I have written this article as a member of the community and it does not necessarily represent opinions or recommendations of members of Committees I serve on.
Why are we renovating the golf course?
The greens are 45 years old and the Poa Anna health has been marginal for at least the last 10 years. Upgrading the bunkers with modern drainage and better sand at the same time makes economic sense and will improve the playing conditions. Creating a new and exciting golf course should attract more members as well as daily fee players.
When the greens were first built the "push up" method was used. This method was the cheapest method and most convenient of its day. The push up method used the excess natural dirt that was readily available. No structural or drainage engineering was required. Once the dirt was positioned and roughly leveled a small amount or pea gravel or other similar product was spread on the surface, a random amount of sand was applied. Top soil was added and the Poa Anna grass was planted. It's doubtful that any attention was paid to the grass seed coming from the same lot. Over the years as the salt content increased from the available water an eventually the use of recycled water and increased salt levels the Poa Anna stopped setting down deep roots and coupled with the lack of drainage has affected the ability of the grass to remain healthy.
Expert Data Collected
Over the last few years a number of accredited, licensed and experienced "experts" have visited, viewed, collected and analyzed physical data. For example, this data included core samples to determine grass root length and health, soil ph levels and other important information on the soils at various depths, drain rates, water conditions and our unique micro climate. The experts that I have talked with all have concluded that our greens are failing and have been on the edge of catastrophic failure for years. They are only surviving because of the methods of flushing, hydro punching, continual top dressing, ever present re-sodding and excess amounts of labor. None of this additional TLC or expense will cure the condition; at best it keeps the greens playable. My list of experts includes The USGA Regional Manager for the western region(this is the guy who is the first expert contacted by any club hoping to host a major tournament), two senior architects accredited and licensed by Golf Course Architects of America, Pace Turf LLC(internationally recognized group of Ph.Ds.) who was funded by SDCEA to provide a forensic evaluation of our greens and Superintendent Shannon who continues to explore and learn how to triage the situation. I have also had discussions with many others most of which were well intended novices whose typical experience with green conditions consists of putting and occasionally repairing a 1-inch ball mark. I lean towards the experts. I suspect Mario Trejo and Pat Shannon have a larger list than mine.
How to Fund This
Every HOA has a requirement to identify, review and establish funds for replacement of assets. This is known as The Reserve Account. All of us contribute to this account through our monthly assessment. The Board periodically determines the allocation to this fund thereby building up the reserve account. The Association is required to identify the assets, probable life and expected replacement costs for each item listed. The sum of these individual replacement costs is the total projected replacement costs. HOA's measure their reserve health by the percentage they have set aside in the reserve account. Too high (100%) or too low (10%) is not considered good management. Currently our reserve account is in the mid to high 40%. This is considered to be an indicator of good management by staff and Board performance. The current and previous Boards have specifically identified the golf course greens and bunkers as major replacement assets and accordingly started setting aside specific funds for this project.
Based on the funds already accumulated and the projected contribution for 2018 we should have sufficient funds. If not, a comparable annual contribution in 2019 should cover any short fall. Homeowners have been paying into the replacement fund for 45 + years and funds are available to complete this project without impacting the monthly assessments. Will this "withdrawal” affect the reserve account? Sure, it will, but unless there is a series of major catastrophic events there will be funds available to handle the scheduled replacement of assets while the replacement fund is built back up. Experts use a very conservative 20 years as the life expectancy of greens and bunkers. Based on the current income of the Association and the annual reserve allocation, the funds used will be replaced in well under 10 years, long before they are needed for the next golf course renovation. Although monthly assessments may be increased from time to time, I would not expect this project to be the catalysts for any increases.
I encourage the residents to embrace and support this project with enthusiasm. Consider the benefits to our community, our home values and the personal pride of being part of improving one of the most visible reasons the Estates is the best kept secret in San Diego.
For my fellow golf club members (and at great personal risk) I would encourage you to give serious and selfless thought to joining me in suggesting to the Board that we are open to discussing Not eliminating our quarterly dues during the time the course is closed (not to exceed 6 months). Crazy, maybe not.If the dues for 6 months is around $1100 and assuming you played 2 times a week for the past 5 years, would you have been willing to pay $2 more each round to play our magnificent course? Perhaps we could think of this as a retroactive assessment or it come off your “bucket list”, you know, paying it forward or doing something good and not getting caught. This show of appreciation and support would lesson a lot of the fear, concern, number crunching as well as the mental thrashing staff is going through to come up with a solution as to what to do about member dues (which will never be 100% accepted). I’m confident we could partner with the Board to make this work. Presumably we have all pre-budgeted the quarterly dues for two or more quarters so the only added expense would be how much you play somewhere else. There are conversations going on with other clubs to explore play during the renovation.
Please stay informed, attend the open forums, Board meetings and resist the gossip.