We recently caught up with Blake Dodson, Director of Golf at Encinitas Ranch, to get his take on what golf means to him and his passion for golfing on the coast.
After growing up in San Diego, you worked overseas for a few years and then returned. Why choose San Diego to live and work?
“I wanted to find a place where I could surf and golf. That’s tough to find. I started my golf career in the bag room at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. Then I went to Del Mar Country Club and was there from 1996 to 2008, moving my way up to head golf professional. I worked overseas for a few years organizing golf tournaments in places such as China and South Korea. When I came back I worked at The Crossings at Carlsbad and landed at JC Golf as the tournament coordinator at Twin Oaks. I then headed up operations at 12 Shores Golf Club in New Mexico. From there I was director of golf at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and then last December an opportunity opened up at Encinitas Ranch and I jumped at the chance.”
You played San Diego Junior Golf as a kid. What special memories come to mind?
“I went to Bonita Vista High and grew up near the Bonita Golf Course when it was located where Plaza Bonita is today – before they moved it near the Sweetwater Dam. I took lessons from Phil Nary and Cesar Sanudo. I played against Phil Mickelson a lot and I always lost to him (laughs).”
What is it about Encinitas Ranch that attracted you?
“There’s such a finite amount of coastal property in this world. Look at San Diego – you have Coronado, The Crossings at Carlsbad, Torrey Pines and Encinitas Ranch. I’m not sure how many others have an ocean view. Maybe Goat Hill. This place just embodies the California lifestyle. It’s the best of both worlds for me. You have a beautiful design by Cary Bickler coupled with nature’s best view. It’s so inspiring. Plus I love the staff. We’re laid back but we are so dedicated to our customers and the service we provide. I just wanted to be a part of it all.”
What has cemented your passion for this game?
“It always comes back to the people. There are some very special people who play this game. Golf has a tight knit network of people and I learned a long time ago to treat them as family. It’s special. There can be a snob factor in golf, but we are always trying to be more friendly and welcoming to new players. What we can do as golf course operators is make golf accessible as possible to everyone.
What are some of the challenges facing the game?
“One is the environment. Access to our resources is becoming less and less, so our business model has to change. I’m proud to say that here at Encinitas Ranch we run on 98 percent reclaimed water. I also think third-party tee time providers is having an impact because when you slash prices you have to nearly double the amount of golfers on your golf course and that’s more wear and tear on your facility. You think it’s marketing, but it’s really not. I think it’s a dangerous model.”
What reasons do we have to be optimistic about golf’s future?
“I think we are in the golden age of golf. The game is healthy, we just need to continue to help grow it. I am really proud of our Intro2Golf program. It’s a very inexpensive way to learn the game in a great setting. We need to be open to a different approach to the game and reach our millennials. There are people out there playing who are streaming live media, watching the football game on their tablet, or playing music in their cart. That’s fun and it’s our job to provide an experience that is enjoyable for people. Golf needs to move toward a more fun and youthful energy and style.”
Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.