California's Smorgasbord Golf: New Courses Offer Rich Variety

By David R. Holland, Senior Writer

The list of new golf courses scheduled to open this year in California reads like a smorgasbord.

How about Pete Dye's Ocean Trails Golf Club on the Palos Verde Peninsula in Los Angeles County with Pacific Ocean views from all 18 fairways?

Or how about playing The Dragon at Gold Mountain in the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains with views above the Wild and Scenic Feather River and just minutes from Plumas National Forest?

Or DarkHorse Golf Club, a Sierra-foothills masterpiece, designed by renowned golf architect Keith Foster? This one won't open until Spring 2001, but it features ancient oaks, rolling meadows, streams, wetlands, grass hollows and rugged hillsides that brace the fairways in Auburn.

And California will also be opening a "replica" golf course, the Legends Golf Club at Rancho Lucerne in the Lucerne Valley of San Bernardino County. It will have 27 famous American golf-hole simulations and nine more planned with European holes.

Ocean Trails Golf Club already has a storied past and it's not even open. Tiger Woods' American Express commercial was filmed here.

And then the land moved.

The original opening date was set for July 16, 1999, but land movement destroyed a portion of the 18th fairway before opening day. There were no injuries, but a sewer line that traversed the slide had to be temporarily bypassed by construction workers from the Los Angeles County Sanitation District.

Public access to the slide site was immediately closed for public safety reasons as directed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department and with concurrence from the California Coastal Commission. Repair work is now finished, but Ocean Trails has to await the go-ahead from the Commission before it can set a Fall 2000 opening.

Ocean Trails will also have its own real estate development -- 75 homesites named Costa Verde at Ocean Trails. One can only imagine it will take a Tiger Woods' bankroll to secure one of these plots. Prices will start at approximately $1 million.

Real Estate personnel for Costa Verde say this is the first new oceanfront golf course in Los Angeles County in over 20 years and the only course on the West Coast to have ocean views from every hole.

Robert Zuckerman is putting together his thoughts about the course and says this about No. 1: "The view from the green is incredibly scenic. From its elevated platform, the view of the Pacific, the Clubhouse, Catalina Island and much of the golf course is at your feet. As you may expect, the ball breaks towards the ocean, but be careful this green has some interesting topographic feature which can add or subtract from the natural break. These greens are rolling an 8+ but it will not help much heading uphill."

Ocean Trails also boasts an extensive recreational trails system, three public parks, and habitat restoration of 80 acres. Hiking trails meander around the golf course and descend the cliffs to sandy beaches and tide pools. A bikeway circles Ocean Trails, offering a spectacular four-mile circuit within a landscaped corridor along the bluff edge and through the course.

Ocean Trails is located at One Ocean Trails Drive and can be reached either from Palos Verdes or San Pedro. From Palos Verdes, take Hawthorne Boulevard directly to the ocean and turn left at Palos Verdes Drive South. It is about four miles to Ocean Trails Drive.

From the end of the Harbor Freeway in San Pedro, travel west on Gaffey Street to First Street and turn right. At Western turn left and follow to 25th Street and turn right. Continue on 25th Street until the name changes to Palos Verdes Drive South. Turn at the second left into Ocean Trails.

The Dragon at Gold Mountain opens this spring. There's 1,250 acres of environmental-friendly scenery just an hour northwest of Reno, Nevada, and an hour north of Lake Tahoe. This Graeagle course also has four other resort courses in the area -- Whitehawk Ranch, Graeagle Meadows and Plumas Pines and two other nine-hole golf courses.

"We will be opened May 27 for our members, but the public opening is July 1," said Norm Blandel, PGA Master Professional and Director of Golf. "We like to think this golf course will be rated very highly and has great potential to be known world-wide with the Pebble Beaches and Pinehursts. We are going to create a very special golf experience."

What will make The Dragon distinguished is a 15-minute tee-off interval and a forecaddie in every group. The weekend rate will be $140 and a resort hotel will also be added with a conference center.

The owners are exceptionally proud of the clubhouse, which will be completed this summer. It is a Frank Lloyd Wright design, named Nakoma, and was originally planned for a golf course in Madison, WI, but was never built. It will feature a 70-foot peak in the main clubhouse and a waterfall running through the golf shop.

Robin Nelson of Nelson and Haworth designed the course which winds through the forests and takes advantage of the mountain landscape. It has generous fairways, strategic greens tucked into the trees, views from bluffs overlooking the Feather River, aged juniper trees and granite outcroppings. LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan, a Reno resident, also lent a hand in its design.

"I really think any golf course building boom is just getting started," said Blandel. "All the major golf associations are putting out a concerted effort to promote growth and there's tremendous room for even more of a building boom. Here at The Dragon we want to open doors for all level of golfers."

Blandel is particularly interested in a movement to bring caddies back to the game of golf and is developing a Caddie Apprentice and Certification program at The Dragon. For more information on this program e-mail him at dragongf@psln.com.

DarkHorse Golf Club, located at 13450 Combie Road in Auburn, draws from Foster's rich history. His work includes The Quarry in San Antonio (see review http://www.golftexas.com/holland46.htm), The Tradition at Cypresswood near Houston (1999 Golf Magazine Top 10 You Can Play) and Bighorn in Palm Desert. (Watch for a review of The Tradition at Cypresswood in April's GolfTexas.com.)

Foster designed DarkHorse to blend with its natural environment and to reward strategic thinking, risk-taking and shot-making skills. Foster is a philosophical traditionalist. Are you tired of artificial mounds? You won't see them at DarkHorse. All you will see are the natural shapes on the fairways. There will be, however, multiple choices for tee shots.

DarkHorse Golf Club will be a par 72 with five sets of tees, 85 sand bunkers and eight stream crossings. The greens will average 6,100 square feet. There are more than 5,000 mature oaks lining the fairways and the elevation changes from 1,400 feet to 1,700.

Legends Golf Club at Rancho Lucerne in the Lucerne Valley is 90 minutes from Los Angeles and Palm Springs, and just 20 minutes below Big Bear.

It was designed by Dave Edsall, who also "formatted" the Tour 18 layouts in Dallas and Houston, using Autocad, a computer program.

"The golf course is being built on an old lake bed," said Mark Goulet, Legends' head professional. "It will be surrounded by 1,300 acres of homes with the golf course as its centerpiece."

Like the Tour 18 layouts, it will include famous hole simulations with the Amen Corner holes of Augusta National as the real draw. The famous Sawgrass island green can be viewed from the clubhouse. Others include Firestone, Colonial, Oakland Hills, Cherry Hills, Crooked Stick, Shinnecock, Southern Hills, TPC at Scottsdale, TPC at Summerlin, National Golf Links, Bay Hill, Seminole and Baltusrol.

Where possible the construction will include "exact" trees -- Sawgrass with palms and pines, Colonial with oaks and pines with Southern Hills.

The Lucerne Valley is located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains in southeastern California at the crossroads of State Highways 18 and 247, just 25 miles from I-15, 34 miles from I-40 and northeast of Palm Springs.

The historic Rabbit Springs Ranch, a local landmark will be restored and become a part of the Rancho Lucerne Development.

So, what state now has the most golf courses? Florida is No. 1 with about 1,190 and California totals second with 950. Surprisingly, Michigan, where you can't play year around, is third with 910 and Texas is fourth with around 850. Nowadays the totals change frequently. Since 1986 there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of golf courses in this country.

Here's a list of new courses under construction in California. Some may be nearing completion and opening dates.

COUNTY, FACILITY, NAME, TYPE, CATEGORY, CLASS, HOLES

Alameda: Pleasanton Municipal Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18. Family Golf Center, Fremont, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 9. Mountain House Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18.

Butte: Tuscan Ridge, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18.

Contra Costa: Montanera, Private, Real Estate, New, 18. Deer Creek Golf Club, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Brentwood Lakes Golf Club, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18.

Kern: Robber's Roost Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18.

Lake: Black Rock Ridge Golf Club, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18.

Los Angeles: Ocean Trails Golf Club, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Robinson Ranch, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 36. Hunters Green, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 36. TPC of Valencia, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Walnut Hills Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Rancho Vista Golf Club, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Red Tail Golf & Equestrian, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Cascades Golf Course Daily Fee, Just Golf, Expansion, 9.

Madera: Pheasant Run Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, Expansion, 9.

Marin: Black Point Golf Links, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18.

Mendocina: Fort Bragg Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18.

Mono: Snowcreek Resort Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate/Resort, Expansion, 9.

Monterey: Santa Lucia Preserve Golf Trail, Private, Real Estate, New, 18. Twin Creeks Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 9. Pajaro Valley Golf Club, Daily Fee, Just Golf, Expansion, 9. Salinas Fairways Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, Expansion, 9. Pasadera Golf Club, Private, Real Estate, 18.

Nevada: Truckee Falls Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18.

Orange: Black Gold Golf Course, Private, Real Estate, New, 18. Talega Valley Golf Courses, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Mile Square Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, Expansion, 18. Old Ranch Country Club, Private, Just Golf, Reconstruction, 18.

Placer: Bickford Ranch, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 27. Del Webb, Twelve Bridges Golf, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 36. Winchester Country Club, Private, Real Estate, New, 18. Lincoln Hills Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 54. Chamonix Golf & Country Club, Private, Real Estate, New, 18.

Plumas: The Dragon at Gold Mountain, Daily Fee, Real Estate/Resort, Expansion, 18. Riverside: Rancho La Sierra, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 36. The Preserve at Mountain Falls Golf, Municipal, Real Estate, New, 18. SPGCA/Oak Valley Golf Club, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 36. Walker Basin Golf Course, Real Estate, Daily Fee, New, 18. Oak Quarry, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18. Crosscreek/Meadowview Golf Course, Private, Real Estate, New, 18. Rancho La Quinta, Private, Real Estate, Expansion, 18. Desert Stars Villas & Golf Club, Daily Fee, Resort, New, 27. Coral Mt. Golf Courses, Private, Real Estate, New, 36. Jensen Quarry Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18. Indian Ridge Country Club, Private, Real Estate, Expansion, 18. Cimarron Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 36. Shadowrock Resort Golf Course, Municipal, Real Estate/Resort, New, 18. Fox Run Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate/Resort, New, 18.

Sacramento: Dark Horse, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Empire Ranch Golf Club, Municipal, Real Estate, New, 36. Folsom Lake Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18.

San Benito: San Juan Oaks Golf Club, Daily Fee, Just Golf, Expansion, 18.

San Bernardino: Barstow Golf Course, Daily Fee, Resort, New, 18 Sierra Lakes Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18. Patton Station Sports Resort, Daily Fee, Resort, New, 9. Legends Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 27. Yucaipa Valley Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18.

San Diego: The Pointe-San Diego, Daily Fee, Real Estate/Resort, New, 18. The Auld Course, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18. Barona Indian Reservation GC, Daily Fee, Resort, New, 18. Borrego Springs Resort & CC, Daily Fee, Real Estate/Resort, Expansion, 9. Sycamore Ranch Golf Course, Daily Fee, Real Estate, New, 18.

San Joaquin: Old River Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, Expansion, 9.

Santa Clara: Golf Club at Boulder Ridge, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18. Thunderbird Golf & Country Club, Municipal, Real Estate, Reconstruction, 9.

Siskiyou: Yreka Golf Club, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 18.

Solano: Mare Island Golf Club, Daily Fee, Just Golf, Expansion, 9. Southampton Golf Course, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 9.

Sonoma: Mayacama Golf Resort, Private, Real Estate/Resort, New, 18.

Ventura: Hill Canyon Golf Course, Municipal, Just Golf, New, 18. Lost Canyons Golf Club, Daily Fee, Just Golf, New, 36. Arroyo Semi Golf Club, Municipal, Real Estate, New, 27.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Senior Writer

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter at @David_R_Holland.


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