By Cary Bickler, ASGCA

Project Description

18-Hole Championship golf Course

Private Country Club

Blue Tees                    6,685  Par 72

White Tees                  6,260  Par 72

Red Tees                     5,970  Par 74

New Green Tees          5,335  Par 74

Note: Because the fairways are 100% kikuyugrass, the ball does not get much roll and the course plays considerably longer than the 6,685 yards from the back tees.

Construction Start Date:         7/93

Construction Complete:          11/93

Course Grand Opening:          7/94

Site Description & Issues

This project was a complete 18-Hole Master Plan and remodel.  Included was a Hole-by-Hole Evaluation and Colored Rendering.  Plans also encompassed a new driving range, practice facility, maintenance yard, and nursery green.  A separate Tree Master Plan was a second phase of the work.

La Jolla Country Club is situated above the small Southern California village of La Jolla on a magnificent site with Pacific Ocean views, canyons and natural rolling terrain.  The original golf course, designed by William Bell in 1927, is a glistening example of his classic golf course architecture.

The 18-Hole Master Plan placed emphasis on 6 holes that had previously been redesigned over the years, and had been taken out of character from Mr. Bell’s original theme.

A primary consideration was to redesign new greens with contours that were playable, manageable and congruent with the original design intent and character of the traditional style golf course.

The tree theme at La Jolla Country Club was expressed by Canary Island pine and eucalyptus.  The pines gave masses of dense dark green background, while the skyline and horizon were defined by the eucalyptus.  These theme trees combined well to present a good design basis, however due to the random planting of a large variety of other plant and tree species by Green Committees throughout the years, the landscaping had become a botanical collection of misplaced trees.  Open space between trees is of equal aesthetic importance in tree and landscape composition. 

Due to tree groupings growing into each other there was a lack of positive and negative space balance.  Beautiful trees and plantings that were hidden by the overgrowth of other trees were defined and brought into view by removing and pruning trees.  This enhanced the overall value of the course plant and tree-scape.  It also reclaimed the original course strategy by eliminating trees that interfered with the corridors of play.

Members Concerns & Objectives

The Club’s primary concerns were the replacement of all 18 greens to upgrade to USGA Standards, and the re-implementation of previously remodeled green contours to achieve continuity of the overall original design theme.

In the process, maximum cup-set locations were addressed while maintaining emphasis on the La Jolla Country Club tradition of small greens.  This was accomplished by enlarging greens where it conformed, and/or softening slopes, while minimizing impact of foot traffic patterns.  Some bunkering and adjustments were necessary to accomplish this.  Original greenside bunkers were re-built, and some additional bunkers were added where appropriate.

USGA Greens Specifications were implemented for all putting green replacement.  Contractor workmanship was closely monitored, and materials were lab tested as they arrived at the site to insure the quality control of construction.

Planning & Design Solutions

The following strategy was the approach used in gaining membership approval for the course renovation work.

An educational and promotional campaign was launched that was specific to the Club’s renovation needs.  A strong but diplomatic leader was appointed to be the “flag bearer” and direct the campaign.  Just prior to the general meeting and membership vote, a group of 40 members who were in favor of the renovation were selected by the Green Committee.  The group was briefed with the facts, and afterward they defined the exact goals, and created a Mission Statement.  The selected group of 40 members met for educational sessions.  The Course Superintendent discussed the causes of unfavorable course conditions.  Samples were taken from the course and laboratory tests were performed which provided accurate analysis of the pre-renovation conditions.

After the selected group of 40 members fully comprehended the facts supporting the need for renovation, they developed an outline to promote the renovation to the membership.  During the general membership meeting, slides of USGA greens cross-sections were shown and compared to cross-sections of the Club’s existing greens. The 40 supporters imparted their historic and recent knowledge to those present at the general membership meeting.  Next, each of the 40 supporters selected 10 members to contact personally via an active telephone campaign.  They imparted more information to substantiate the remodel and create enthusiasm.  The active telephone campaign took place immediately over the few days following the general membership meeting while the ballot process was beginning.

The Club found there is no substitute for personal contact.  This was the primary key to the success in gaining approval of the project.  The vote count resulted in 90% of the membership in favor of the renovation.


All the goals for La Jolla Country Club were successfully accomplished.  The course renovation and Tree Master Plan brought the original design theme back into sharp focus at this extraordinary historic country club.  Membership entry fees and the waiting list increased measurably.  Implementation of the Tree Master Plan is on-going.  The Club retained the Golf Course Architect to work directly with the Green Committee to maintain consistency through the “revolving door of authority” as Club leadership and politics change.