The sound of golf is about to replace the sound of heavy equipment on the nine-hole Aliso Creek golf course, which sits a few hundred yards off Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.
After being closed for about six months because of flooding and landslides, Aliso Creek opens for play Thursday.
But there’s several changes to the course, which was built in 1950 in a steep canyon. The major alterations were done to control flooding and make the course more playable.
“Floods are going to happen again,” course superintendent Mark Slymen said. “We know that. We just decided to do things that would minimize the damage.”
The most obvious change is the removal of the berm that ran along the creek for most of the course. The berm was to keep the water in the creek but it was overwhelmed by a Dec. 6 flood, which washed out three greens.
Once the rain stopped, water was trapped behind the berm and the fairways ended up covered with silt, which had to be trucked out.
After about three weeks, the Slymen family, which owns the course and the nearby Aliso Creek Inn, decided to replace the greens. A February reopening was planned.
But rain continued and an even worse flood buried the course Feb. 23. Water, up to three feet high, flowed into 48 of the inn’s 62 rooms during the storms.
But the second time around, damage was minimized because vehicles were moved to higher ground. The second flood also prompted some major course improvements, some of which were needed because of landslides.
The berm was shaved way down, making a dramatic change on the 297-yard seventh hole.
The berm used to make the left side of the fairway narrow. A thicket of trees left little room for error on the right side. But a landslide rolled many of the trees on the right, prompting their removal. Now, the hole has a wide gentle fairway with a large, mostly flat green.
The sand trap, which protects the front of the green, serves as an obstacle to those considering getting home in one.
“It’s a great piece of property,” Slymen said. “We really didn’t want to change anything but we did some little things to speed up play.”
No spike marks, please: Aliso Creek course owners have replaced the five greens that rains washed out. A great deal of repairs were done on the others. The average green size has been increased from about 3,000 square feet to 4,000, and the course has added a policy of no metal or ceramic spikes.
A snack bar and patio have been added next to the pro shop and the restaurant at the course is also undergoing reconstruction.
It now costs $17 for nine holes Monday through Thursday, which is a $2 increase from last summer. The weekend fee is up from $22 to $25 for nine holes.
“We look at it this way,” Slymen said. “No one got killed and it could have been a lot worse. This way we get an almost brand new golf course.”
RiverView in Santa Ana, another county course hit hard by winter rains, is busily making repairs.
The course sits partly in the Santa Ana River and usually only offers a nine-hole layout during the winter months. But the unusually heavy water flow this year increased RiverView’s idle time.
The course is speeding the recovery process by sodding damaged fairways with grass taken from Brea’s Imperial Golf Course, which closed in late March.
RiverView’s full 18-hole layout is expected to reopen next month.
Open season: Excluding Mark O’Meara (Mission Viejo) and Tiger Woods (Cypress), who now live in Florida, Orange County has two representatives at this week’s U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Dana Hills’ Perry Parker, a former Foothill High and UC Irvine standout, and Chris Tidland, formerly of Valencia High and Oklahoma State, will be coming over from the Canadian Tour.
Parker is playing in his third U.S. Open and second in a row. “The first year I missed the cut; last year I made the cut,” Parker said by telephone from Calgary. “Hopefully, this year I can finish in the top 25. That’s my goal.”
The Orange County Golf Notebook runs monthly during the school year. Readers are encouraged to suggest items. Call (714) 966-5904, fax 966-5663 or e-mail Martin.Beck@latimes.com