Bad News: Stevinson Ranch to close
By Torleif Sorenson on 5/20/15

The 17th hole is the in the middle of a tremendously challenging (and picturesque!) closing stretch at Stevinson Ranch.

From California's Merced County comes the unwelcome news that the highly-acclaimed Stevinson Ranch Golf Club will close forever on July 18.

The ongoing economic recession was the first blow, but as owner George Kelley told the Merced Sun-Star:

"We were just getting hammered to the point where our water situation was awful. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. We had to make a business decision — our family almond business had to come first over the golf business."
Stevinson Ranch was very highly praised virtually from the day it opened in 1995. Kelley collaborated with the late architect John F. Harbottle III on this heavily links-flavored design, which was often at the top of the "must-play" lists of several golf publications. Readers of GolfWorld (back in its print days) once ranked it the fifth-best public access course in the United States. Links Magazine editors called it one of the "top ten courses in the world worth discovering." Golf Digest's "Places to Play" contributors gave Stevinson Ranch 4.5 stars.

Among those people at sixes and sevens over the loss of Stevinson Ranch is John V. Cook, who is the men's head golf course at California State University-Stanislaus. His teams have occasionally practiced at Stevinson Ranch over the last several years:

"I can't believe it. I'm in shock. The finishing holes were just unbelievable. It’s like a Palm Springs course in the valley. It's awesome."
The closing is especially appalling since the course and facilities were designed with environmental sensitivity in mind. For the last several years, solar panels have provided the electricity the club needed for their buildings. And as Sun-Star reporter Ron Agostini notes, the course is home to more than 120 species of birds, including great blue herons. Nesting boxes for owls, bats, wood ducks and birds have been deployed all across the course.

In fact, Stevinson Ranch was just the fourth course to be named an Audubon International Signature Sanctuary, in 1996.

This is the second golf course in the region to fall victim to the drought; Diablo Grande G&CC in Patterson, California decided to close their Jack Nicklaus-designed Legends Course almost exactly one year ago.

Last month, we told you about new water restrictions dictated by California Governor Jerry Brown. Since Brown announced those restrictions, increasing numbers of residents have spoken out and criticized the state government for not building any new reservoirs and taking any long-term steps to solve the problem.

We feel badly for the Kelley family and especially for Stevinson Ranch employees — as well as the golf enthusiasts who have had the good fortune of playing this course over the last two decades.

Based on the design alone, this writer would love to have had the chance to play Stevinson Ranch.

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[ comments ]
bkuehn1952 says:
If one insists on creating water intensive operations in dry climates, this is going to happen.
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