Todd Eckenrode – Origins Golf Design has completed a substantial renovation at La Jolla Country Club, a charming golf club located approximately just north of San Diego, California. This historic golf course offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and a pleasant perspective of the seaside village of La Jolla. La Jolla CC was founded in 1901, though the golf was more of an informal gathering of holes, set down in what today is the village of La Jolla. By 1913, the club moved up onto parts of the current blufftop location, and consisted of nine holes, playing to sand and oil greens, as was common in that era.
By 1921, additional land was purchased, forming the site as it largely exists today. William Watson was hired to design the new 18-hole course, again with sand and oil greens. With a desire to modernize the course to newer standards, the Club hired William P. Bell to re-design the course, which was completed in 1927, and is, for the most part, how the course is played today.
During WW II, some of the country’s best players found themselves stationed in San Diego. Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret and Jack Burke Jr. were among those that played at the Club on a regular basis. Since then, several notable golfers have regularly played the hallowed grounds of La Jolla CC, including Phil Michelson, Craig Stadler, Gene Littler, Mickey Wright and not the least of which, was Hall of Famer Paul Runyon (known as “Little Poison”), who served as PGA head golf professional at La Jolla CC in the early days.
“It has been a privilege to work on another William Watson and William P. Bell gem, two of the most influential golf course designers in California,” shared Todd Eckenrode, ASGCA. “This was a project that we couldn’t be more pleased with. The members are sure to experience a more interesting, enjoyable round now with a more classic feel to the course and a tip of the cap to it’s treasured history.”
The golf course improvements are comprised of a complete bunker renovation in concert with a re-shaping of all green surrounds, introducing short-cut approaches and varied chipping areas. Select new greens have been constructed, including the iconic ridgetop #10 green, which was relocated to its original location on the edge of the bluff-top. Several greens were enhanced with expansions, reclaiming the most valued lost hole locations. Lastly, the tees were reshaped to more natural forms, in tune with Bell’s original design. The prized ocean views now showcased throughout the property are due to an expansive tree removal program.
Besides the restoration of the character and green site for hole #10, probably one of the most exciting elements of the project was the restoration of the lower canyon holes #11 and #12 to their original grandeur. “These holes were so beautifully routed along this coastal canyon floor, offering respite and variety to the dramatic blufftop holes found throughout the rest of the course,” says Eckenrode. “It’s this kind of variety that is paramount to good golf.”
Under the direction of Todd Eckenrode and Andy Frank of Todd Eckenrode-Origins Golf Design, Landscapes Unlimited oversaw the construction. Talented shapers Kye Goalby and Matt Smallwood helped create the world-class features while superintendent Dennis Fowler and his crew oversaw the progress and grow-in of this incredible renovation.
The key element of any project is acceptance by the members, as was related to us by Don Rushing, President of the Club. “La Jolla Country Club is extremely pleased with the beautiful golf course renovation designed by Todd Eckenrode and Origins Golf Design. In six short months, we were able to deliver to our members a course that evokes the best elements of the original Billy Bell design, providing wonderful view corridors to the village of La Jolla and the Pacific, and challenges our members with variety and shot alternatives. The project was delivered on time and on budget. The Club is deeply appreciative of the efforts of Origins Golf Design to bring our course project to fruition.”