Robinson Ranch Plans One 18-Hole Course
For most people in Canyon Country, “getting back on the green” has had nothing to do with golf. After years of drought, followed by the fires of July, the natural surroundings have become a bit of an eyesore.
No one knows that better than Robinson Ranch Golf Club in Sand Canyon.
They shut down the “Mountain” course due to drought conditions before the fires, so it has become almost “useless,” aside from being home to a lot of wildlife. But in a strange twist, it’s the lakes on the course that provided firefighters with water to fight nearby flames. Homeowners near Robinson Ranch watched as helicopters lowered to fill hoses with water and ascended again to drop it on the nearby hills.
And in another twist, the fire didn’t descend upon the already-closed Mountain course (which would have been convenient), but instead, did damage to the healthier fairways and greens at Robinson Ranch – the “Valley” course.
“That fire did a toll on half of our golf course,” said Mark Kagaoan, head golf professional at Robinson Ranch.
Rewind back to the creation of the Sand Canyon area golf course. “When the designers designed this golf course there was a big lawsuit (between) Castaic Lake Water Agency and Robinson,” Kagaoan said, referring to a battle over hook up fees that left the golf course reliant on mostly well water. “Because of the drought, our well was really low.”
So management decided to channel its resources to the Valley course and cease to maintain the 18-hole Mountain course.
“Our goal was, number one, to have a good product to give our guests,” Kagaoan said, who has been at Robinson for 11 years. “It was going well, until a month later when the fire hit.”
Charlie Kong was interviewed for the job of general manager two days before the fire, Kagaoan said. The day Kong was supposed to meet the owner was the following Tuesday, and firefighters were still on scene at Robinson.
When the smoke cleared, and it was apparent that part of Robinson Ranch was burned, neighborhood rumblings cropped up, with homeowners wondering what would happen to the already declining business.
“Our reputation has diminished because of the drought,” Kagaoan admitted. “(The courses on the west side) have the luxury of recycled and reclaimed water. We don’t.”
The good news for people who live near Robinson Ranch is that management is regrouping and remodeling. They are planning an 18-hole “desert concept golf course,” according to Kagaoan. They are also doing an overhaul of the food services department, including Plexiglas around the patio for greater use during strong winds and inclement weather.
“We’re making the restaurant and the bar area more functional,” Kagaoan said. “We have the most beautiful clubhouse. Some of the concerns were we were always closed because we were such a busy wedding and event venue.”
They have two designated areas in case the restaurant is occupied by an event. One is the patio area, plus they are prepared to transform the downstairs grill into something a little more upscale for Sycamore Bar & Grill diners. They have hired a new executive chef, the golf pro said, named Cristian Ruelas.
“We need a restaurant,” Kagaoan said. “We need this out here.”
Dining is one thing, but what’s new for golfers?
“We now have a team in place where we are all on the same page. It’s all positive,” Kagaoan said. “There was such negativity before. The owner loves the golf course so much. The insurance is helping, plus he’s doing a capital investment to make this golf course better.”
The managing owner is Steve Kim, one of multiple Robinson Ranch investors.
“He is a golfer, he loves golf. He wants this place to succeed,” said the head golf pro.
Kim has, basically, handed the redesign to Mark Kagaoan and Charlie Kong.
“As a golf professional, I’ve never been on that side … but you know more than anyone else what your members want,” Kagaoan said. “With the blessing of the owner, we’re doing a complete desert concept. He said, ‘You guys know the golf business.’”
Kagaoan and Kong hired O & J Golf Construction, a company Kong had worked with before, and has a reputation for renovating high-profile courses.
“We want a golf course that’s not messing up the integrity of the golf course, Ted Robinson’s design,” Kagaoan said. “We’re changing the drought area, changing it so it’s visually better. We’re putting waste bunkers with decomposed granite, cactus. … It’s going to be desert golf in the forest – Angeles National Forest – right here in L.A. County.”
Kagaoan considers the experience having a hand in bringing a golf course back to life “priceless.” Kong has done similar work before at a previous course, and it was his idea to contract with O & J.
And in case you thought the team of three – Kim, Kong and Kagaoan – was short of a foursome, they have Theresa Coleman, the new superintendent at Robinson Ranch. Her duties include maintaining the course.
“She’s done an amazing job, especially after the fire,” Kagaoan said.
What will become of the former Mountain course?
“We have no plans,” Kagaoan said. “On our driveway we’re putting in trees to block it.”
The team originally planned to turn Mountain’s 18th hole into a short game facility, but decided against it. After the fire destroyed nine holes on the Valley course, they considered just letting golfers play the front nine twice while they worked on the back nine. But Kim wanted all 18 to match, so redesigning the whole course entered the plan.
The team decided to maintain the 18-hole golf course they had, but newly designed. Kagaoan noted that Robinson Ranch is the only championship golf course and restaurant in the area that’s public, not private.
How long will it take? The team expects to unveil the new Robinson Ranch Golf Club in late September or early October.
“We decided let’s just wait and do this right and open up when we’re ready,” Kagaoan said. “We want this big ‘wow’ moment. We want it to be a golf course that people can come to, a restaurant and bar area for locals to hang out.”
Canyon Country residents will watch as Robinson Ranch tees up for the unveiling of its newly designed grounds. After the changes to the clubhouse, food service, patio, and the links, most of the locals are hoping that, for Robinson Ranch, an upscale, functional facility is par for the course.