This article first appeared in the Saturday, November 19th edition of the Globe and Mail
La Costa Resort and Spa, Calif.
Famous as the site of 37 PGA Tour events, La Costa Resort and Spa earlier this month unveiled a completely revamped Champions Course, part of a $50-million (U.S.) rejuvenation of a luxury property that has hosted everyone from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods since 1969.
Changes at the Spanish mission-style resort, nestled in coastal foothills north of San Diego, include the repositioning of the Champions Course's bunkers, recontoured fairways and subtle elevation changes throughout the course. More than 12 hectares of turf were eliminated from the original Dick Wilson layout to conserve water use in the drought-threatened region. Most dramatic of all, four completely new holes were woven into the routing.
The year-long project by Pascuzzo & Pate Golf Course Design also included significant changes to four holes on the resort's second layout, the South Course.
Another popular attraction at the 611-room resort is the refurbished 43,000-square-foot Spa at La Costa. And offering treatments of a more spiritual nature is the Chopra Center, where wellness guru Deepak Chopra's body-mind healing techniques point golfers toward enlightenment. lacosta.com
Pinehurst Resort, N.C.
Donald Ross's No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort has a long and storied reputation. So it was with trepidation that the acclaimed design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore undertook the $2.5-million restoration of a course (one of eight at Pinehurst Resort) that the legendary Ross obsessively altered until his death in 1948. Though still a world-class challenge, No. 2 had lost much of its original character through the years.
Guided by photos taken during the course's 1940s heyday, Crenshaw (a two-time Masters champion) and Coore stripped away hectares of turf, returning natural areas of hardpan, sand, pine straw and wiregrass that were part of the original topography. Fairways were widened, offering more strategic options, and bunkers were restored to their original shapes at a course that will host both the men's and women's U.S. Open Championships in 2014.
“Hopefully, Donald Ross would be pleased with what we've done,” Crenshaw says of a redesign that launched to rave reviews last March. “Making changes to No. 2 was like messing with the Mona Lisa.” pinehurst.com
Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
Like Donald Ross at Pinehurst Resort, architect Pete Dye has been synonymous with golf at the lavish Casa de Campo resort since the unveiling of his brilliant Teeth of the Dog course in 1971. Dye, believed by many to be the greatest of modern golf architects, built all three courses at the 2,833-hectare luxury complex on the island's southeast coast. As well as Teeth of the Dog, the lineup includes The Links and the recently expanded Dye Fore, a 27-hole behemoth.
Part of a $40-million refurbishment of the resort, the nine holes added by the famously meticulous Dye snake around 10 hectares of ponds. “It took five years to build, and when you have so much time, you keep looking at it, trying to see the long views,” he says.
Unlike the lushly tropical Teeth of the Dog, renowned for its seven spectacular oceanside holes, Dye Fore's rolling and starkly bare fairways include seven holes set on cliffs plunging 91 metres to the Chavon River.
Best of all at this constantly demanding layout – where almost the only flat areas are found on the tee boxes – are the 360-degree views. After your second shot on the par-five opening hole, look back for your best view of the Altos de Chavon artist's village. casadecampo.com.do
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Florida
In a state where segregation was once the law and golf a lily-white game, black entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson made headlines with her 2007 purchase of venerable Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, the home of the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship.
Since then, Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, has shepherded the sprawling 364-hectare resort near Tampa through a nearly $30-million rejuvenation. First up was a major reworking of the Island Course, the most difficult of Innisbrook's four layouts, featuring such aptly named holes as Uphill Intimidation, Trapped and High Anxiety.
But the resort's real star is the Copperhead Course, one of the PGA Tour's more popular venues since 1977. Designed by Lawrence Packard, another hands-on architect who at the age of 99 still lives on the property, Copperhead climbs and dips through rolling terrain, one memorable hole after another carved through tall pines, cypress swamps and citrus groves.
Not far from Copperhead's 12th hole is the new 20,000-square-foot Indaba Spa. And across Mill Ridge Road from the 14th hole is a grandly expanded clubhouse that serves as a central gathering space. innisbrookgolfresort.com
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