Palmer team completes first phase of renovation at The Saticoy Club

  • Saticoy

    Arnold Palmer Design Company has completed a first phase of work at The Saticoy Club (photo before work)

  • Saticoy

    The California club has seen bunkers remodelled, trees removed and fairway expanded

  • Saticoy

    Strategy has been accentuated on the dramatic par-five fourteenth

  • Saticoy

    The total yardage of the course has extended from 6,985 to 7,033

  • Saticoy

    Thad Layton says expansive vistas have been gained through tree removal

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    The renovation has added strategic variety, says shaper Brett Hochstein

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Thad Layton of Arnold Palmer Design Company has completed the first phase of a renovation of The Saticoy Club in Somis, California.

Saticoy Partners purchased the club in spring 2018 and hired the Palmer team to create a long-range master plan. This summer the course remained open while Layton – working alongside shaper/architect Brett Hochstein, construction firm Heritage Links and the club’s superintendent Tim Paulson – oversaw a comprehensive bunker remodel, extensive tree removal and corresponding fairway expansion.

The club was founded in the 1920s and move to its present course, designed by William ‘Billy’ F. Bell, in 1964. Since that time a number of architects have left their mark, including Robert Muir Graves, Tom Doak and John Harbottle, who had developed a master plan for the club in 2004.

“We’re honoured to have been selected by The Saticoy Club to restore the best parts of Bell’s original design, while adding layers of strategic interest to increase the playability and enjoyment of the golf course,” said Layton. “The expansive vistas gained through the initial tree removals lend a sense of context and scale that had been covered up through years of unchecked growth.

“While some bunkers were removed, and others added, the net result was a more beautiful, more playable, and easier to maintain collection of bunkers that increased the strategic interest of the golf course,” said Layton. “Overall there was a net reduction of bunkers from 84 to 63.

“Tees were levelled, and two new tees were added on one and nine, pushing the total yardage from 6,985 to 7,033.

“Low-input grasses like Santa Ana bermudagrass, tall fescue and fine fescue replaced rye and poa annua.

This change is already lowering maintenance costs, increasing turf consistency, and decreasing water consumption.

“New native areas were established that will also lower costs and help blend the course into the existing landscape.”

Hochstein was primarily responsible for shaping bunkers and surrounds, as well as keeping an eye on many other moving parts of the project, including scheduling and finish. “I would look at construction components and question if they would work or not,” said Hochstein. “In general, there were few issues, but at my concern for erosion we came up with an alternate drainage method for the giant canyon bunker on fourteen.

“The fourteenth hole is not just the most dramatic and picturesque hole on the course, it is also the most strategic,” said Hochstein. “A shortish and angled par five, it can be reached in two by better players. The brilliant part of the hole is a saddle and ridge that extends off the front right of the green and is angled slightly to the left. This slight angle dictates that any long running approach needs to come in from the left, which is where the deep canyon and out of bounds looms. We simply sought to accentuate this basic strategy, shifting the greenside bunker over to the left a few feet, which opened up the saddle and made it more inviting to attempt the long approach. In exchange, we shifted the irrelevant back bunker forward to the left approach area, which may catch pulled attempts – and also looks much better from the tee. The right bunkers were lost and replaced with short grass that will deflect a running shot well away from the green but hold a high shot closer.

“Lastly, the corner of the canyon was made into a dramatic looking but informal ‘waste’ bunker,” continued Hochstein. “This is certainly for aesthetics, but it also helps to catch a ball from scurrying all the way out of bounds, which it would do before. We probably spent the most design/construction time on this hole, which makes sense given its pedigree and importance on the golf course.”

Hochstein highlights how the renovation has led to improvements in aesthetic appeal and strategic variety: “Before we started, every single green had bunker right, bunker left – except the tenth, which has bunkers behind, pond in front. Without taking away the teeth of the golf course, we tried to get away from that approach as much as possible, losing bunkers to a certain side and adding short grass and contours in place of them. This affects placement of the tee shot on the fairway, creating advantageous sides from which to approach, and adds short game options if a shot is missed in those short grass areas."

Troon’s senior vice president of golf course development, Ron Despain, is overseeing the project. Troon Privé, the private club operating division of Troon, manages the golf and club operations at Saticoy.

“We, at Saticoy Partners, are so happy to be working closely with Arnold Palmer Design, Troon and the great team at The Saticoy Club to restore Saticoy to its rightful place as one of the great golf courses in California and all of the United States,” said Bill Apfelbaum, managing partner at Saticoy Partners.