El Caballero reopens following nine-month renovation by Rees Jones

  • El Cab
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    El Caballero Country Club in California has reopened following a nine-month renovation by Rees Jones

  • El Cab
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    Jones’s work will save the club more than 35 million gallons of water per year (fifth hole, pictured)

  • El Cab
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    At the twelfth hole (right), trees near the cart path have been removed, bunker shapes have been updated and the green has been redesigned

  • El Cab
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    The course has also been lengthened to around 7,019 yards

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California, has reopened following a nine-month renovation by Rees Jones.

The project aims to improve the course’s environmental sustainability and playability.

El Caballero’s par-71 layout, originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr, has been lengthened to around 7,019 yards, with all turfgrass replaced with hybrid bermuda. Work also includes tree removal, regrading of fairways, repositioning of bunkers and the redesign of all greens.

Along with native landscaping, the work will save the club more than 35 million gallons of water per year, a 30 per cent decrease.

“Steve Weisser [Jones’s design associate] and I looked at every feature and made decisions on what we should modestly change, dramatically change and what we should just leave alone,” said Jones, in a club video about the renovation. “We opened the entrances to a lot of greens because we wanted to allow, for the players that doesn’t hit the ball very far, a better chance to access the greens.

“Green contours are what the members will find different, probably more manageable. The green speeds when my dad worked here in the 1960s were around six or seven on the Stimpmeter, now they will be around nine-and-a-half to 12, so you have to really consider the contours of greens when you restore a golf course like this.”

Jones and Weisser’s work on bunkers involved trying to make them more playable and also improving access, so members are now able to walk more easily into them. The intention was to still present the same degree of difficulty, but without them being quite as deep.

“Members will still recognise the course but there are a lot of minor changes that make a big difference, and there are some major changes like the sixth and tenth greens that are dramatically better and receive shots more readily,” said Jones. “The tenth hole was really tough; you’d hit the right side of the green and your ball would disappear. We added a lot of fill to the left side of that hole, now you can hit short, there’s a bailout area, there’s a little pocket before the bunker, and now we’ve got this upsweep at the back of the green. El Cab is now quite different from other California courses because of these backboards and sideboards that we’ve introduced.”

“The course’s modern redesign will give players a state-of-an-art experience, providing them with the tools they need to improve their skill level,” said head golf professional Tasha Bohlig.

Technology from Toptracer and Flightscope has been incorporated into the updated practice facility.

“We are excited to relaunch El Caballero and position our championship golf course for the future, especially in light of recurring drought conditions in California and the need to be a responsible environmental leader in the golf community,” said Lopez. “Now more than ever, we all need a sense of community and shared experiences to sustain us during these challenging times. We know our members feel that at El Cab.”