Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad adds finishing touches to $50 million renovation

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The Spanish phrase La Costa translates in English to "the coast."

La Costa Resort and Spa - Carlsbad, Calif.
KSL Resorts is investing $50 million into a revamp of iconic La Costa Resort and Spa.
La Costa Resort and Spa - Carlsbad, Calif.La Costa Resort and Spa - Champions CourseLa Costa Resort and Spa - water slideLa Costa - South golf course - hole 17La Costa Resort and Spa - South Course - hole 15Spa at La Costa
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It might as well mean "great golf" when referring to La Costa Resort and Spa. Over the years, this iconic southern California resort has been synonymous with professional golf, hosting dozens of PGA Tour events, many on a composite layout combining holes from its Champions and Legends Courses. Most famous was its run from 1999-2006 hosting the World Match Play Championship (with a break in 2001). In 2010, it staged the LPGA Tour's inaugural Kia Classic.

Perhaps nobody appreciates this championship history better than Steve Pate, who is ensuring it endures. The winner of the 1988 Tournament of Champions, held at La Costa, is working with design partner Damian Pascuzzo and consultant Jeff Brauer to modernize the golf at LaCosta, while still retaining the classic charms of its courses.

"I always thought La Costa was one of the greatest places in the world," said Pate, who grew up in Santa Barbara, played his college golf at UCLA and actually saw his first professional golf tournament at La Costa. "I know that this project will do justice to Dick Wilson's work here, and it will be a fitting tribute to La Costa's legacy."

The golf course renovation, under the direction of Pascuzzo & Pate Golf Course Design, is part of an overall $50 million ongoing investment in La Costa by KSL Resorts. The company, which oversaw La Costa's previous major expansion from 2001-06, bought the resort again in March 2010.

"The first time we owned it, we had a chance to bake the cake. Now we get to ice the cake," said Paul McCormick, the resort's vice president and general manager.

When all the changes are completed this fall, La Costa should be tastier than ever for guests.

La Costa Resort and Spa: Course renovations

All 18 holes on La Costa's Champions Course (formerly known as the North Course) and four more on the Legends Course that share the same land (Nos. 1, 9, 10, 18) are being rejuvenated. Dick Wilson designed La Costa's first 18 holes in 1965, and Joe Lee (Wilson's design partner) added nine holes in 1973 and the final nine holes in 1984.

After years of erosion, the fairways have been capped off by 3,000 truckloads of sand, which will help with drainage. Tees and greens have been elevated for strategic and aesthetic purposes. Eliminating 40 acres of turf will return that land to native plants.

Bunkers on the Champions Course have been repositioned. Instead of running parallel to the fairways, many traps cut perpendicular paths through landing zones, forcing players to decide whether to carry them or lay back. Several greens are fraught with more slope and contours. Several water hazards, like a new lake on No. 10, have been added or enlarged as well. Four holes are completely new.

Steve Auckland, superintendent at La Costa, said the course's four-hole finish -- starting with a drivable par 4 at No. 15 and ending with a risk-reward par 5 at No. 18 -- was designed with "swings in the leaderboard" in mind. He's not convinced it will play tougher for top players, but the layout will be more interesting and make them think.

The Legends Course will keep its Poa annua greens, meaning tournaments at La Costa probably won't be held on the former composite course. The courses are expected to open in November.

"We took it into consideration that we can do that (host more pro tournaments), but we were most concerned with who will use it most, our members and guests," McCormick said.

Omni La Costa Resort and Spa: The new La Costa

La Costa's previous expansion brought the resort's infrastructure up to par and created a more family-friendly place, thanks to the addition of water slides, a splash park, the Kidtopia Kids Club and a plaza with shops and a marketplace.

McCormick said he believes this project brings La Costa full circle, creating a "multigenerational" destination. The resort is already home to a 17-court tennis center that hosts an annual Women's Tennis Association event.

"We created those family touches the first time. Now, we're adding some more adult touches," he said. "We want to make sure we have a great balance on property."

All 552 guest rooms and 76 one- and two-bedroom suites have been renovated to let the outdoors and the ever-present San Diego sun in. The new Coastal Events Center will cater to more meetings and functions, as will outdoor spaces like the new Big Legends Lawn. The old lobby bar will become the Diversions Sports Lounge, where an eye-popping 14-foot flat screen gives way to terraces providing HD views of the surrounding countryside and golf courses. Relaxing is at the heart of the new adult-only Edge pool and the three infinity Jacuzzis, expected to open later this fall.

Even the world's oldest destination spa has been renewed with new furniture and an herb garden that feeds the resort's farm-to-table menu at Bluefire Grill and the revamped Legends Bistro.

New treatments, like the 80-minute Aromatherapy Rain Massage, have launched the 43,000-square-foot Spa at La Costa, rated No. 1 in southern California by Spa Magazine, to even bigger heights. It took contractors three tries before the new reflexology path turned out right. The path contains stones of all shapes and sizes embedded in concrete, designed to stimulate pressure points in the feet corresponding to major organs and other parts of the body. The invigorating outdoor Roman waterfalls and outdoor heated pools provide more relief.

Not that a stay at La Costa could ever be stressful.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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