Tag Archives: Carmel Mountain Ranch

Southland: SoCal Golf and the Drought

Southland June

For the worst-case scenario, look up 1977, a year when drought conditions resulted in courses on the Monterrey Peninsula having water usage cut in half or more, causing many to struggle for survival.

Mike Huck, a California water management and recycled water expert with Irrigation & Turfgrass Services in San Juan Capistrano, remembers photos of Pebble Beach from that period.

“It looked like this carpet,” Huck said, pointing to the brownish-yellow material beneath his feet at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines. “Except for the greens and tees.”

Follow the link to the rest of my cover story in the June issue.



JC Golf: Desert-Style Golf Comes to Carmel Mountain Ranch


At the moment, the course transformation taking place at Carmel Mountain Ranch is more about what isn’t there than what is.

What isn’t there: 50 acres of turf and 600 mature trees.

The scars of that two-month removal process remain, but they are quickly being replaced by mounds of redwood bark, piles of decomposed granite and a new vision for Carmel Mountain Ranch.

Course officials made a dramatic decision that last fall to close the course and embark on a renovation that would help the course achieve new goals of maintenance and sustainability during the prevailing drought conditions in Southern California.

To be more environmentally friendly and water-wise, the 50 acres of turf was removed, largely from tee box areas, landing areas and rough areas surrounding the existing fairways. When you walk onto a tee box at Carmel Mountain Ranch now, you’ll see the bordering landscape that is comprised of shaved redwood bark surrounding plantings of drought-resistance plants.

The area surrounding the cut-back fairway areas are now comprised of gray decomposed granite and will ultimately play like waste bunkers.

New Carmel Mountain Ranch Head Professional Brandon Delgado says the turf-removal process has made him look at golf courses differently.

“You don’t realize how much turf goes unused until it isn’t there,” Delgado says.

And thus the future savings for course and the community. Delgado says that when the plants have matured, the course will converse 400 millions of gallons of water annually, enough to supply 400 households.

Barring weather delays, Delgado expects the course work to be complete and the course rounding into shape by the end of March. Until then, two crews from a team of nearly 50 will be working two shifts daily to complete the renovation process.

In January, players are invited to play the course at a reduced rate ($39 for JC players; $49 for non-JC) and receive a $25 playback pass good through the end of April.

While the course may temporarily suffer a bit in aesthetics, the fairways and especially the greens are in as good a playing condition as any course in the area, Delgado says.

“After two months of no play and a shot of rain, our greens couldn’t be better,” he says.

After the turf removal, the first stage of the renovation to be completed was a flattening of all the tee boxes and a re-positioning of some of them, largely to more advantageous angles from the forward tees.

Golfers who’ve played the course in the past will mostly likely notice an immediate difference on their scorecards.

“Low-handicappers are probably going to see it get a few strokes tougher,” he says, “but high-handicappers should have their scores go down.”

The new tee boxes are also wider and in many cases will allow for a great variety of teeing options, such as on the signature 11th, a par 3 over water.


Left: No. 11 before. Right: No. 11 after.

As someone who’s played the course from the blue tees in the past, I could feel my tee shots getting tighter just walking the course. In particular, I recalled a round that started with a tee shot pulled left on the opening hole, a downhill par 4. My ball settled into the rough, but thankfully tree-free, and I was able to recover to six feet for an opening birdie.

That shot next time will likely be from decomposed granite and possibly a little more challenging to replicate.

The formerly generous 16th fairway renovations also caught my eye. Formerly a straightaway par-4 with a creek carry, the fairway has been tightened significantly, not only near the initial landing area but all the way to the green.

In the past, the course has been a mix of tight tee shots and less restrictive ones, but golfers can expect more uniform play from the new design and an increased premium on fairways.

Delgado says the finished product will be unique amongst San Diego courses and ensure Carmel Mountain Ranch’s sustainability for many years to come.

“We’re going to have a one-of-a-kind golf experience in San Diego and hopefully one of the best golf products out there.”


JC Golf: Degaldo Named Head Pro at Carmel Mountain Ranch



Brandon Delgado, previously the First Assistant Professional at Encinitas Ranch, has been named the Head Golf Professional at Carmel Mountain Ranch.

Delgado, who’s originally from San Jose, takes over in the midst of a continuing turf-reduction transformation at Carmel Mountain Ranch. After being closed for two months while 50 acres of turf was removed, the course re-opened around Christmas and is continuing its efforts to evolve into San Diego’s first desert-style golf experience.

Delgado says it’s an exciting time to be working with the course while it’s re-defining itself.

“It’s always been a goal to achieve a head professional position,” he says, “and this is an incredible experience to learn. It’s almost like opening a new golf course.”

Delgado has actually done that twice in his career. He was on the staff at Arrowood Golf Course in Oceanside when it opened in 2006 and was managed by JC Golf.

After working at the Lawrence Welk Resort as the First Assistant Golf Professional, Delgado took a position at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach, where he spent almost seven years. During two of those years, Pelican was closed while renovating its fairways.

Delgado arrived at Pelican Hill at the end of a two-year golf course renovation. “The experience I gained being a part of the opening teams at Arrowood Golf Course and Pelican Hill has benefited me greatly here at Carmel Mountain Ranch,” Delgado says.

Thus Delgado has experience with courses in a transformation phase and embraces the experience. This one is unique, however, in that he feels it’s going to be a trend-setter.

The turf reduction is being done largely for environmental and maintenance reasons in response to the current drought in California. Among other benefits, the course will ultimately conserve more than 40 million gallons of water a year, enough to annually supply 400 households.

The renovation makes Carmel Mountain Ranch more environmentally responsible and a better community partner, Delgado says.

“You’re going to see a lot more of this, especially in San Diego,” he says. “It’s the way the industry is headed, and I hope we lead the way and a lot of courses follow us after they see the benefits of what we’re doing.

“We’re going to have a one-of-a-kind golf experience in San Diego and hopefully one of the best golf products out there.”

To book a tee time at Carmel Mountain Ranch and take advantage of its January renovation specials, including a $25 playback voucher, go to www.jcgolf.com.

Any questions about the renovation can be directed to Delgado at 858.487.9224, ext. 233 or bdelgado@jcresorts.com.

JC Golf: Carmel Mountain Ranch Closed, Being Transformed By Turf Reduction


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Update: Carmel Mountain Ranch will re-open Dec. 20. Go to www.jcgolf.com to book your tee time.

Brown is the new green in golf. You started hearing that adage at the U.S. Open, played on the native areas and sandy soils of the renovated Pinehurst No. 2.

Largely in response to the state’s severe drought, that turf reduction movement is now coming to California, and JC Golf’s Carmel Mountain Ranch is to be amongst the state’s first courses to be transformed by the process and reduce its footprint.

Roughly 50 acres of turf have been targeted for removal at Carmel Mountain Ranch, which will be closed until nearly the end of December during its $4.4 million renovation.

When the course re-opens, Carmel Mountain Ranch General Manager Kevin Hwang, says it will be lower-maintenance and therefore help conserve community water resources.

“We’re looking at saving nearly 30 million gallons a year by removing turf and replacing it with native plant material and ground cover,” he says. “After three or four years, that number will go up to 40 million gallons because the plants will be established and no longer need water except in cases of extreme drought.

“The water we’re saving goes back to the people and the community so they can use the water and it can stay in the reservoirs.”

Hwang used a comparison to put into perspective how aggressive a 50-acre removal is.

“The average golf course in Arizona is 60 or 70 acres total,” he says.

Hwang says every hole on the course was touched by the process, with much of the reduction coming between the tee boxes and the fairway.

“You’re going to see native material in the first 40 to 50 yards leading up to every fairway, and that’s a theme you’ll see on every hole,” he says.

Tee boxes are also being moved around as a part of the renovation process, which Hwang says is going to impact levels of players differently.

“The course will be equally challenging, if not more challenging, from the back tees,” he says. “As you move to the forward tees, the course should become more playable once we’re done with the renovations.”

Higher handicap players in particular will benefit for more generous landing areas, Hwang says.

In 2015, Hwang says golfers can anticipate an enhanced playing experience and a greater value for their rounds at Carmel Mountain Ranch.

“We want to establish a new level of service and make the experience for golfers that much better,” he says. “Also what we’re doing is very community-centric and we’re hoping to have more involvement with the community.”

JC Golf: Carmel Mountain Ranch Joins the JC Golf Family


The signature par-3 11th

          JC Golf is proud to announce the latest addition to its golf family: Carmel Mountain Ranch.

         Situated just 25 minutes from downtown San Diego, Carmel Mountain Ranch has been serving golfers from all over San Diego County and beyond since 1984. In the past, it has even hosted U.S. Open qualifying as well as a variety of other tournaments and events.

At 6,599 yards (from the back tees), Carmel Mountain is a mid-length course that requires a good deal of strategy but also has a fair amount of holes that allow big hitters to let it fly.

Prior reviews of the course have called it “a true shot-maker’s course,” and it is that, especially on some of its short par-4s, which take a few rounds to learn.

Carmel Mountain General Manager Kevin Hwang says the course has a reputation for being rough for first-timers.

“The course has a reputation for being tough, but we’re in the process of trying to ease that burden for people,” Hwang says.

That’s mostly by managing speeds on the course’s undulating greens. Hwang says the course’s tiered greens can yield a bevy of three-putts if not managed properly.

“The greens are a little tricky, which is why don’t let them run too fast,” he says.

The course has many unique holes, but the signature is the beautifully landscaped par-3 11th, which plays to 158 yards and involves a carry over a pond and waterfall. The pin was front right the day I played and I just missed having my tee shot pull back to the hole on the undulating green.

“It’s actually our shortest par-3. It’s a lot fun to play,” Hwang says.

The following is a look at few more things you can look forward to during future rounds at Carmel Mountain Ranch.

1. Great Driving Holes – If you’re striping it off the tee to start, you can really take advantage of the first two holes, both of which are downhill par-4s. You’re set up for a similarly strong start on the back with the downhill par-5 10th and then there’s another dramatic downhill on the par-4 14th.

The par-5 10th is most definitely reachable in two with a solid drive, and the wide fairway offers multiple angles of attack as long as you avoid the bunkers on the right. The large, receptive green makes a great opportunity to kick off your back nine with a birdie. This used to be the starting hole, by the way, until the nines were reversed. So if you haven’t played the course for a while, be aware of that.

2. Unique Views – Having beautiful mountain vistas as a backdrop is common in this part of Southern California, but what is a bit uncommon is how much the course’s design incorporates its surroundings.

For instance, on the drive to the par-4 14th, you’re greeted by a field of huge boulders and actually drive between two of them to reach the tee box. It’s stunning every time you experience it, but particularly the first time.


You’ll find similarly sized stones in fairways and sand traps throughout the course.

Also unique to the area are the hawks and falcons you’ll see soaring and circling above, riding the breeze and giving you a glimpse of nature’s wonders at work.


The par-4 7th

3. Unique Holes – Because the course was designed to maximize course exposure for the homes, many holes are set off in their own amphitheater.

The product of that design is an uncommonly unique layout.

“We’re definitely not parallel fairways,” Hwang says. “And you don’t see two holes that look the same.”

Two of the most talked about, and unique, holes on the course are two short and highly strategic par-4s.

The first is No. 7, which plays to 311 yards from an elevated tee. The number probably already has many of you ready to pull driver, but hold that thought.

There’s a huge boulder surrounded by a sand trap lurking about 280 yards out. If you don’t make the carry, your ball could hit the boulder and bound OB or leave you in some other tricky predicament.

An iron or rescue to a comfortable second-shot yard is the preferred play, but doesn’t dissuade many from going for the green.

Driver isn’t an option, however, on the 325-yard par-4 17th. Front by a sizable pond, this short par-4 is a true two-shot hole.

Carrying the water on the second shot has been many players’ undoing, Hwang says.

“There’s no running it up there. You’ve got to hit a shot.”

And to a somewhat smallish green. I played the hole 7-iron, 6-iron, which was more than I wanted on my second shot, but I still managed the land the ball on the fringe and make a two-putt par.

It may take you a few rounds to learn the best way for you to club No. 17, but you’ll find par to be a plenty good score there.

4. Practice bunker/short game area – As someone whose greenside sand game tends to be inconsistent, I find it a relief any time there’s a practice bunker available. Carmel Mountain Ranch has one is its sizable short-game area.

I practiced sands shots for about 15 minutes and it saved me a few strokes during my round. The bunker is a bit benign in that it doesn’t have steep walls, but it’s enough to get in some solid practice.

There’s a separate green designated for chipping as well.

All the pros say the fastest way to shave strokes is around the green. For your round, arrive early and make use of this valuable practice resource.

The course used to have a driving range, but a virtual range has replaced it.

5. The Clubhouse – As you wind your wind up Carmel Ridge Road, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a stately Colonial-style clubhouse.

The building gives a country-club presence to the course.

“We’ve got great curb appeal,” Hwang says.

Besides the pro shop, there’s a bar and grill/lounge area and an upstairs banquet facility with a patio.

Feel free to stick around after your round and relax with a beverage and join us in a symbolic toast to the newest member of the JC Golf family.

Carmel Mountain Ranch officially becomes a part of JC Golf on April 1, thus benefits for JC Players card members begin on that date. To book a tee time, please call 858.487.9224, ext. 1.