Keeping control of the land and revamping the Newport Beach Golf Club will benefit the community in more than one way, club officials explained recently.
It can be a world class golf course, said William Buck Johns, who represents the golf course’s new ownership group, which took over on Dec. 31.
“We want to have the most sophisticated, most attractive, and the most accomplished executive golf course on the planet,” Johns said. “This is a big step to try and elevate this whole thing, as part of a grand plan.”
Johns provided details of the “grand plan” about improving the club and keeping control of the land, which would help prevent expansion of the John Wayne Airport, during Speak Up Newport’s monthly meeting in the Community Room at the Civic Center May 11.
Newport Beach offers a high quality of life, but there are some problems they have to wrestle with in order to keep that, Johns said.
“There is one (major) threat to the place that we live and that threat, clearly, is that damn airport,” Johns said. “What we should do is contain it.”
Johns, a 40-year Newport Beach resident, lives under the JWA flight path and understands the issue.
“We can’t let it expand,” he said.
He played a video of a Boeing 737 airplane taking off to “set the stage” of the problem for the crowd of about 50 people at the meeting.
“We’re all impacted by that damn thing,” Johns said, the question is what they can do to help limit it.
The NB Golf Club property is approximately 67 acres, he said, and the back nine land is owned by the county.
Johns is trying to “kill” the idea suggested that the county put in a remote car rental lot for the airport. As open space for the golf course will be a higher and better use for the property, he commented.
It’s crucial to get a long-term lease for that property, ensuring that it stay as “open space,” Johns explained. He’s seeking a 50-year lease agreement with the county.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors will likely vote on the issue sometime this summer.
The city has been very helpful, Johns said. Mayor Diane Dixon wrote a letter to the OC Supervisors supporting the idea.
“The golf course is an important amenity for the region, as well as providing an important buffer against efforts that would expand existing runways at John Wayne Airport,” Dixon wrote. “It has always been important to our community that the airport remains within the same footprint that it exists today.”
Extending the lease will allow Johns and NB Golf Club management to revamp the club, a project they’ve already started working on.
The range has been closed for about a month and the first layers of synthetic turf were put to the ground May 12. The driving and practice range at the club is expected to reopen on Monday.
“We are getting a lot of good vibes from our customers,” said Newport Beach Golf Club General Manager Rick Perrault in the prepared statement. “And the greens are getting rave reviews.”
The remodeled driving range will be a “water-sensitive” facility according to the press release. They are updating the entire property, including the restrooms, office, tree trimming, boundary netting, new turf, and more.
The greens on the 18-hole golf course have also been upgraded, while new synthetic tee mats have been put in place.
There has been deterioration at the club over the years, Johns noted at the meeting, and they are working on fixing it. It’s been an eyesore, admitted Perrault.
“It’s important to us to make this golf course much better,” Perrault said at the meeting.
Part of the remodel includes partnering with Jack Nicklaus Academy of Golf and TopGolf.
The Jack Nicklaus Academy increases attractiveness and participation, Johns said.
Instructor and Seth Glasco said they are very excited about the opportunity of being involved in the project.
“We’re truly hopeful that we can make a footprint here in Newport Beach,” Glasco said.
The TopGolf concept of “entertainment golf” is capturing interest of the golfing world, Johns said. The idea transforms the driving range into a high-tech facility where participants can have fun, drink and eat, listen to music and watch TV, all while playing a point-scoring golf game. A chip inside the ball tracks its accuracy and distance as they are hit toward colorfully lit targets on the driving range.
The idea is centered around the entire atmosphere, he said.
TopGolf will appeal to a variety of users, not just serious golfers, Johns explained.
They hope TopGolf and the academy will provide the revenue for all the improvements, Johns said. The club is still in negotiations with both.
Steve Carfano, owner of Newport Beach Golf Shop, supports the remodel plans. The club is a great credit for the community, he noted.
“I love what Buck Johns is doing here,” Carfano said, “this is really exciting.”