Perhaps the best way to describe The Preserve Golf Club is that it fits.
And that’s no small task. The 20-acre course is an easy physical fit for the 200-acre Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, but it’s the ambience, flow and environmental reverence that are most fitting here. That’s because the member-owned community is a living, breathing testament to sustainability when like minds come together.
The Santa Lucia Preserve has undergone only a few transformations in a history that dates to the 1800s, and many of the historic buildings reflect a lifestyle common to the wealthy of the 1920s. In addition, the vast landscape recalls the idyllic life of California lore that was seen on large Mexican ranches where cattle and horses roamed hillsides and a family atmosphere was evident.
Even though there remains a neighborly feel, the 300 home lots on 31 square miles are spread out and tucked back enough to be, for the most part, unseen from the winding roads or golf course, which has the feel of 18 scenes on the set of an old Western.
“Although a course that is spread out doesn’t lend itself to ease of maintenance, it couldn’t feel more private, which makes one truly feel the serenity of this place,” said golf course superintendent Tim Taagen. “If the course was more constricted … the natural balance wouldn’t have been achieved.”
In typical Tom Fazio fashion, the course architect did a masterful job making the layout blend with the setting. Tee boxes are wide and deep; fairways are accessible, angled and go up and down; and the greens are quick and tricky, with undulations the norm.
“His ability to blend a course such as The Preserve into the natural surrounding is what sets him apart from other designers,” Taagen said about Fazio. “Members are extremely happy with the original design and particularly the minor tweaks during reconstruction last year.”
Those tweaks included converting fairways to Santa Ana Bermuda grass to handle cool and warm temperatures, in addition to rebuilding the bunkers. The changes also were done because of dry conditions at the time.
“During the drought it became very important to look at water savings to protect the course from future droughts,” Taagen said. “The USGA has done an in-depth article on keeping golf courses viable through drought, and we were a major area of focus for this study.”
Because of the special nature of The Preserve Golf Club, focusing on his job is jokingly tough for Taagen, who has been working at courses for 40 years, the previous 32 in Colorado.
“My son nailed it when he asked if I worked at ‘Jurassic Park’. This place is wild and … blends so well with nature that it feels like it has been here forever,” Taagen said. “When I look around at all the beauty I have to pinch myself and wonder how I was able to be lucky enough to have been chosen to be the steward of this course.”
His reasons for coming, however, were simple: a respect for the course…