As seen in Summer 2018 FORE Magazine
Todd Eckenrode had no idea at the time what effect growing up playing Pasatiempo Golf Club would have on his life. But ultimately, his days spent walking the fairways of the classic Alister Mackenzie layout in Santa Cruz would have a profound impact on a young golfer who would one day become one of Southern California’s most prominent golf course architects.
Eckenrode, who started Origins Golf Design with partner Charles Davison in 2000, has a resume filled with a wide variety of award-winning creations and restorations that often can trace their DNA back to the Golden Age of course design.
“I was very fortunate,” Eckenrode says of his high school days working at and playing Pasatiempo. “I didn’t know it then, but it really influenced my appreciation of old-style design, the lay-of-the-land style before the days of bulldozers. It’s probably no coincidence the majority of clubs we work for are built in that era.”
Eckenrode’s renovation of Lakeside Country Club was Golf Inc. magazine’s private course renovation of the year for 2018. It was the third time in four years he has earned that distinction, added to his work at Brentwood Country Club in 2015 and Virginia Country Club in 2016.
Of course, he doesn’t restrict his work to courses built a century ago. He’s currently working on a renovation at El Niguel Country Club, where a creek running through the course offers intriguing sight lines and natural design elements that encourage thoughtful play.
His original designs have been equally praised. Barona Creek Golf Club near San Diego is a regular on lists of top public and casino courses, and the Links at Terranea in Palos Verdes is a stellar nine-hole design on a bluff overlooking the Pacific that was designed to accommodate resort players.
At Borona, Eckenrode used the distinctive natural features — the hilly terrain and stately California oaks — to create a course with the variety that he considers so important to design. Terranea was a different challenge.
“It was so much fun,” he says. “We had never done nine par 3s before. Figuring out how to make the holes all different, that was a real challenge. Obviously, the site was spectacular, but we tried to orient holes for the best sight lines down the coast.”
As new construction of courses slows in this country, many architects, including Eckenrode, are doing more restorative than original work.
“There’s certainly more freedom and creativity in new projects,” he says. “But I have such an interest in and respect for old courses, they are really engaging as well.”