La Jolla (California) Country Club has a rich history; the William Watson-designed course celebrates its centennial in 2021. But when Todd Eckenrode, ASGCA (Origins Golf Design), was brought on to renovate the course in 2019, he noted the overgrowth of trees not only blocked many views of the Pacific Ocean, they also did not compare to views afforded golfers in the first-half of LaJolla’s existence.

Golf Digest details Eckenrode’s work:

Prior to the club hiring Irvine-based architect Todd Eckenrode to renovate the course in 2019, those sweeping views were mostly blocked out by columns of mature trees, planted for beautification in the 1960s and ’70s. And the club loved them.

Let’s stipulate up front that we all like trees. But, considering that trees can be had nearly everywhere, do we like them more than the ocean, which only a small fraction of golf courses in the world can see? This is the argument Eckenrode made to the club, and he turned to history to bolster his case.

“When we look at the aerials from the ’20s and ’30s, there was nothing. It was truly a bluff-top setting,” he says. “As with any club, [tree removal] is difficult. But eventually, as the views began to open up and the course began to feel less cluttered, people got on board quickly.”

Clearing out rows of ornamental trees, with the assistance and support of superintendent Dennis Fowler, allows the eye to focus on the attractive remaining eucalyptus, melaleuca and Torrey pines. The holes now feel connected, the spatial qualities of the site can be appreciated and there’s more room for the golf.

Trees lining the canyon to the left of the bending par-4 10th, for instance, once forced drives to the right, dictating a short club off the tee to keep the ball from traveling through the fairway. With most of them removed, the hole now tempts aggressive plays down the left along the mostly denuded edge of the ravine.

La Jolla exemplifies how removing trees and opening up sightlines can produce an immediate, visceral impact. As he’s done for other, older California clubs (like Brentwood and Lakeside in Los Angeles, and Diablo and Orinda Country Clubs in the Bay area), Eckenrode has helped highlight the club’s charming, historic character by enhancing its natural assets. Throw in a garnish of thoughtful, eye-catching bunkering and you have a simple but powerful recipe for success.

The complete Golf Digest article can be viewed here.