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Architect Discusses Routing Changes at La Costa Resort


Golf course architect Brian Curley swears he's not responsible for all the rain that has drenched the La Costa Resort and Spa this week, but he is taking credit for how the holes flow. Curley, a principal in the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based firm of Schmidt-Curley Design, was meeting with La Costa's owners, KSL, in 2003 to discuss long range master plans for the golf facilities when he took a good look at the routing of the holes used for the PGA Tour's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Curley recommended flip-flopping the nines.

"I was very much aware of the history attached to La Costa's tournament course, with its famous 'longest mile' finish," said Curley, referring to La Costa's challenging par-4, par-4, par-5, par-4 closing stretch, whose yardages totaled approximately one mile and played into the teeth of the prevailing breeze. "But I saw that those holes are mostly situated a long way from the clubhouse. It would take a pretty good effort for fans to get out there. When I examined the existing front nine, I noticed that the sixth and seventh holes were tucked right next to the clubhouse, the eighth tee was an easy walk and the ninth green came right back to the clubhouse. I figured that since most matches in the tournament finished on either the 15th, 16th, 17th or 18th holes, it would be easier to attract bigger galleries to those dramatic holes if we reversed the nines. Plus, there would be added drama in finishing with a reachable par-5 right at the clubhouse."

Curley and club officials met with the PGA Tour and the switch was made in time for the 2004 event. The successful maneuver has been retained for the 2005 event as well.

"One of the critical tasks that a golf course architect undertakes is to maximize the best routing possible for golf holes," said Curley. "For match-play purposes, I just felt that reversing the nines would make sense for both players and spectators."

Curley's firm has assisted in adding new back tees to several holes – including the pivotal par-4 17th, and plans in the immediate future call for a revised and upgraded practice facility. "Once it stops raining, we will get to work on the practice facility expansion," says Curley, "and perhaps discuss various fixes for turf conditions. We lifted a couple of the fairways in the last two years and certainly there's more we'd like to do, but at this point, there's not a whole lot that can be done when you're in the midst of record rainfall in Southern California."

In addition to work at La Costa, Schmidt-Curley Golf Design is currently working on or has completed projects in ten different countries, including eight of the ten courses at Mission Hills in China, the Guinness Book of World Records holder as "the World's Largest Golf Club." Due to their prominence in Asia, Schmidt-Curley recently opened an office in Bangkok, Thailand, where projects include Amata Spring Golf Club, Chiangmai Highlands and the remodeling of Muang Kaew Golf Club.

Among the most honored Schmidt-Curley courses in the United States are Marriott's Shadow Ridge (with Nick Faldo) in Palm Desert, Calif., Bali Hai in Las Vegas, Nev., the PGA of Southern California Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif., Southern Dunes Golf Club (with Fred Couples) in Maricopa, Ariz., Crosby National (with Fred Couples) in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. and The Palms and The Plantation (both with Fred Couples) in Indio. Calif. Another Schmidt-Curley design in Indio, Landmark Golf Club, is a four-time host to the Skins Game.