Designed in the late 1980s by a trio of Dye’s – Pete, Alice and their son Perry – the 18-layout at The Farms Golf Club lies within one of the most prestigious golf communities in Rancho Santa Fe. A decade after the course debuted, architect John Fought and former PGA Tour professional Tom Lehman were asked to remodel it to improve its playability.
Modifications made to ensure the course was fit for purpose in the new millennium included reconstructing and re-contouring bent grass greens, locating additional tee boxes and sand bunkers, installing a state-of-the-art irrigation system, adding several new water features and establishing a new practice facility with a double-sided driving range.
The rolling Bermuda fairways play firm and fast, weaving their way through groves of California Pepper and Red Gum Eucalyptus trees, with strategically-placed bunkers that are as beautiful to behold as they are intimidating. Water comes into play at half the holes on the card so astute course management in a prerequisite to playing here.
The signature par four 17th is a spectacular hole, rated stroke index 2, and it plays 471 yards from the tips, generally into the prevailing ocean breeze from the west. It veers slightly right and downhill, with three small ponds lurking to the right of the fairway, a small lake protecting the right side of the green, and bunkers lying to the left of a slippery putting surface.
There are moments when ownership of a course has to decide if the course they have is working or if they need to "bite the bullet" and make major changes which they see as being a clear improvement. The Farms originally opened in 1988 as a Pete, Alice and Perry Dye design. The architecture featured elements extremely penal in nature and the desire to re-craft the course fell to architect John Fought.
The 125-acre site is literally shoe-horned around massive estates surrounding the property. There's rolling terrain and Fought smartly eschewed the overly penal dimensions and created a shotmakers delight. The Farms rewards placement -- not wanton power without any real purpose. Being able to work the ball in both directions is a consistent dimension throughout the round.
The Farms is blessed with excellent turf conditions with putting surfaces well protected and often angled to accentuate proper positioning is achieved off the tee. The speed of the greens also necessitates well thought out approaches at all times. Given the overall small acreage -- the course fits the terrain very well. In this era of power golf where distance is celebrated -- and rewarded without much distinction -- The Farms proves a successful counterpoint can be created.
Those venturing to the greater San Diego area who have the wherewithal to secure an opportunity to play the course should leap at the opportunity.
by M. James Ward