Residents of the exclusive Santa Lucia Preserve gated community live within an enormous property that extends to over 30 square miles in the hills outside Monterey. Access to this exclusive enclave is via an 8-mile long winding road that leads to a rather surreal world. The Preserve Golf Club is at the centre of the community with an old Spanish-style clubhouse built in the 1920s and a Tom Fazio-designed course that opened for play in 2000.
Within this impressively secluded tract of land, it is remarkable to learn that fewer than 350 acres were used to lay out the golf course with designer Tom Fazio irrigating less than a quarter of that area thanks to a sophisticated recycling system. With ancient oaks framing a number of holes, canyons and stunning Californian weather it is no surprise that Fazio said, “I was going wild on my first visit because I never had anything even close to this to work with. You could pick any hole and put it on the cover of my book; it is that kind of a course and environment”.
Fairways on the former ranching land are set out within a series of hills and valleys that lie at the foot of the Santa Lucia Range and they were sand-capped during construction to aid water percolation, improve irrigation recapture and enhance all round playability of the course.Natural ponds and creeks have been assimilated into the design with holes carved through large swathes of tumbling, forested terrain. Incredibly, despite such dense arboreal surroundings, the architect felt it necessary to move twelve tall oak trees during construction to intensify shot-values on a number of holes.
Those fortunate to secure an invitation to play will be most impressed with the isolation and sheer beauty of the property. Given what land goes for in and around the Monterey / Carmel area it's truly something to have such a location providing utter serenity and such a close bond with nature.
Unfortunately, the golf dimension is simply pedestrian with a few exceptions. Tom Fazio excels in creating eye-candy designs that really are awesome in terms of their overall beauty but the major downside at The Preserve is the architecture is not really compelling but simply matter-of-fact stuff. One would think such a site would be the inspiration for something truly beyond the ordinary.
This is not to say The Preserve is not a good layout -- but greatness escapes it. That's a pity.
by M. James Ward