renaissance

Golf Resumes at Aliso Creek

J.D. Blashaw, Aliso Creek's director of golf operations, tries out the renovated course. Photo by Ted Reckas

After a two-month storm-caused closure, the 83-acre Aliso Creek Golf Course will reopen this Sunday, Feb. 20, donating golf proceeds that day to the Laguna Relief and Resource Center’s fund for local victims of the same flood that shut it down last December.

Even though the weekend weather forecast is for precipitation, general manager Kurt Bjorkman is optimistic loyal patrons will want to be the first to tee up on the restored links. “Weather stands in the way of no golfer,” he said, adding that 120 tee-times are booked on the nine-hole course and everyone is aware of the potential for rain. “A lot of people are really excited to get out on the course,” he added.

When the deluge began on Dec. 22, J.D. Blashaw, Aliso Creek’s director of golf operations, said that the banks of the creek completely overwhelmed the course, awash in three to four feet of water that left behind a foot-thick residue of mud once the runoff subsided.

“It was a little scary to be here while it was going on,” agreed Bjorkman. He couldn’t see the grass, or even the base of the tree trunks.

Though it was “heartbreaking” to witness the damage, golf course superintendent Greg Jones and his team immediately went to work clearing the debris, re-building bunkers, replanting trees, repairing bridges over the creek and reseeding the entire course. “The restored course is incredible with pristine greens and immaculate tee boxes,” he promised.

Lying in a flood basin, the golf course has habitually fallen victim to the vagaries of storms, and was most recently damaged by deluges in 1997 and 1994.

The clean up effort included a fleet of small tractors to muck out the mud (small, so as not to do more harm to the over-soft ground).
During the closure the property staffed the golf shop in order to stay in touch with the community, according to Blashaw, who said a lot of people came down just to check out the progress.

Though he admitted that it’s certainly tough for any business to be down for two months, Blashaw said the forced course restoration leaves the grounds in an extraordinary rugged canyon better than before.

While he couldn’t give specific figures for their losses, Bjorkman conceded that January is a somewhat busy time for golf at Aliso Creek and that the losses were “significant.”

Despite extensive damage to the grounds, the 60-room guest facilities were largely unscathed by the storm. No bookings were dropped during the closure, though room reservations slowed, Bjorkman said. The hotel appeals to a different audience than the course, and the former restaurant’s meeting space caters to a lot of groups and retreats. Still, the course’s closure “changed the overall heart beat of the whole property,” he said.

Both Blashaw and Bjorkman emphasized the course’s importance to local clientele.

For many, this is the only course they play, said Blashaw. “Some guests say you don’t know what you have until you lose it,” he added.
Indeed, it is a nod to their loyalty to locals that they are donating the proceeds from their opening day to the Laguna Relief and Resource Center, since, said Bjorkman, though their business was hurt, “it does not compare to the impact that the storm has had on many of our Laguna Beach neighbors.”

The nine-hole course, allowing golfers to circle the greens in about two hours, makes it particularly appealing to locals, who can, for example, knock off work early and get in round and still make it home for dinner with the kids, Bjorkman said. And fees are competitive, $36 for Fridays and weekends and as low as $22 for twilight hours midweek. “A lot of people really want to keep it a secret,” said Bjorkman.

A concierge at the Surf and Sand hotel earlier this week agreed that the nine-hole course nearby is an asset for business guests, who are delighted to squeeze in round of golf when they get a little time off.

Due to changes made by the current owner, Montage Hotel & Resorts Inc., a Nevada-based investor group that also owns the Montage Resort across the street, the former Canyon Lodge restaurant is now used solely as event space, Bjorkman said that the expanded golf snack shop, renamed Ben Brown’s 10th Hole after the original owner and developer, now has a full bar, serves breakfast, lunch, snacks, including grilled items, and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And you don’t have to play golf to enjoy the extraordinary canyon views.

For additional information and reservations, call 949-499-2271 or visit www.alisocreekinn.com.

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