The last time Pat Bojador teed it up at Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club was about 10 years ago. He remembers a course with much more grass, more trees and a few more blind shots.
When he teed it up Sunday morning, golf just east of Interstate 15 off Ted Williams Parkway was a much different endeavor.
Welcome to desert golf, San Diego style.
Well before the state of California mandated cuts in water usage, Carmel Mountain Ranch embarked on an ambitious $4.4 million turf reduction initiative that eliminated 52 acres of grass and more than 600 trees. Now in its place are more than 2,000 drought-tolerant plants, shredded redwood bark called “guerilla hair,” and decomposed granite.
“With the drought, I appreciate what they are doing to cut back on water usage,” said the Carlsbad resident. “The layout is about the same from when I last played it, but it feels and looks different. I think the greens are in good shape and rolling true.”
Head pro Brandon Delgado said he’s been receiving a lot of positive feedback from golfers on the course’s changes. He also acknowledged that some people are still acclimating to an experience that is more likely to occur in Palm Springs or Arizona.
“It’s different and some people aren’t used to it yet, but this is the future of golf in Southern California,” Delgado said. “A lot of courses are eventually going to go this way. We were the first in San Diego to do a major turf reduction project and it turned out great.”
The noticeable changes on the par-72, 6,672-yard layout are around the tee boxes and outside the landing areas. Many of the tee boxes were moved slightly to improve sight lines. The yardage from the white tees was moved up 339 yards to 5,488 yards. The blues stayed almost the same at 6,236 while the blacks play a bit longer now.
If you hit a wayward tee shot, you could find your ball in the bark or resting on the decomposed granite. Play it as lies is the rule — play the bark like a longer rough and the granite like a tight lie.
“This course still has teeth, but it’s a lot easier to find your golf ball,” Delgado said.
With the turf reduction, Carmel Mountain Ranch will be saving approximately 40 million gallons of potable water every year, enough to supply water for about 400 single-family homes.
“That’s a big step in the right direction,” Delgado said. “And with the turf that remains, I think we’ll see more improvement in those areas over the next year because we can focus our maintenance efforts there.”
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.