The Transformation of Santa Ana Country Club PDF Print E-mail

 

By Jason Bruno

Earlier this summer we made the cross country journey to Southern

California to experience the recent renovation of Santa Ana Country

Club in Orange County. Truthfully, renovation is an inadequate

description of what architect Jay Blasi accomplished at SACC. It's

actually a comprehensive redesign.

 

A true transformation.


 

For those of you not familiar with Blasi's work, Chambers Bay (site

of the 2015 US Open), the Patriot Golf Club in Oklahoma and the

2014 renovation of Sentry World in Stevens Point, Wisconsin (host

site of the 2019 U.S Girls Jr. Amateur) are front and center in the

design portfolio of the Wisconsin native. In a architectural sense, Blasi

is a five tool player - showing his extensive expertise of not just how

to craft thought provoking and fun golf holes, but also on routing,

infrastructure, strategy and land re-purposing. We gained valuable

perspective on his true brilliance. Not many in the business are as

generous with their time, providing us details and insight into what

the biggest challenges were on the Santa Ana project . . .

 



The previous version faced several challenges including:

Lack of pinnable space on Greens

Green drainage issues

Bunker drainage issues

Failing irrigation system

Using way too much water

Poor practice areas

Safety concerns

No sense of place

Too hard for most, easy for best

Lack of variety

 

 


Before -----------------------------------------------------After

Blasi won over the membership hierarchy at Santa Ana Country Club

with a comprehensive plan - convincing them that the entire property,

not just the golf course and its design had to be more functional and

sustainable. By the time the grow-in phase was complete in the fall of

2016 the critical objectives were achieved:

 

IMPROVED SAFETY

SIMILAR RATING / LOWER SLOPE

ADDED VARIETY

STRATEGIC OPTIONS FOR PLAY

REDUCTION OF 38 ACRES OF TURF

NEW AMENITIES (PRACTICE FACILITY, SHORT GAME AREA, EVENT LAWN)

 

 

 

 

 

The New Design

The slightly downhill 358 yard par 4 - 1st known as "Santiago" is named

in homage to the original Santiago Country Club (located in Peters Canyon).

In 1923, the purchase of 144 acres became the site for what would become

Santa Ana Country Club.

 

 

 


 

Staggered sand grabs your attention right out of the gate. Avoid the left,

this bunker and tall grass natural areas make for a tough par. Kikuyu

fairways, not known for providing a fast n firm playing field, did chase

out more than expected.

 



 

 

 

The 310 yard par 4 - 2nd called "Ridgeline" features a slope that feeds

from the fairway to the well guarded putting surface. Playing quite a

bit shorter than the stated distance, choosing the proper tees brings

an enticing drivable component for many of the members (and guests).

However, if driving isn't a strength, Blasi provides several options here:

an accurate long iron, hybrid or fairway wood will provide the prudent

strategy of a wedge approach. The correct line is just right of the fairway

bunker. Any mishit approach may fall victim to one of several runoffs into

the bunker behind the green or the deep sand that guards left pin locations

(as shown). You could take this design and drop into Streamsong, Sand

Valley or Gamble Sands and it would fit perfectly. Instantly one of our

personal favorite golf holes anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the tee on the 156 yard 4th "Saddleback". One the few swings

at SACC that involves a carry over water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 265 yard - 6th is another of those that you could play 5 times and employ

a different club/strategy off the box each time. "Narrow" plays uphill and requires

the utmost accuracy. Pick the stick you know will fly to a reliable yardage, 4 is a

solid score on this gem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tee at the 541 yard par 5 - 8th shows off Blasi's use of flowing Ribbon

tees and a vast "wash area" that isn't in play, but provides a substantial

drainage function and visual distraction that's just enough to take your

focus away from the need to pipe your drive on the par 5 that provides

the best "go for it" hole on the property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view from behind the mammoth "Biarritz" green at the 8th. Shortgame

shots around this complex are an absolute blast. Raynor himself would surely

say, "bravo Blasi."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 563 yard par 5 - 11th "Twisted", features this massive waste area that

bisects both this and the 15th. Aptly named because of gnarled edges, some

flared corners, sideboards and backboards that both repel and funnel approach

shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bank shots are encouraged . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . and this backboard comes into play with any back pin location here on the 11th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At "Horseshoe", the uphill 340 yard 16th, big hitters can blow it over this

two tiered center bunker, everyone else must pick a side. From there a

precise wedge is all that's left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting short par 3's are a dying breed, but not at Santa Ana where Blasi

crafted a few masterpiece one-shotters. The 17th called "Beached" was my

personal favorite of the lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The green is anything but tame, hit the wrong quadrant and bogey

is highly likely here at 17. At only 125 yards, take dead aim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The very reachable 479 yard finisher is an ideal opportunity to get one back

before adding up the card. The pot bunker front center acts like a catchers

mitt, we found out the hard way.


 

 

Summary:

Blasi's Santa Ana plays a modest 6503 from the tips, but brings the opportunity

to use every club and shot in your arsenal, ground game included. We loved having

five par 3's and Five par 5's in the routing, it really contributes to more drama

during the round. The design left a distinct impression and the desire to play it

again, there's no better compliment than that. The greens and their surrounds

inspire creativity as well as any we've played in recent memory. Even those holes

that we didn't feature, like the "Punchbowl" 12th and "Washed Away" the par 5

- 15th still stand out several months after our visit. Since Santa Ana is a private

club the masses won't get the chance to experience it. If you get the invite, don't

pass on this Jay Blasi instant classic.

 

 

 

 

 

Dean Lenertz and our gracious host Jim Harmon (right), who we owe a big

thank you to for being the perfect guide around SACC.

 

 

To learn more on SACC: http://www.santaanacc.org/ and

Jay Blasi Golf Design: http://www.jayblasi.com/