Course closes … kinda

Tuscan Ridge juggles renovation, development projects—and weddings

Jay Berkowitz, general manager of Tuscan Ridge, says the golf club just recently resumed watering parts of the course adjacent to the patio where it holds events.

Jay Berkowitz, general manager of Tuscan Ridge, says the golf club just recently resumed watering parts of the course adjacent to the patio where it holds events.

Photo by Evan Tuchinsky

Contact point:
While the Tuscan Ridge website remains down and voicemail unmonitored, email with questions.

For travelers along the Skyway, Tuscan Ridge Golf Club is a conspicuous landmark. The 18-hole golf course, on the south side of the road, sits roughly halfway between Chico and Paradise. Its fairways, greens and pin flags—not to mention its metal gates, affixed to stone-clad mounds—grab the passing eye, particularly in contrast to otherwise untouched acreage.

Recently, Tuscan Ridge has caught attention for new reasons. Grass has grown progressively browner, to the extent that much of the course is indistinguishable from its chaparral environs. Its website went down last week. Callers to the pro shop Friday (June 30) heard a recorded message saying the course would close July 1 for renovations; visitors learned the same thing.

Jay Berkowitz, the club’s general manager, told the CN&R that the course will undergo improvements that should take about a year—part of a larger project slated to include the construction of 177 residential properties, a two-story clubhouse/restaurant, a relocated driving range, a new swimming pool and commercial space. This is the latest iteration of a venture dating back a decade.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Berkowitz said.

The development has received initial approvals from Butte County. The Board of Supervisors designated the land for “planned development” during the general plan and zoning map updates, according to Senior Planner Mark Michelena, who confirmed that Tuscan Ridge’s owners are applying to get their subdivision map approved.

Developer Mo West retains ownership, boosted by outside investment. Berkowitz declined to identify West’s partners.

“I think people are going to be excited to see what’s happening here pretty soon,” said Berkowitz, who first came to Tuscan Ridge in 2005 as a golf instructor. He became GM in 2006, left in 2011, returned in 2014 and became GM again in 2015.

“It’s an 18-hole renovation. We’re redoing every single bunker, every single tee, all the greens. We’re moving three or four greens. We’re making it more challenging by adding yardage. We’re growing all new turf….

“The golf course needs to be commensurate with the development.”

Paul Abrahms, one of Tuscan Ridge’s charter members, detailed the development. He’s worked as a real estate broker in Paradise; last Friday, during the CN&R’s visit, he was helping out in the pro shop, where a plan for the subdivision hung on the wall.

Most of the 177 lots will measure 10,000 square feet, for houses; others, 4,000 square feet, likely for condos or townhouses. The residential layout approximates a teardrop in the center of the course. The clubhouse area is to the southwest and the driving range to the southeast.

“It will be many, many years before it’s fully developed,” Abrahms said. “But if it’s a nice course, they’ll be able to sell the lots.”

Abrahms said he was part of the initial group to put down $2,500 for a membership at Tuscan Ridge, which reopened 12 years ago after closing in 2004. (It originally opened in 2001.) He recalled meeting in the building across from the pro shop, with a covered patio overlooking the course, where the golf club hosts weddings and special events.

“This course was really nice when it was in good shape,” said Abrahms, who played his last round there last Wednesday.

Conditions have deteriorated noticeably in recent weeks. The club stopped watering the course, Berkowitz admitted, but resumed irrigation in areas near the patio because of previously scheduled events that will take place amid renovation work.

He’s confident the grass and plants will return to their former lushness in a matter of months, in time for the first wedding on his books. Not every bride is convinced.

Katie Guthrie planned to get married Sept. 23 at Tuscan Ridge. That was the site of her older sister’s wedding in April 2014—where Guthrie just happened to meet her fiance, Kurtis Upton. So, for sentimental and aesthetic reasons, she decided to have her ceremony among five trees on the course and her reception on the patio.

A certified nursing assistant who lives in Biggs, Guthrie paid her deposit in December and the balance of her $6,000 bill in January.

Last week, she heard from her sister about the condition—and imminent closure—of the course. She said she left two messages for Berkowitz, then drove up to check it out for herself.

“From where my sister had her wedding to this is not acceptable,” she told the CN&R by phone.

She waited to speak with Berkowitz and left unsatisfied with his assurances. She asked for a refund; she said she was told she’d hear by Wednesday (the CN&R’s deadline). If she doesn’t get her money back, she’ll sue. Berkowitz told the CN&R in person Friday that the club will issue refunds to dissatisfied parties.

“Hopefully they will give us a little patience and stick with us,” he said. “What you see now is different than what’s going to be here; maybe some people don’t have the same confidence and vision.

“If we’re not able to live up to their confidence in return, we’re not going to make them have their event here. We’re going to do what we can to make them happy.”

For Guthrie and Upton, happiness will be relative. They decided to elope in Fort Bragg. They’ve informed many of their friends and family members that the large wedding is off. They canceled the deejay, wedding cake and other amenities—expecting to forfeit several thousand dollars in the process.

In the end, Guthrie said, the image of Tuscan Ridge she just saw driving up Skyway “is not what I want my guests to see,” adding: “In my head, I’m seeing bulldozers and torn up grass in view of my wedding.”