Tag Archives: Mark Marney

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.”

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.”

JANUARY 2014 SOUTHLAND GOLF

Update: Arrowood recorded its first hole-in-one on Just One on Jan. 6, earning the winner $2,000.