Larry Bohannan, The Desert Sun
The construction of eight new holes at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells is big news. Those eight Jack Nicklaus-designed holes, which will complete the North Course at Toscana, are the first holes to be built in the golf-rich desert in three years.
“This is the developer listening to the members, which Sunrise Company and William Bone do a great job of,” said David Craig, Director of Golf at Toscana. “We do more member surveys and town halls and focus groups than any other club I have heard of. I guess it was a couple years ago when we kind of got the feeling that the members were thinking, ‘We don’t really need another big banquet hall-type facility before we need the golf course. Is there a way we can do the golf course first?’ ”
When Toscana was developed in 2003, two 18-hole courses by Nicklaus were part of the plan. While the South Course was built to completion, only the front nine holes and the 18th hole of the North Course were built. Now the final eight holes of that course, holes 10 through 17, are under construction, aiming for a November 2015 opening.
The North Course at Shadow Hills in Indio is the latest course to open in the California desert, with nine holes opening in 2010 and the final nine opening in 2012. Before that, no course had opened in the desert since 2007. Compare that with the halcyon days of the 1980s in the desert, when a booming economy and real estate market produced 33 courses in the decade, or an average of one opening every 100 days.
Craig said the original plan at Toscana was for Sunrise to construct the final club building for the membership prior to finishing the North Course, but existing members at Toscana wanted a change in plans.
“We’ve just moved [the course] up because of member demand. We’ve just switched out one part of the plan for another,” Craig said.
The new holes will stay true to the original Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course design, said Rick Sall, superintendent for Toscana. That means the South Course is the larger, more lush course, while the North Course has a desert theme.
“There’s 75.5 acres of turf on this 18,” Sall said. “On the first 10 holes there is 40 acres, and you get four acres per hole [for the eight new holes]. That’s 72, and then you get the driving range, since the driving range is split in two with the two courses, so you get 75.5.”
Gary Peterson, a consultant for Sunrise overseeing the building of the new holes, said everything is on schedule for the construction.
“It’ll be grassed out, by the latest, July 1,” Peterson said. “I’m shooting for June 15, but I have to have Nicklaus’ approvals before I can grass.”
For now the construction is going along in stages and moving sequentially by hole.
“We are in the mass grading phase, and I just started the Nicklaus shaper, who is working on 11 right now,” Petersen said. “It is still early in the game, but there is still a lot of activity. I’m finishing up the shoreline on the lake on North 16, for instance.”
Part of what makes Peterson’s job a bit easier now is that he is building on work that was done a decade ago to the desert floor.
“We’re moving 135,000 [cubic] yards of dirt. But this is basically a clean-up job,” Peterson said. “This was all mass graded and graded for lots and the golf course back in 2003. When we first built this place back in 2003, we moved 6 million yards. We were moving 1 million a month.”
Since Toscana is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, Nicklaus himself will visit the construction site to provide his input and potential changes to his decade-old design.
“I would say the only modifications that we have from the original design is that the greens will be a little more subtle. And we made that change,” Craig said.