How to fix the now-infamous 18th hole at Ocean Trails Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes?
How about a 10% discount for 17 holes of gorgeous golf?
Or maybe a par-71 course--finishing with a par three because of the massive June 2 landslide that sheared off about half of the par-four 18th hole?
No, and no.
The 18th hole will be rebuilt in the same location, say course officials and those involved in the design--although perhaps with a green that is about 20 feet lower than the fairway. The hope is that Ocean Trails will open by early 2000.
And nix that par-three idea.
"You could create a three, because the slough is at the landing area, about 265 yards from the back tee--but then the problem is, how do you get back to the clubhouse?" said O'Brien McGarey, managing director of Dye Designs International, the company that provides technical support for the courses designed by Pete Dye.
"We're working on design solutions. But it's really an engineering issue right now," McGarey said. "It has to be fixed. It's not just a golf course. There's public access to the coastal walk, the natural habitat, the sewer line."
For now, all options are on hold until the investigation into the cause of the slide is complete.
Said Bobby Heath, director of golf for Ocean Trails, "We think we're within probably two weeks of the time when we'll know the cause. When the fix will begin, we don't know."
He added that plans for restoring the hillside will have to be approved by the city and the California Coastal Commission.
If the repair is begun in the fall, the course--once scheduled to open July 16--could have its full layout open by early next year.
"I think what we've got to do is stabilize the land mass," Heath said. "Once the geologists tell us how to do the repair, Pete Dye's ideas can be finalized."
Although developers Kenneth and Robert Zuckerman believe the slide was caused by a leak in the sewer line running beneath the hole that ruptured in the slide, county sanitation officials sharply disagree.
"What they've been doing [in the investigation] is actually excavating the sewer line, and to my knowledge, it's half dug up, and there has been absolutely no indication it leaked," said Don Avila, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County sanitation districts, adding there are videotapes showing the sewer line intact before the construction.
Whatever happened, the stunning photos after the slide that showed a man and his dog stranded on the collapsed land before they were airlifted to safety gave the course instant renown--and inspired no shortage of jokes.
Seen Pete Dye's latest island hole? . . .
You know what they say: Everything there breaks toward the water. . . .
Hell of a sand trap on No. 18. . . .
Dye--famous for the island green on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., as well as for his use of pot bunkers, railroad ties and his "target-golf" approach--was actually supposed to be on the course the day of the slide, but arrived the day afterward to inspect the damage--and start looking for solutions.
"In the industry, everyone who heard the story understands it certainly wasn't a mistake on our part," McGarey said. "When we design a golf course, whether it's in our backyard, another state, or another country, the clients are responsible for providing all the engineering. We're not engineers.
"In simple layman's terms, we address the shaping and sculpture of the land, and the strategy and shot values of the holes."
Whether the collapse of the hillside was caused by the sewer line, a contractor's error or the natural geology of the slide-prone Palos Verdes peninsula, what's left is the search for a fix.
The bluff will have to be rebuilt--and whatever is done will not only require the approval of the city and the coastal commission, but insurance companies and their lawyers as well.
The slide was an extraordinary event in the world of golf-course construction, but it didn't occur entirely without warning.
"We knew something was happening because there had been a separation of the cart path," McGarey said. "There were 20 consultants out there that day, looking at the manhole cover to the sewer. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, the hill sloughs off where they had all been standing.
"Periodically, sinkholes occur, unfortunately, but an entire hillside sloughing off? It was something we've never had occur.
"It's not a quick or easy fix. It's going to be very expensive."
Yes, but Ocean Trails has gotten more publicity than it could buy--though not necessarily the kind of publicity anyone would want.
"One of our missions was to put Ocean Trails on the map," Heath said. "We certainly didn't want this, but it does increase awareness."
And when the course finally does open, saying you've played No. 18 at Ocean Trails is sure to have a certain cachet.
Walking up No. 18 might even cause a little trepidation.
"I don't think so," Heath said, then laughed. "But maybe it will speed up our pace of play."