Rams Hill Adapts for Future
Last updated 6/13/2023 at 10:59am
Rams Hill is evolving to meet the modern challenges of sustainability and water conservation. In a media release, the management announced Rams Hill's future plans, "as positive examples of 'adaptability' in the Drought stricken Western United States – even more difficult in the harsh-climate of the Anza Borrego Desert.
Looking Forward to, and Adapting for a Bright Future: Rams Hill is embarking on a two-year, multi-million-dollar bermudagrass conversion to create consistent and sustainable playing conditions, expand to a year-round golf season, reduce water use, and secure the golf club's position in Borrego Springs as a leader in employment, infrastructure and sustainability.
As Harry Turner, COO and General Manager of Rams Hill, explained, "This is all in line with building our reputation as one of California's premier golf destinations and one of 'America's 100 Greatest Public Courses' named by Golf Digest.
"It's the right time for us to make this full-scale change," Turner said. "Our complete bermudagrass conversation will ensure Rams Hill has the 'best-in-class' playing conditions, both now and into the future, as we move toward becoming a full-fledged, remote-destination golf resort. And, more importantly, Rams Hill will be expanding our water conservation efforts, continue to show leadership on the environmental front, and, eventually, extend golf operations to 12 months.
"By expanding to 12 months of operation, Rams Hill will be able to keep our 90-plus employees on the payroll, during the desert's usually slow months, by offering the tens of thousands of visitors to Borrego, year-round play.
Beginning in June 2023, Rams Hill will launch Phase 1 of its agronomy transformation – converting the greens from Bentgrass to Mini Verde Bermudagrass; and also replanting the practice areas with TifTuf Bermudagrass.
In addition, Rams Hill has invited Tim Jackson – who worked on the original redesign and was instrumental in re-opening the Tom Fazio design back in 2014, after co-founding his own Jackson-Kahn Design – to return and consult on any necessary restoration work needed on the masterpiece he originally helped create in 2005, and later revived.
"We want to make sure Tim's hands are on everything we do to keep intact the design integrity and original playability intent – because we know golfers love the architecture of our golf course," Turner said.
Among the Phase 1 plans for Summer 2023, 15 of Rams Hill's greens will be restored to their original sizes and shapes, with three putting surfaces expanding in square footage, as well as the addition of new pin locations.
In Phase 2, the following summer (beginning June 2024), the TifTuf conversion will expand to all tees, fairways and surrounds in a move that – combined with the Phase 1 work – has been shown to reduce the amount of water required by as much as 30% when stabilized.
Rams Hill's agronomy plan brings together years of thoughtful study and research of many alternatives, resulting in the selection of turfgrasses designed to meet Rams Hill's goal of minimizing both water usage and chemical applications. This, while providing the best playing conditions possible in the demanding environment of the Southern California desert where temperatures rollercoaster between freezing and triple digits; and where soil conditions are less than ideal. Throughout the process, Rams Hill has worked with experts in the field and surveyed the golf agronomy landscape for best practices among some of America's highest-rated golf courses.
"With ryegrass and bentgrass, we're always at the mercy of a very small August window each year when the hot-humid summer weather breaks, so we can get the fairways and greens ready to open in November," Turner explained.
"Many chemicals are needed to fight various forms of fungus and other diseases associated with growing cool-season grasses in a desert climate – and these challenges have grown exponentially as thousands more golfers have found Rams Hill during and since the pandemic.
"Eventually you get to the point where it just makes more sense to 'match your crop to your environment,' as successful farmers say. Bermudagrass, which thrives in warmer desert weather, gives us much more flexibility as a golf operation. Plus, the new drought-tolerant, turfgrass technologies will allow us to maintain high standards of playing conditions, while substantially reducing water usage."
Limiting water usage has been at the heart of Rams Hill's sustainability philosophy since the golf course's rebirth in 2014, with ownership offsetting water use by acquiring and fallowing agricultural land in the Borrego Valley to maintain water in the basin's aquifer.
"In an effort to operate in an environmentally responsible manner, it just makes sense to grow a drought-tolerant crop - turfgrass, in our case - that is compatible to our weather and soil conditions while reducing our use of water, which is the lifeblood of our region," Turner continues, emphasizing that Rams Hill's bermudagrass conversion is yet another step in the company's ongoing environmental efforts, which include construction of a Solar array, working behind the scenes to secure Borrego Springs' water infrastructure decades into the future, and smaller initiatives such as transitioning from plastic water bottles to refillable aluminum bottles.
"Our golfers are at the heart of everything we're doing," Turner added. "There are certainly many reasons that friends, families, couples and groups return to Rams Hill year after year; but one of the primary reasons we're talked about in that top tier of California golf is our course conditions – and we're sparing no expense to make the Rams Hill Experience the best it can possibly be here in this special, little oasis in the middle of nowhere, now and for many years to come."