Tag Archives: renovation


Southland: New-Found Status For The New North At 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.”


The RanchLB: Harvest Restaurant Has Arrived – Take Our Virtual Tour

In October, The Ranch at Laguna Beach golf resort finally opened up its much anticipated Harvest restaurant, one of the final pieces of its nearly two-year renovation project. As with everything at The Ranch, the overall quality and attention to detail are impeccable.

What follows is a photo tour that will take you through the lobby, bar, patio and restaurant. The restaurant overlooks the No. 1 fairway and has huge windows that open toward the course and make the restaurant open air and seems to make the golf and restaurant experiences seamless. And we’re calling this the new best table in golf.


Take a look around in our virtual tour and make sure to check out Harvest the next time you’re in Laguna Beach. You won’t be disappointed with the restaurant or anything else about this unique golf resort experience that’s rapidly rocketing up the Trip Advisor ratings for Orange County.







And we close with blog’s standard review of The Ranch: It rocks.



Southland: Goat Hill Park Overview


It’s a rare circumstance to be able to review a course with grass and without but alas that’s my opportunity with Goat Hill Park in Oceanside.

In 2014, I was invited to walk nine holes with course savior and new owner John Ashworth shortly after his plan to revive the course had been approved by the city to save the property from redevelopment.

Ashworth’s work at the course had barely begun. The pro shop was in the midst of a remodel, but the course itself, after years of neglect, consisted of little more than spotty greens, hardpan and acres of awaiting hard work. My most memorable shot was an approach to an uphill green. It missed by mere feet – and then came rolling back nearly 100 yards to mine.

I dubbed Goat Hill “the Charlie Brown tree of golf courses.” Ashworth coolly replied that the place simply needed a little love – and a lot of grass seed. He was right.

The turnaround is nothing short of miraculous. Aesthetically, Goat Hill is now a verdant gem dotted by wildflowers and other colorful landscaping, much of it the drought-tolerant variety.

The course now also glows with praise. The Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella in particular has heaped attention and adoration on the project. Last year he called it one of the best stories in golf and he recently rated Goat Hill among the top five short courses in the country.

The positive reviews and community support, which included 60 people showing up for a volunteer course maintenance day, has been gratifying and motivating, Ashworth said.

“People are loving it,” he said. “The response has been pretty overwhelming. We still have things to do, but it has come a long way.”

Goat par 3s

Ashworth wanted to restore the course’s status as a social hub and he’s done that by, among other things, making the course accommodate disk golf as well as real golf. Ironically, the greens are like trying to land on a Frisbee, making it a tough test of target golf. Greens in regulation here are the sign of a true golf marksman.

As a 65 playing 4,454 from the tips, the course might not sound like much on paper, but you can throw out the stats. There’s plenty of challenge here, including elevated greens with severe slops that can make misses especially penal.
A good example is the par 3 5th, a 139-yard hole with a green guarded by bunkers right and long was well as a severe drop-off on the right. I actually missed left onto a hill. My chip hit the green and ran through into a patch of nearly impossible rough. I took two futile swings and picked up.

The course makes you earn everything you get – and trying to overpower it only seems to invite more trouble. You can basically bag your driver here. A hybrid and some skillful iron and wedge play will take you a long way at Goat Hill.

“It’s a tough course, but it’s playable,” Ashworth said. “We wanted to make it a lot more playable for everybody.”
That’s in skill and comfort level on the course. True to its motto of “World Class, Working Class,” the course has dropped dress codes. That made for the interesting scene of a player putting out in board shorts in a nearby foursome.

As a host to the North County Junior Golf Association, Goat Hill seeks to introduce more young players to the game. Ashworth said the course has succeeded in a being a local catalyst, but its growing reputation and good word of mouth is starting to make it a bit of a tourist draw.

“We definitely have a strong local following, but we are getting more tourists people from San Diego and tourists as they hear about it on things like the Golf Channel.”

Ashworth continues to balance his dual roles of managing the course and running Linksoul, his golf lifestyle clothing brand. Ashworth said balancing the two roles continues to be a challenge, but he truly treasures his time at the course.

“It’s a bit like being a caretaker, but I love the people who work here and who come here, and I meet a lot of new people. I spend a lot of time here because I love it.”

A strong month of play in January has given Ashworth hope the course will be sustainable and profitable sooner than expected.

Ashworth has some remaining projects at the course, but hopes to eventually hold a grand opening, possibly this summer. He said the staff and the community certainly have something to celebrate.

“It’s had its ups and downs, like anything, but for the most part, it’s been a real pleasure,” Ashworth said, “and it’s a real feel-good story for golf.”

Goat tee marker

Goat Hill Park By The Numbers

3/8 – Holes that share a double green, a rarity in American golf

5 – Par 3s on the front nine; the back only has 3

6 – Number of the hole converted from a par 4 to a 3

450 – Length of the course’s only par 5 from the back tees

1952 – Year the course opened as a nine-hole country club

2014 – Year Ashworth took ownership, saving the property from redevelopment

$26-32 – Weekday/weekend green fee without cart

tree par 3

April Southland

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.


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.”

Southland: Re-Mark-Able Renovation at St. Mark

Putting Green & Clubhouse (800x533)

People who’ve played the executive course at St. Mark Golf Club in San Marcos in the past might not recognize the place these days.

What was once a bit of dilapidated course and pro shop has been given new life via a year-long $4 million makeover.

The course itself has new tee boxes landscaped in stone and drought-resistant plants as well as new cart paths, reconditioned greens and a re-designed first hole that now includes a waterfall. There are even staircases to all the elevated tees.

But the real jewel of the project is a sparkling new clubhouse that features stone columns and glass doors for its entrance and hardwood floors and high ceilings in its bar and grill, Tap In Tavern, which serves breakfast and lunch at a place where on only concessions existed previously. And you can dine on a patio overlooking the 9th hole that can accommodate up to 30 people. There’s also a swing simulator for play after your round or a warm-up before.


The clubhouse alone cost $2 million. What could merit such an investment for an 18-hole executive course? Partly a play for the future of junior golf, says Brett Miller, CEO of the course’s management company, Eat.Drink.Sleep.

“We’re trying to grow our junior golf base. That’s the future of the game and our older members love seeing them here,” Miller says. “We introduce a lot of kids to game every day. It’s got to start somewhere, so why not here?”

>st. mark free

The executive course is a sister course to the St. Mark regulation course. Between the two, the courses will host at least a dozen junior golf tournaments in the next year, including 250 golfers between ages 6-14 in the first week of July for the Future Champions, a qualifier for the Junior World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines.

St. Mark General Manager Frank Iannuzzi expects golfers discovering the executive course for the first time to have the same reaction to the renovated facility as local youth, such as the members of the San Marcos high school team, have.

“They are completely blown away,” Iannuzzi says, noting the course also supports the SCGA’s Youth on Course program. “They love how cool it is now with the simulator. They’re ecstatic.”

And their parents have gained a new hangout, something Miler says also factored into the investment.
“Now when mom and dad drop the kids off, they don’t have to go. They can stick around,” he says. “And we’re in the middle of a community with 2,700 homes where a lot of people can drive a golf cart here, because it’s legal. We have a lot of people come dine with us who aren’t golfers.”

The menu ranges from breakfast wraps to skillets in the morning to a gourmet hamburger, a prime rib sandwich and flat breads in the afternoon.

Miller is hoping the new clubhouse will entice people to give the place a try, or a second chance in many cases. Years of maintenance neglect left the course itself needing an image makeover as much as a few rounds of aeration and irrigation.

“(When we took it over) half the sprinklers were out and the pumps barely had pressure,” Miller says. “So you’d go around the golf course and you saw a lot of neglect, so we injected a lot of capital into the course. It’s a golf course so you could spend an infinite amount of money doing that, but we wanted to do it efficiently.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but right now we’re pretty proud of it.”

No. 1

Miller used the first hole, formerly a par 3 partially over water, to make a statement. The tee box was repositioned for aesthetics and mandatory water carry and a waterfall was added as well as a practice putting green. With the backdrop of the new clubhouse, the transformation is stark.

And Miller says it’s intended to send a new message about St. Mark to a somewhat skeptical local community.

“Our biggest thing is getting you here the first time, or if you remember the place, getting you to come back, because you might not want to,” he says. “As a team, we’re out there asking for people to give us a try. We think you’ll like it.”

“We’re really trying to elevate the place and provide a value.”

tee box

May Southland

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.”


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


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.


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.