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San Clemente Journal

The Great Debate Comes to an End

Feb 05, 2006 11:57AM ● By Don Kindred
by Nick Azzollini

The west facing rendering of the new clubhouse.Over the past few years the great debate over the San Clemente golfcourse clubhouse has been remodel vs replace. Sentiment runs high on both sides as golf has seen both a decline in play and the addition of many new courses in southern California. Competition for the golf dollar is high and a quality venue is necessary to be successful in today’s market. San Clemente’s golf course whose motto is, Pride of the Pacific, is looking to recreate itself.
Back in 1930, when the original nine-hole golf course was opened, the course’s clubhouse design was typical of the day, as Ole Hanson was still at the helm. That clubhouse had rules. One being you had to remove your shoes when you entered (so you didn’t bring the course in with you). You didn’t have to carry your own bags, because caddies were provided, and you were allowed to shower after a round.. But, the facility lasted only a short time, as it was converted into a Catholic Church about three years after the course was opened. 
For about 30 years, this conversion left golfers with nowhere to go after a round, until the present Polynesian style clubhouse went up in the 1960s. It was designed by Chris Abel, famous for his tropical island-themed architecture, and remains standing today. 
The Club House todayAfter years of discussion, planning, architectural changes and numerous delays, the City Council has finally given their blessing to a new, albeit smaller version clubhouse. The new Spanish revival style building is projected to be completed, if all goes well, sometime mid-summer of 2007. The Council has put the project on what they deem a fast track. Fast track being the key here, as this project has been the subject of many a meeting at the monthly gathering of the San Clemente Golf Course Advisory Committee. It has been almost a decade since one time SCGCAC member Tom Byrd uttered the phrase, “It’s time to stop putting lipstick on this pig!” At which time someone suggested that an alternative to a new facility might be the remodeling of the existing one.
To truly understand this statement one need only visit the clubhouse located at 150 E. Ave. Magdalena on the south end of town. On a simple drive-by it appears to be an attractive Polynesian style building (one of two in town, the other houses the Chamber of Commerce at El Camino Real & El Portal). Upon further inspection however, it is apparent the place needs a lot of work. Painfully obvious is the fact that rafters are rotting away, but it’s what you don’t see that makes remodeling a less viable alternative. To bring it up to current safety codes, the retrofitting of not only the building, but the foundation as well, would be necessary and very expensive. 
There are those in town who feel that replacement is far too pricey in these times of skyrocketing building costs. After the city council ultimately rejected a bid of $5.2 million as being over the budget the city was willing to put into this project, they did, however, retain the services of the bidders, the Burge Corporation of San Clemente. Burge has been charged to work with city staff to come up with a trimmed down version of the original design, cutting the cost of construction by at least $1.1million. The building has been scaled back from the original design of some 17,000 sq. ft. to 12,000 sq. ft. Add to that a reasonable commitment by the bidder of the restaurant concession and that savings becomes even more significant. 
Dave Donaldson, owner of the Beachfire Restaurant on Ave. Del Mar, will take over the reigns once the new building is up. Mr. Donaldson, a golfer himself, has assured that he will be serving both breakfast and lunch at the new clubhouse, and that his prices will be in line with those of the current restaurateur. With a beautiful new eatery he will be looking to bring in diners for the late afternoon and supper trade as the south end of town is ripe for another good place to dine. With its large outdoor patio and banquet facility there will finally be somewhere for locals to host parties without having to leave town. 
Dave Cook and his fine crew will still be there to check golfers in and to see to their golfing needs, having recently taken over the starter’s duties in an effort to streamline the operation and get the golfers out sooner. And the pro shop plans to remain intact and operational during the construction period. b