Grade "A" Architecture - Valencia CC

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1st Hole, 548 Yards, Par-5, Valencia, California
Posted on
February 16, 2024
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1965)
Updating: Dana Fry and Jason Straka (2023)

The Los Angeles Open has been a mainstay on the PGA TOUR dating back to 1926. Riviera CC in Pacific Palisades has hosted the most tournaments and this year's marks the 60th event now named The Genesis Invitational.

In 1998 the event was played at Valencia CC – approximately 30 minutes northwest of Riviera. Valencia was chosen because Riviera was hosting the U.S. Senior Open that year and did not want to host two key events in one year.

Interestingly, Tiger Woods featured prominently in that event but not because of a predictable victory. Woods lost in a playoff to Billy Mayfair – the only time Tiger lost in a playoff on the PGA TOUR. His record in such cliff-hanging situations is a mindboggling 11-1 including 3-0 in major championships. World wide Tiger's playoff record is 15-3.

Grade "A" Architecture - Valencia CC
Before

Valencia was originally created by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and all the noted design fingerprints from Jones were included.

Over the course of time a number of those features needed to be updated. Bunker positions were no longer relevant given enhanced golf ball and club technology. Pin locations on various putting greens were lost because of changing mowing patterns. Total square footage for the 1st green is 4,468.

The tandem of Jason Straka and Dana Fry were hired to maintain the character of the previous Valencia while bringing back into relevance the design ingredients that have long made Valencia one of the premier golf clubs in the region.

Opening holes for any golf round play an important role. Golfers are trying to set the tone for the round and having a par-5 as the starter places front and center a wide range of scoring possibilities. Strong players are of the mindset that a fast birdie is doable. For those with higher-handicaps a par-5 starting hole allows for a bit of forgiveness given the wherewithal to reach the green in three shots.

Before & After

Straka and Fry felt the premise of the original opening hole was lessened given how the game has evolved since Trent Jones created Valencia.

The 1st commences with golfers hitting over a beautiful valley to a plateau and then down to a flatter level. However, higher handicap players were often not able to reach the plateau with their drives, leaving them a difficult blind shot that Straka viewed as "hitting over the edge of oblivion."

The finished effort brings to bear what Straka now sees as a "fantastic opening hole." A new forward tee was added in concert with a saddling out of the previous landing area enabling such players to reach the first landing area and setting up an easier second shot they can actually see.

To ensure versatility – a new back tee was created at 548 yards in conjunction with moving bunkers further down the fairway resurrects the challenge for all levels of players. Straka spelled out the thinking in how bunkers were integrated and maximized a wider versatility for an assortment of player skill sets.

Grade "A" Architecture - Valencia CC
After

"The first landing area bunkering is offset, shorter left and longer right. There is a bank on the right, short of the bunker, that tends to kick weaker tee shots back into play. Longer players can try and work shots around the bunkering or fly them and get to a downhill area. The second shot drops significantly downhill. A conservative play is way out to the right, sacrificing distance and a harder angle for safety away from the bunkers. The more direct a line one plays the more the inside left and far right bunkers come into play – making the landing area narrower and narrower. A truly heroic shot carries the nest of inside left bunkers right into the approach of the green. The 1st at Valencia is a truly dramatic and strategic hole."

Valencia's facelift demonstrates how a thoughtful and purposeful deep dive review can shake off accumulated dust and produce a winning result.

***

For more info go to:

Valencia, CA Golf and Country Club | Valencia Country Club

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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