Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club closely tied to history of RSF Covenant


“Elegant” and “understated” are two words that come to mind when you enter the grounds of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, much in character with the Ranch itself. First opened in 1929 by master golf-course architect Max Behr, the club’s development parallels the rich tradition and ambiance of the Ranch. The private golf course is an 18-hole par 72 design and holds the distinction of being one of the finest walkable designs in the world. It offers one of the best practice facilities anywhere, coupled with golf instruction for every level.

The club has been home base for many prestigious and celebrity-filled events through the years. Champion professional golfers and Hollywood elites alike have enjoyed its challenges and beauty. Entertainer Bing Crosby began hosting the pro-am “Clambake” at the club in 1937. The golf event paired celebrities and businessmen with professionals for a 36-hole weekend event that was held annually through 1942. In addition, the San Diego Open was held there in 1954, as well as the SCGA Amateur Championship Tournament in 2000. Phil Mickelson and Charley Hoffman, both PGA Tour stars, are club members and play the course regularly to challenge their skills.

The Rancho Santa Fe Association took over operation of the golf course in 1934 and operated it for 25 years as a public facility. In 1960, the Association was asked by its membership to restrict the use of the golf course to Association members only and to lease the golf course operations from the Association. The Association agreed, and in 1978 added the ownership of Covenant property as a condition of membership. It wasn’t until 1987 that the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club was established as a division of the RSF Association with managerial, operations and financial responsibility for all golf activities.

In 2004, the USGA awarded the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club the right to host the Junior Amateur Championship in 2006. The tournament was successfully hosted with a portion of the proceeds going to Pro Kids Golf Academy. Since then, major renovations took place on the major clubhouse, the golf shop and the Player’s Clubhouse, which opened in January 2008.

According to General Manager Brad Shupe, “The beautiful thing about our course is that it is deceptively challenging. It is natural and straightforward; there are no gimmicks. But when you play the course, you realize there’s a lot more to it than you realized.”

However, members agree that there’s always room for upgrading. “We recently partnered with David McClay Kidd to update our golf-course master plan,” explains Shupe. “David is an elite golf-course designer with a resume including several of the top 100 golf courses in the world. Although our facility is among the best in Southern California, we are always committed to improving.”

The club doesn’t just hold golfing events; many more neighborhood activities take place there as well, making it the social hub of the community. It hosts “Cooking Classes with the Chef,” Happy Hour and Yappy Hour, book club meetings and complimentary beer and wine tastings. It also offers monthly celebrations for birthdays and kids’ entertainment so parents can enjoy “Date Nights.”

Shupe is passionate about the club because of its uniqueness – it’s rare for a community to own and operate a nationally-recognized golf course. “Because membership is limited to members of the community,” he says, “we have much in common and enjoy a special bond among our members.”

This month, the club is celebrating its 90th anniversary and is offering a special promotion to prospective members. If they sign up for the “90-Day Promotional Playing Privilege” they can “test drive” the club for 90 days, paying only monthly dues before deciding to invest $50,000 to join.

To learn more, go to or call 858-756-7463.

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