t come nearly this close. At the reserve, you can actually walk on the beach.

The first close-up view of the beach I got was from maybe a few hundred feet above. You can see all along the coastline and look down on the giant black rock formation that seems a destination unto itself for many hikers.

While taking in the view, a fellow hiker informed me that this area represents the best opportunity to view dolphins in the park, he said, and, for that matter, along the entire coastline. Apparently there’s a kelp bed that hosts a huge fish population, which draws the dolphins to feed.

Unfortunately, on the day of my hike we didn’t see dolphins, but that didn’t stop me from looking for a good half hour or so. When they are there, this has to be one of the best ways to experience them. I can’t imagine too many better vantage points.

From that perch, the trail continues to spiral down to the beach, and you eventually pass a part of the trail where you have to traverse a small sand dune. This is actually new beach being created, a slow and steady erosion process that the park’s helpful signs explain.

I’ll let my photos speak for my experience here, but I’ll just say I can only imagine how awesome this area is around dusk or sunset, although you wouldn’t want to be there, given that you’d be hiking back for a good 45 minutes in the dark.


Image         If you’ve walked the golf course, the bluffs, vistas and topography in general will be familiar to you, but it’s presented in a less manicured and entirely native way that gives you a new appreciation of the area. I, for one, am glad I traded my golf spikes for tennis shoes to experience it and can’t wait to go back. I’m not sure how many other golfers do the same, but I absolutely recommend it.

It’s a little more arduous than, say, looping the North Course, but it’s a rewarding walk all of its own and one I look forward to taking again very soon.

Golf Day Trip: San Clemente Muni


While playing Monarch Beach last spring, I received a course recommendation from two Orange County playing partners that stuck with me: the municipal course at San Clemente.

I had been in California for eight months and that one was new to me, even though I’d played in the San Clemente area before.

“Ocean views, great value and a course that will surprise you,” they said. Intrigued, I filed it away for future exploration.

Well, on Monday, I realized my afternoon was open and decided it was a good day for a break from my regular course rotation and recalled San Clemente muni.

What I discovered was a course that fit what I was told to a T and certainly exceeded my expectations. I’ll definitely be back and want to relay to you a little of what makes this course special.

For this feature, I’ll suspend the course review format and just give you an overview, some course history and a few hole highlights.

The course begins in a very familiar muni-style – wide, straight, flat – for the first five holes, but then gradually morphs into a different course and ultimately a drastically different, and unexpected, experience on the back.

I was fortunate to walk on with two playing partners who were very familiar with the course and its history, which I knew very little prior of to Monday.

Here’s a little of the history, courtesy of the course’s web site:

The San Clemente Golf Club has long been a favorite of Southern California golfers. Built by renowned Golf Course Architect William “Billy” Bell on land donated by city founder Ole Hanson, the course consisted of nine holes on opening day in 1930, with what is now the back nine being added in 1955.

         Municipally owned and operated since its inception, the San Clemente Golf Club is aptly known as the “Pride of the Pacific.”

The golf course boasts sweeping ocean views, interesting elevation changes, a challenging-yet-fun layout reminiscent of the golden age of golf, and best of all, reasonable green fees.

         The moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean ensures frost-free winters and cool summer breezes. Popular from its very beginning, San Clemente now hosts roughly 95,000 rounds per year, making the “muni” one of the most popular courses anywhere.            

Those familiar with California golf architecture will recognize William Bell, the designer of many California public courses, including, most notably, Torrey Pines.

Like I said, the first five holes are fairly straightforward, but then you get to six, which is a dogleg right, uphill par-4. It’s the first time you really have to work the ball and, well, being in the trees on the left, I had my work cut for me.  This hole finishes next to the clubhouse and then you cross the road and discover three holes that foreshadow the experience you get on the back.

There’s an uphill par-5 going out that plays longer than the 485 on the card, and then you’re pointed back toward the coast and get your first true glimpse of the ocean. It provides the backdrop for a whole lot of golf hole – a 419-yard par-4 into an ocean breeze and buffeted by bunkers. Given what you’ve played up until now, it’s a bit jarring to be faced with such a stiff test, but it serves notice that the course plans to challenge you from here on out.

The front nine closes with a terrific little 165-yard (from the blues) par-3 with an undulating green, different than what you’ve mostly played up to know and more like what you’ll find on the back. I underestimated the wind here and flew the green, leaving me a delicate pitch back that stopped well below the hole. (Note: The greens became deceivingly quick on the second nine. Our group didn’t drop many putts.)

Previewing the back, one of my playing partners told me, “You’ve got some very special golf holes coming up.” And after three holes that were more reminiscent of the start of the course, he was right.

Here’s a hole-by-hole of 13 to the finish (yardages from the blue tees):

No. 13, 205-yard par-3: You’ve got the ocean breeze at your back as you stand looking at a fairway that’s steeply sloped on the left side and will kick your ball right. I hit what felt like a flushed 5-iron and came up short. Apparently the hole plays a bit long, too.

         No. 14, 304-yard par-4: Yes, you read that right – 304, seemingly a baby par-4, or is it? Hardly. The whole plays dead uphill through a somewhat narrow fairway to a green surrounded by bunkers. Play for placement here. Iron or hybrid off the tee and then get ready for an approach to a green that slopes away from you. Not all what you’d expect from just looking at the scorecard and the beginning of a golf roller-coaster ride to the finish.


No. 15, 196-yard par-3: An elevated par-3, and the course’s signature hole. And what a view. Again, ocean breeze at your back and gorgeous green and palm trees below. I decided not to club down here and didn’t regret it. I needed every yard and found a little bail-out area right for an up-and-down par. Part of the reward for reaching the green here is that you get your first fully panoramic view of the ocean. And it’s stunning.

No. 16, 387-yard par-4: The trickiest tee shot on the back as it’s a dog-leg left with a huge cluster of trees blocking the middle of the fairway. You can glimpse the green to the left. You choices: Carry a chasm 250 yards and try to get close, or hit it out right and play safe but have a long approach.

What you don’t see from the tee is the drastic drop off in the middle of the fairway. You need to layup to about 150 yards to avoid having a downhill lie to an elevated green. A lot going on here. Choose wisely.

No. 17, 358-yard par-4: The back closes with parallel par-4s. As is often my fate with parallel holes, I found the opposite fairway and ended up chopping out of thick grass. Thus, I recommend hitting the fairway here and taking the easy road on this uphill hole.


     No. 18, 408-yard par-4: You close your round with the ocean on your right and the clubhouse in the distance, a fantastic finishing panorama. It’s a great finishing hole that slopes downhill at around 150 yards to reward big hitters. Provides a great chance for a finishing birdie if you sink that last slick putt.

Since we teed off around 2, when walked off, the sun was setting behind San Clemente Island, which you can get a glimpse of from the practice putting green. It was the last beautiful surprise in a round full of them. I truly enjoyed my round here and will surely be back.