December 29, 2021

Restoring a Classic at El Caballero Country Club

By Vinnie Manginelli, PGA

The greatest golf clubs in the United States have something the new wave of courses don’t have – a story. El Caballero is one of those clubs that not only embraces its history, one of inclusion and charity, but leaps forward into the future with optimism and foresight. In fact, the club just completed some extensive renovations of its practice facility and a focused Rees Jones restoration of its iconic Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course.

Integral to the revitalization at El Caballero, translated “The Gentleman”, is a PGA Head Professional and Director of Instruction with an impressive resume of PGA and GRAA awards, as well as accolades and acknowledgments from such industry leaders as Golf Digest, U.S. Kids Golf and Titleist Performance Institute. Tasha Bohlig was more than happy to spend a few minutes and chat about the changes and enhancements that has her membership excited for the future of the Tarzana, California golf club.

The club’s practice facility closed in November of 2020 for a renovation that would change the way El Cab members practice. It reopened in March of this year. “We specifically timed the completion and reopening of the practice facility to coincide with the closing of the course, so our members could still frequent the club and get their swings in,” Bohlig explained.

‘The two main things we wanted to accomplish with our range renovation was to have it simulate as much of our golf course as possible, and to make the practice area a source of entertainment and engagement for our members,” Bohlig stated.

El Caballero added Toptracer Range Mobile to provide an enhanced experience for all members – those working on their skills and others seeking fun and games with family and friends. Bohlig says they looked at Toptracer and another system, but when they pushed their project back a bit due to COVID, Toptracer was the clear leader by the time a decision was to be made.

“We were definitely an early adopter of the Toptracer Range Mobile technology, and enjoy providing the Toptracer people with information they need to ensure their product is serving our members to the fullest,” she explained. “For us it made a lot more sense – they have a lot of games and contests for members to play with their friends. Plus, they can see how far every target is on the range and measure how far they hit their clubs. Member feedback has been great,” she added. “It was a really good decision to implement Toptracer technology when we did.”

Bohlig highlighted some early special events they had on the range that encompassed the Toptracer technology and also engaged members with music, food and beverage, skills contests and the camaraderie that so many people long for during the ongoing pandemic.

“Rees Jones did our restoration, and he asked me if our members know how great their practice area is. I said no, kiddingly, but I think they’re realizing the scope of what we’ve accomplished. There are now a lot of shot options, as we added more targets on the range, with two or three flagsticks on every target green,” Bohlig explained. The range also has two fairway bunkers and offers uneven lies in the hitting area.

She also detailed a new expansive putting green that was added as part of the renovation. With lights, drink stands, fire pits and room for seating and member engagement, Bohlig and her team can plan special events that bring members together in ways that weren’t possible before. After all, with so many new golfers coming to the game over the past two years, alternatives to the traditional 9- and 18-hole rounds of golf are the trend, and El Caballero is at the forefront. There is also a large practice putting green near the first tee for members to use prior to their rounds.

In addition, there is a pitching area that was modeled after one of El Cab’s actual par 3 holes, and supports shots up to 120 yards from the tee box, or 50 yards and in from the pitching area. This extra hole, if you will, is in a secluded area of the facility, making it ideal for an effective practice or just some quiet time away from the crowd.

Leaving no stone unturned, they also have an expanded short game area that offers two large greens and one huge bunker. The greens are at different levels to enable golfers to practice a variety of short game shots, truly making the practice facility multi-functional, buoying the entertainment and practice opportunities.

“I’m really proud of the changes. Everything is elevated for an optimal member experience,” Bohlig said. Plans are in the works to add a simulator or two to provide even more options that engage and entertain members, as well as generate revenue for the club through non-traditional means.

With the golf course recently reopening, Bohlig had this to say about the course changes, “This was more of a restoration than a complete renovation. It was Rees taking his dad’s design and restoring it, and making it more modern. And what’s really special about the entire project is that we matched the practice area to the course, simulating shots, both full carry approaches over greenside bunkers, as well as those that avoid them by running up to the green, promoting more creativity in our members’ play.

Reciprocal arrangements were made with several neighboring clubs while the course was closed. However, with increased play everywhere you go, securing tee times for her members was sometimes a challenge in this unprecedented time for golf.

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