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RSF Golf Club memberships rise as course update continues

The redone fifth hole of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course.
(Tom Huesgen
)

The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club added an unprecedented 81 new members in the month of August. At the beginning of the year, the club’s membership was at 455 and it has now reached 528 golfers, the highest membership level since the mid-2000s.

The membership boost was credited to the investment made into the golf club’s course renovation in addition to changes in the initiation fee. The club’s $50,000 initiation fee, which hasn’t been raised in 17 years, increased to $75,000 as of Sept. 1.

The course renovation continues on schedule with a full turf replacement on the fairways, new irrigation system, reshaped bunkers and a refreshed short game area and practice range. According to Blair Nicholas, president of the golf club board of directors, the front nine is substantially complete and the new grass is growing in. The plan is to finish the front nine by the first week of October.

The club has also made substantial progress on the back nine and it is about 75 to 80% done.

“We feel confident that all 18 holes will be open in December,” Nicholas said during an update at the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Sept. 2 board meeting.

Nicholas said they are still trying to get the county permit for the practice area and driving range improvements and they are unsure if they will receive it in time to complete the work this year. That phase of the project may be bumped to spring 2022, in the next growing season.

The final approved cost of the renovation was $6.4 million, however, additional expenditures and change orders have brought the cost up to $7.8 million.

Nicholas said the golf club was able to take advantage of substantial savings in undertaking the renovation project when they did, realizing about a 30-40% savings in materials and labor. He estimated that had they started the project today they would have been unlikely to be able to do it for less than $11 million.

The club is in a good financial position with new memberships bringing the club’s enrollment fee revenues $2.4 million higher than what was budgeted, according to Seth Goldman, Association chief financial officer. In the budget re-forecast, the dues income is nearly $600,000 higher.

Since the construction began in April, residents have raised concerns about a number of tree removals on the course, which resulted in a new Association policy on the management of golf course trees approved last month.

The newly named Tree Health Assessment Team comprised of representatives from the Association, the golf club director of agronomy, an independent certified arborist and one member of the Forest Health and Preservation Committee, will assess any potential tree removal on the course. After the team’s evaluation, the final decision will be made by the Association’s Assistant Manager Arnold Keene.

During public comment Chet Koblinksy, a member of the Forest Health and Preservation Committee, encouraged the board to move forward with the next phase in the new tree management protocol, which includes replenishing the golf course forest.

“While there’s been great progress in replacing the turf—it really looks terrific— community members have also recognized the significant loss of golf course trees and need to plant new trees on the course,” Koblinsky said.

He encouraged the timely formation of the committee to develop a plan and take advantage of the optimal season for planting young trees in fall and winter.

The Forest Health committee has proposed replanting 360 new golf course trees over the next four years.

Director Laurel Lemarié proposed that the ad hoc tree planting master plan committee be discussed at the board’s October meeting.


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