RSF Association board approves increased budget for golf course renovation

The driving range will be updated in phase three of the RSF Golf Club renovation.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved the revised budget for the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club course renovation at its April 14 meeting, an additional $3 million for phase three’s improvements to the driving range and short game areas.

The golf club master plan initially approved by the board in January 2021 was for $6,161,000, however, due to the delays related to retroactively securing a grading permit, inflation and the need to secure a new contractor, the total cost for the course renovation has swelled to $11,399,000.

The funds come entirely from the golf club, none from Association assessments.

The golf club’s plan is to begin phase three on April 24 with a 12-week construction period that would finish up by mid-July. The phase three work includes new grassing and sod, feature sand, a new cart path and fencing.

San Diego County issued the major grading permit for the golf course in February, resolving a violation that was reported by residents in 2021. The permit was for work already completed and for the future improvements and involved revising the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map for the site to address potential flooding and ensuring that best management practices are followed with phase three.

Last month, the board approved a $101,000 expenditure to remove and remediate the contents of a bury pit on the course. Permitted bury pits are not illegal, they are commonly used in golf course construction, when old surface material like the cement rubble from a ripped-up cart path is buried rather than being hauled away. Removing the bury pit was not a condition of the county’s permit, the golf club voluntarily agreed to do so.

The pit in question was about 40 by 20 feet and 10 feet deep.

Tom Huesgsen, the golf club’s director of agronomy, said work began on April 10 to excavate the concrete and perform an expert soil analysis.

“Once we receive the results we will fill the hole, return it to grass and go back to playing golf in that area and move on,” he said.

During public comment, the board heard comments from people concerned about the process— resident Gary Purcell said he was less concerned about the details of bury pits or turf but with the Association’s integrity, honesty and following best practices to represent the entire community, not just the golf club and members.

Former board member Bill Strong reiterated his request for an independent auditor to perform an illegal acts investigation.

The board also heard from those who were grateful for the project and who were satisfied with the steps the Association took to rectify the violation.

“For too long we’ve put up with this continuing saga of a dysfunctional culture led by a few who continue to cast doubt and aspersion on the quality of the community in which we live,” said resident Barry Moyer. “I for one am tired of it.”

There were also concerns expressed about the cost—resident Linda Leong said given that the loan to renovate the golf club clubhouse back in 2006 has yet to be paid off, the golf club should not be incurring any further debt.

According to the Association’s Chief Financial Officer Seth Goldman, there is no loan being considered with the golf course renovation project. The outstanding debt payments related to the clubhouse are made every month on an amortization schedule made in 2020—the club has exceeded and accelerated the payments, he said.

Director Lorraine Kent and Treasurer Rick Sapp noted that every expenditure is reviewed and approved by the golf club finance committee, golf club board of governors, and the Association audit and finance committee before reaching the board. All of those meetings are open to the public to attend and express their concerns.

“We’re here to serve the people and the members and we have to make these decisions,” Sapp said “We do them as thoughtfully and professionally as we can with advice and analysis to get these projects done.”