North Ridge Country Club Launches $3.5 Million Renovation Plan

Fair Oaks, CA (MPG)  |  Story by Jacqueline Fox
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Long-awaited plans for renovating one of the region’s oldest private country clubs is officially underway at North Ridge Country Club. The new course is expected to officially open in early 2018. -- Photo courtesy North Ridge Country Club
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Left to Right: Chris Peterson, NRCC Board Member, Mike Gorman, Architect for Robert Trent Jones II, Kerry Gordon, NRCC golf course renovation task force leader, Bruce Charlton, Architect for Robert Trent Jones II. -- Photo courtesy North Ridge Country Club

Long-awaited plans for renovating one of the region’s oldest private country clubs is officially underway at North Ridge Country Club, involving a $3.5 million overhaul that promises members and guests at the club alike a trail of new greens and bunkers on par with some of the finest courses in the world.

The club’s membership overwhelmingly approved the renovation plan and began the bid process for contracting roughly a year ago, ultimately selecting Palo Alto-based Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects (RTJ II) for the project, which is credited for development of more than 270 golf courses across 40 countries and six continents.  “We got it down to three finalists for the design of our new course, and then we took it down to one, and RTJ II won out,” said North Ridge General Manager, Rink Sanford.

During an April 6 groundbreaking for the project, Robert T. Bruce Charlton, president and chief design officer for RTJ II, said the course would be going from good to outstanding, likening the ultimate overhaul to a “My Fair Lady” transformation, Sanford said.

“I love the quote Robert gave at our ground-breaking,” said Sanford. “He said ‘I like to compare North Ridge Country Club to a classy older woman who is beautiful and graceful, but just in need of a new dress.’  To me, his description just perfectly crystalizes what North Ridge is all about and how beautiful she really is.”

RTJII founder Robert Trent Jones, who passed away in 1987, is known for cutting trail of legendary successes in the completion of some of the country’s most notable golf courses, beginning with a winning contract to design the Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta in collaboration with golf legend Bobby Jones, followed up by securing a commission to redesign the 11th and 16th holes at Augusta National Golf Club.

Coveted for its high-elevation and rolling terrain, North Ridge Country Club was founded in 1952 by architects William Francis Bell and his son, Billy Jr., renown for crafting elite courses at Rivera Country Club, Bel-Air Country Club and Torrey Pines, among others.

The 18-hole parkland golf course at North Ridge Country Club is spread across approximately 165 rolling green acres on Madison Avenue in Fair Oaks.  Although the club’s event center and adjacent buildings were renovated in 1997, the 63-year old course itself, says Sanford, will be getting its first upgrade, a much needed makeover to keep the facility competitive with other private clubs in the region and beyond.

“This is a fine course and we have good conditions, but what we are really doing now is modernizing and making an investment in our course to stay competitive in the private club market,” Sanford said.

North Ridge was designed incorporating an old push-up mound construction method, explained Sanford, which has, over time, created drainage issues for the course, spurred by deteriorating root structures, all of which have created challenges for players and rendered the course vulnerable to erosion.

“Our forefathers picked a phenomenal place to put in a course,” said Sanford.  “We are at the highest point in the area and we are blessed with a lot of rolling hills and terrain, but the old push-up method that was used to design the course originally needs to be addressed.”

Sampson said that the course’s natural elevation changes will allow RTJII to redesign the club’s greens and bunkers to take advantage of its hilly topography in ways “that were simply not possible many years ago,” adding construction of the new greens and bunkers will be achieved without disrupting mature trees that have called North Ridge home for decades.

“Today, players really want greens with solid drainage, and so what this will do for us is allow us to keep the mature trees and the rolling hills, but in and around the greens and bunkers we’ll be adding better drainage to bring the course in line with some of the most competitive, high-caliber golf courses anywhere in the world,” Sanford said.

Meanwhile, high-quality, temporary bentgrass sod greens are being created to offer members temporary greens to utilize during the construction process.

In addition to the cache of a world-class design firm capturing the bid for the renovations, the renovation project will also have a local touch.  RTJII’s Senior Project Architect, Mike Gorman was raised in Sacramento and is reported to have grown up playing the course.  “This is like home to us,” RTJII’s Charlton said.  “We travel all around the world, and having a project near our offices in Palo Alto, with Mike’s family still living in Sacramento, makes this extra special.”

The new course is expected to officially open in early 2018, Sanford said. While there are no increases on the horizon this year for membership fees, it is anticipated that fees will increase once the new course is fully operational.  The current annual membership fee for North Ridge is $6,500, however, due to the construction, which is expected to run through August, the club is offering a promotion of $4,500, which runs through June.

“The long-term hope is that once the new course is up and fully operational in early 2018, our membership price will go up, and that will be in keeping with what’s going on with other clubs and membership fees at private courses across the country,” Sanford said.

Membership at North Ridge, said Sanford, is currently at 463, near full capacity. To cover the costs of the project, members voted to each pay their share of the $3.5 million, for a total of roughly $8,000 or $60 a month each.