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Last Update :4/12/2006

April 2006 FORE Magazine

Links to the Coast

Nipomo’s newest coastal course offers players nature and nurture
 
By Katie Denbo
 
While the goal of being “best in class” may be a common one, Monarch Dunes Golf Club, the newest addition to the Southland’s golf course roster, is confident that it can not only raise the standard of golf, but change the face of the Central Coast as well.
 
“It’s a Scottish highlands-style links golf course, unlike most other courses in California,” says General Manager Matt Kalbak of the KemperSports-managed course. “We’re the anti-Augusta; we don’t want perfect emerald-green conditions.  We want natural.”
 
Damian Pascuzzo’s newest design is nearly 200 miles north of Los Angeles in Nipomo, the seventh new course to open in San Luis Obispo County in 12 years. Pascuzzo embarked on the project nearly 14 years ago and consulted with PGA Tour pro Steve Pate, brother of 1999 SCGA Amateur Champion John Pate.
 
The par-71 course (across the street from Blacklake Golf Resort and just south of Cypress Ridge GC) opened on January 1. Although six inches of rain shut the course down for nearly three days after it opened, the wet weather didn’t deter players, as the course has received steady play since.
 
True to its name, the course is perched upon sand dunes in what was once a 1,000-acre Eucalyptus grove. Nearly 1 million trees were removed to clear room for the course and surrounding properties. No materials were imported to create and construct the course, as everything was natural to the surrounding environment.
 
Hand-weeded sea grasses, shallow laced-edge bunkers and natural cart paths are only some of the unique features the course offers. Bluffs run prominently through fairways, and greens (“I’d put our putting surfaces up against any in California, they’re unbelievable,” Kalbak says) have natural sideboards, adding an uncommon — and sometimes unnerving — element to the game.
 
“When designing this course, Damian [Pascuzzo] wanted to bring back the element of chance to golf,” Kalbak says. “Our course provides an opportunity to play that bump-and-run style of golf that isn’t possible at a lot of other courses.”
 
Despite its natural feel, Monarch Dunes is player-friendly; all skill levels can play the course because there are no forced carries. Five sets of tees ranging from 4,702 yards to 6,810 yards accommodate any length of game.  Once off the tee, the course is designed to play firm and fast on fescue fairways and velvet bent grass greens.
 
“It’s all about the experience player any thought to going for the green,” Pascuzzo says. “There’s a lot of trouble around it for a mis-hit iron or fairway metal.”
 
The course is only a small part of a much larger plan. Trilogy Central Coast — a division of Shea Homes behind the likes of Trilogy at La Quinta and Glen Ivy, and the golfers get when they are playing with their friends out here on our course,” Kalbak says. “There’s a lot of strategizing, interaction and camaraderie that happens on our course.  That’s what this game is about.”
 
Although the course has no signature hole yet, many have signature elements.  Hole 10, a 407-yard par 4 from the gold tees, features a split fairway — a risk-reward depending on which side of the fairway is taken.  The 180-yard par-three 11th treats players to a striking ocean view over the Oso Flaco wetlands, beyond the reversed-tiered green that runs away from front to back.
 
Perhaps the most visually appealing hole is the sixth, a par 5, 550-yard stretch, with a lateral water hazard to a small, two-tiered green and rolling, undulating green collars and sideboards.  It is also the first of five holes where the large ridge running through the center of the course comes into play. “The tee shot has to clear the crest of the hill and be down by the lake to give the Woodlands Ventures — which owns the course, are building 1,300 homes for The Woodlands resort-style community. Monarch Dunes has two community putting greens on its course (in addition to its main 13,000 square-foot putting green) for use by the residents in their own backyards.
 
Monarch Dunes will eventually have a total of 45 holes of golf. A nine-hole executive course with seven par 3s and two par 4s is planned for completion by fall 2007, and an additional 18-hole championship course will be completed further down the road to accommodate its hopes of hosting major tournaments.  The property has also received plan approval for a200-500 room golf resort and spa.
 
The golf shop features apparel, accessories and a handful of clubs for testing and purchasing. Its club- house, a $1.3 million module, is full-service. Featuring a full breakfast and lunch menu as well as a bar, the restaurant has many menu options.
 


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