Sometimes the best decisions come when realizing an existing course is no longer feasible and then moving ahead with a massive overhaul. That was the risk taken with Rams Hills in jettisoning the former 27-hole Ted Robinson layout called Montesoro and smartly hiring the gifted Tom Fazio and his team to create an 18-hole Shangri-La in the desert community of Borrego Springs.
Fazio got involved in 2007 with a complete redesign for just 18-holes. That course suffered and eventually closed in 2010 and through fortunate circumstances, was purchased by new ownership and resurrecting the facility with a major reopening in 2014. Such on, off and on again situations are rare and do not often take hold.
Unlike numerous other Fazio courses which can be at best described with the Texas phrase -- "all hat and no cattle" -- Rams Hills is far from just a course that "looks" good. There's plenty of strategic interest and is very elastic in testing better players while at the same time permitting higher handicaps appropriate leeway.
Rams Hills, at least to this point, is not cluttered in the same manner as courses are throughout much of the nearby Coachella Valley and Palm Springs environs. That may change in the years ahead as plans for housing and a high-end hotel take root. It will be interesting to monitor if the golf experience is not overwhelmed with a whole slew of distractions. The terrain provides sufficient movement and the routing is very good - moving in different directions and providing for a range of shotmaking challenges keeping players on their toes at all times.
Interestingly, Rams Hill is located in the far northeast corner of San Diego County and is blessed to be near the Anza Borrego State Park -- California's largest and which makes up 1/5th of the County.
Rams Hill possesses an array of different green shapes and contours and on that front Fazio has done an exceptional effort. Hitting a green in the regulation stroke is not simply sufficient in order to reap a reward. The internal slopes are beautifully created and pin locations can be located in a range of areas -- many quite hidden.
The desert experience is central to playing the course but the savage penal nature of closely cropped areas abutting the natural environment is carried out in a sensible manner.
Turf quality is of the highest order and when the putting surfaces are really rolling it demands a steady stroke. There is no singular hole that stands heads and shoulders above the others because the collective strength of the individual holes works so well in tandem with one another. One of the really neat virtues is that the golf experience is a continuous manner -- no coming back to the main clubhouse.
Rams Hill is a bit off the beaten track but spending time in Borrego Springs is a clear get away from all the hustle and bustle. Hats off to the new ownership because what appeared to be likely corpse for a golf course has been resurrected in a truly magnificent manner.
M. James Ward
Date: March 06, 2019