An “environmentally sensitive golf community” may sound like the mother of all oxymorons, but the developers of Santa Lucia Preserve, Tom Gray and his partner, the late Pete Stocker, really had no other choice but to go green. When Gray and Stocker first viewed the 20,000 acres of the former Rancho San Carlos, they were astounded that this immense parcel located just over three miles inland from Carmel, Calif., was largely virgin land, ranging from high chaparral to pristine valley wetlands to thousand-year-old redwood forests.
When an earlier building plan that proposed 2,800 homes drew the ire of local environmentalists, Gray and Stocker devised a different proposal: More than 90 percent of the land, well over 18,000 acres, would be permanently set aside to protect it from any future development, and stewardship of this nature preserve would be funded by a percentage of all real estate sales.
The plan that won approval allowed for only 300 home lots, each a minimum of five acres. Within each lot is a maximum footprint for the estate home, and everything outside the footprint has been left in its natural state, providing plenty of space for the natural migrations of bobcats and mule deer.
Before Santa Lucia, the land’s only human inhabitants were Native Americans, whose villages are now being excavated by archaeologists. The grounds also include a Spanish-style hacienda that was built in 1924 by the ranch’s original owner and later taken over by a Hollywood magnate who enjoyed importing guests for weeklong horseback treks and hunting parties.
These days, the only hunting taking place at Santa Lucia is for birdies and pars. Architect Tom Fazio designed a visually stunning 18 holes based on an original routing by Sandy Tatum from nearby Pebble Beach. The Preserve’s course, an amazing layout that rises above the valley floor before dropping down with fairways bisected by creeks, calls for both precise shot-making and the occasional brawny blast. While it is difficult to imagine that one could ever tire of playing here, all of those famous courses on the Monterey Peninsula are just a short drive away.
Obviously, not many development plans begin with 20,000 pristine acres. Still, the Santa Lucia Preserve deserves kudos for creating a community that is sensitive to its history, and designed to preserve its natural beauty for generations to come.
Santa Lucia Preserve, 831.626.8200, www.santaluciapreserve.com