Tag Archives: La Costa Resort and Spa

Southland: La Costa Celebrates 50 Years

Valley Promenade cropped

Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of my piece in the June issue of Southland Golf.

Tiger Woods won here. Gary Adams tested some of the first TaylorMade clubs here – and the metalwood made its PGA Tour debut here. Richard Nixon and Jackie Kennedy stayed here.

Yes, Omni La Costa Resort and Spa has packed a lot into its first 50 years. As it celebrates its milestone anniversary this year, the challenge now is to balance a prestigious past with a progressive future.

The first steps toward that future were actually taken 10 years ago when La Costa embarked on a $50 million renovation that included a new spa, two new restaurants and layout tweaks to its two championship golf courses.

The renovation was completed two years ago when the Legends (South) Course re-opened. New Director of Golf Pat Miller arrived shortly after and discovered a resort with a balance of new sparkle and classic charm.

“A lot of times new owners want to change things, but I give a lot of credit to past owners that so much has stayed the same,” he says. “La Costa has largely stood the test of time. There’s a nice balance now been what has worked in the past and what’s new.”

On the golf side, what’s most recently new is an experience now weighted more toward player/game development and improvement. Among other things, a Cobra Golf Tour truck – nicknamed The Snake Pit – is on the range to provide custom fittings, and La Costa has established The Golf Performance Institute (GPI), a comprehensive training center meant to enhance the golf lifestyle.

“It’s now more of an overall experience here than just a place where you show up and tee off,” Miller says.

And the experience after you tee off has significantly evolved with the re-designs of both 18s and continues to, Miller says. He says the Legends Course is still settling into its new greens but is starting to discover its peak shape.

“There’s been a little of a learning curve from a maintenance stand point,” he says. “The greens started out very hard on the Legends, but we’re working to soften them. That side isn’t as its peak yet, but it’s still very good.”

Legends Course [15]

The Legends plays as the tougher of the two sides, especially when an ocean wind is whipping, making the home stretch, the famed “Longest Mile in Golf,” even longer.

“We do get the ocean breeze, and it can make as much as two-clubs difference,” Miller says. “I played it like that the other day and it’ll make you work to get it to the green in regulation.”

LaCosta_Champions Course Hole 11 Wide cropped

The Champions side tends to be a little more welcoming to first-timers and higher handicaps, Miller says, largely because of its wider fairways.

“It’s easier to hit the fairways, but the greens are more protected with bunkers. You’ve got to make a lot of carries,” he says. “Both courses are challenging in their own right.”

In its heyday, professionals from Snead and Nicklaus to Mickelson and Woods competed at La Costa, most notably in the PGA’s annual match play. That relationship ended in 2006.

Miller says La Costa is seeking to re-raise its competitive profile. The course held the SCGA’s state amateur last year and will hold the Gifford Collegiate, a top-tier men’s event hosted by UCLA, this fall.

The course also hosted an industry cup for staffers at Southern California’s major equipment companies.

“We’re always looking for ways to showcase the facility,” Miller says.

And for ways to correct a common misconception about La Costa: That it’s members only.

The course is actually a resort course that rotates member and guest play between the two courses on alternating days.

“We want outside guests, hotel guests and people traveling for business to see what La Costa has to offer,” he says.

What they’ll find, Miller says, are a couple of still classically great golf courses, a whole host of new amenities and an all-encompassing golf experience.

In its 50th anniversary year, Miller still finds the nostalgia factor for La Costa to be a strong one and would like to do more to capitalize on that.

“I love the history of the game and hearing about the great stories of the past and seeing the old photos,” he says. “This is where a lot of golf history happened, and I want to do more with that. That’s part of what makes golf here meaningful and memorable.”

Coastal Events Center fountain 240dpi 6x4

La Costa By The Numbers:

1963 –
The year two future owners and developers discovered the property while riding equestrian

1965 – The year La Costa opened as a golf, tennis and resort facility

1969 –
The inaugural year of PGA match play at La Costa

2006 –
The final year of PGA match play at La Costa

$50 million – Cost of La Costa’s extensive recent renovation

$1.5 million – The cost to build the original golf course in 1964

La_Costa Champions 18 at 8x6 200dpi

JC Golf: Drive, Chip and Putt at Encinitas Ranch Q & A

 

 

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   A year ago, the PGA instituted its answer to the NFL’s long-standing “Punt, Pass and Kick” youth skills competition with “Drive, Chip & Putt.”

          The competition culminated in the finals being held at Augusta National the week of the Masters, which got the attention of youth golfers everywhere – and their parents.

          Seeing the finalists on television at the Masters, including 11-year-old Lucy Li, who played in last week’s LPGA U.S. Open, has already sparked a rise in this year’s turnout. To handle the anticipated increase, the Southern California PGA has expanded the number of Southern California local qualifiers from 10 to 14, including one for the first time at Encinitas Ranch on July 7th.

          Finalists in the four age divisions for boys and girls at Encinitas Ranch will advance to a sub-regional on Aug. 18th at La Costa Resort and Spa and then on to Torrey Pines on Sept. 13th to compete for the trip to Augusta.

          Matt Gilson, Player Development Manager at the Southern California PGA, took a few minutes recently to answer some questions about this year’s competition.

Q. Southern California had two winners at last year’s inaugural competition at Augusta. What was their experience like?

A. Everybody had a blast. They got to meet (past champion) Adam Scott and (current champion) Bubba Watson. Going to the Master is every golfer’s dream come true. And they got everything covered for them and one parent, including tickets to the practice round on Monday. The whole package was really good.”

Q. How much has seeing all that one TV stirred interest this time around?

Sign-ups were a little slow because we were competing with school, but they’re starting to pick up. We’re definitely seeing an increase in participation. And I’ve seen kids who’ve never picked up a club before now going to the range the week before. There’s definitely motivation there with kids realizing they could end up on TV.

Q. Besides the increased number of qualifiers, how has the competition changed in year two? And what are the age categories?

Last year, we maxed out our qualifiers at 120 participants and this year it’s 200. The age ranges are 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 with both boys and girls division. And those ages are determined by how old they would be on April 5th, 2015, which is the date of the national championship, so the youngest age to enter would be 6 if they would but 7 on or by April 5th, 2015.

Q. How does the competition work?

It’s a nine-shot competition that starts with putting. There’s a 6-foot putt, a 15 foot and a 30 foot. The hole is surrounded by scoring rings that provide points for how close they get. The max is 25 points for a holed putt.

They then have three chip shots, from about 12-15 yards, to a hole with scoring rings out to 10 feet and a make, again, is worth 25 points.

Then they have three swings on a 40-by-300-yard grid on a driving range. Beyond 300 yards is 25 points.

The highest total score wins and the top three in each age division advances from that age group’s qualifier to the next round. The top two in the sub-regional advance to Torrey Pines and the boy and girl winner in each division advances to the championship at Augusta.

Q. How do players or parents register, and how much does it cost?

Registration is free, and players sign up at www.drivechipandputt.com.

Q. What’s the atmosphere like at these events?

It’s competitive, but we still want kids to have fun. That’s the most important thing.

 

Highlight Hole: No. 5 at La Costa (Legends Course)

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La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad recently completed a $50 million renovation that included an extensive makeover of both 18-hole championship golf courses.

I was part of a media contingent on Tuesday that was the first to play the renovated Legends Course (formerly the South Course). You might recall the South from its days of hosting the PGA Tour’s Accenture Match Play, which was last held at La Costa in 2000.

I have now played both renovated 18s and will have more to say about them in future posts, but for now I just wanted to give you a little glimpse of the new look of the Legends Course.

This is the par-4 5th, the last of the five par-4s the Legends Course opens with. No. 5 is a mid-length par-4 – 370 yards from the blues and 346 from the whites – that plays even shorter due to the downhill. It’s a bit of a breather after what’s actually a pretty tough stretch of opening holes, but, overall, it’s indicative of what you get on the Legends Course.

You can see the reworked bunkers waiting near the landing area, and this is how bunkering tends to be at La Costa – more strategically placed than plentiful.

There’s plenty of room left, but I pushed my tee shot right and flirted with a drainage ditch on the right side. Fortunately the healthy rough held me up 2 feet short. I had a pitch over a tree to what is the Legends Course’s best defense – small greens.

This is one thing that really didn’t change much during the redesign. Whereas the greens on the Champions Course are pretty sizeable, the Legends Course greens remain quite small by modern standards but true to the original design from 1969. Let’s just say you earn every GIR on the Legends Course.

Unfortunately, my approach hit the bank next to the green and bounded off into the bunker. I ended up making an unsatisfying five given that I was within 50 yards off the tee.

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Not the ideal approach at No. 5

There are certainly tougher holes – although this is the No. 5 handicap, which surprised me – on the Legends Course but this one is undoubtedly pleasing to the eye.

The originally routing on the Legends Course remains intact, but the greens on Nos. 1, 12 and 15 were slightly relocated during the renovation and the 17 green was moved most significantly, closer to the water. That doesn’t me mean much to those of us, like me, who barely knew the old course (I only played it once) but members are certain to appreciate the changes, which actually made the course play a little shorter. It’s now 6,587 from the blue tees and almost 7,000 from the tips.

No. 15, a dandy dogleg left par-4 with a carry over a creek on the second shot, starts what the pros used to call “The Longest Mile in Golf,” named for the lengthy finishing holes, often played into a stiff ocean breeze, that stood between them and the finish. I can tell you the wind was dead into us on Tuesday and it wasn’t pretty on the scorecards.

While La Costa is a private club, it is open to public play. My understanding is that daily play for members and guests will rotate between the two courses with the members having sole access to one course each day.

If you’ve played the South Course (Legends) in the past, you may find one thing disappointing when you return. The signage that used to commemorate famous shots from the pros – such as Phil Mickelson driving the green on 15 (really????) and Tiger Woods being the first player to reach the par-5 17 in two – are gone.

It’s a shame that history won’t be marked going forward, but I guess the reasoning is that it isn’t the same course, which, in the case of No. 17, for instance, is certainly true.

Still, the Legends is a serious test of golf and La Costa, especially with its glorious Christmas tree, sparkles as a venue and gives you that feel of being in one of golf’s special places.

If you play the renovated courses and read this, feel free to post your comments on the new-look La Costa as there are certainly many who are more familiar with the courses than I and can give a more informed take.

For more extensive details about the renovation, you can go to www.lacosta.com.