With an iconic history, a list of who’s who having played here, being the only Dick Wilson designed courses in California, as well as the historic home of 37 PGA Tour Tournament of Champions, La Costa has a place in golf history. However, that doesn’t guarantee continued success, and like any other facility, upgrades were eventually required to keep the facility near the top of the California golf course pecking order.
Starting in 2011, La Costa (now owned by Omni Hotels) hired the collaborative design team of Pascuzzo-Pate and Jeffrey D. Brauer to renovate the Champions Course (formerly the North), and when re-opened, brought us back to revive the Legends (formerly the South).
Both were designed by Dick Wilson, although in truth, his associate Joe Lee did most of the work. Both are true classics of post war architecture, when Wilson and Robert Trent Jones were battling for superiority in the architecture field, and designing tournament worthy courses in nearly every location, including La Costa.
La Costa is unique in being a 36 hole facility, with membership and resort play alternating between both courses, so both had to be equally good.
The Tournament of Champions was actually played on a mix of the two courses, including the “Longest Mile” stretch of four holes on the South Course to finish. As development encroached around the resort, so did drainage problems, and a particularly bad storm one year caused the PGA Tour to consider other venues.
Fixing drainage and reducing irrigated acreage to conform to new California regulations drove the design as much as the desire to retain the original Dick Wilson character as much as possible.
The Champions Course was the first to undergo the knife. We attempted a true restoration of Dick Wilson’s original design, while reducing irrigation by adding native areas on the outskirts. The original course was just under 7,000 yards, short by today’s standards, and we found enough back tees to increase that to 7,172 yards, perfect for tournament play at sea level. We reorganized the other tees to popular resort distances, and added new forward tees at 4,356 yards to encourage female and junior play.
On many holes, like the ninth, fairway bunkers were moved out to current landing zones. Greens were all new, but often softened for today’s green speeds. Bunkers were recreated in the more jagged edges of the original bunker style, and some were removed or converted to grass hazards to improve resort play. Low fairways were raised, and all fairways received a sand cap to improve consistency and drainage. Many acres were sodded to accelerate re-opening. Competitive Bidding among highly qualified contractors yielded a construction price of about $7 Million, about 15% below our estimates. In the end, Champions returned to the top 20 rankings of California courses, and the project was deemed a success.