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The Transformation of Barbara Worth

by Alex Smolinski on November 9, 2011

Barbara Worth Golf Resort
Barbara Worth Golf Resort

The Barbara Worth Golf Resort is ready to turn the page and start a new chapter.

Like a weathered cover of an old book, the facility in Holtville, which was built in the 1930s and named after novelist Harold Bell Wright’s “The Winning of Barbara Worth,” is showing its age. Developers Kevin Smith and Darryl Readshaw are ready to remedy that situation by remodeling the resort’s hotel rooms, renovating the golf course and possibly adding a spa, a water park and an RV park down the line. The co-owners of the property, who finalized the purchase of the resort in late August, hope to return the Imperial Valley social center located about a two-hour drive east of San Diego and 90 minutes south of Palm Springs to its former days of grandeur.

“We look forward to seeing this course develop and change,” Readshaw said. “Obviously, when you have a facility that has been closed and as neglected as this one, the list of priorities is long.”

Barbara Worth Golf Resort
Barbara Worth Golf Resort

The facility’s hotel, restaurant and bar were closed when a receivership was appointed in 2008, and only the golf course and banquet facility remained operational. Smith said the 6,580-yard, par-71 course was able to stay open the past three-plus years because of public demand and the dedication of superintendent Ramon Lopez.

“We’re fortunate that Ramon has the experience and knowledge here to help us see this through,” Readshaw said. “We’re especially pleased that he is staying on with us.”

A full renovation of the resort, which has 104 hotel rooms and a 12,000-square-foot convention center, will be done in three phases and take up to three years to complete. One of the resort’s hotel buildings was reopened in mid-November, and Smith said that the site’s Fields Restaurant and Caddies Sports Tavern should be open to the public by the middle of December. The desert region around the facility has been the site of numerous Hollywood film shoots, and celebrities such as George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John Travolta and Helen Hunt have stayed at the property when not in front of the camera.

Barbara Worth Golf Resort
Barbara Worth Golf Resort

One of the first priorities, Readshaw said, is to get the golf course back in good shape. The course was overseeded in October for the first time in a few years, and a new sprinkler control system is set to be installed in coming months. The developers also purchased 450 tons of white crushed marble sand to refurbish every bunker on the course.

“We want to bring it back to as good a condition as we can,” Readshaw said of the layout. “Some parts of the course have taken a hard hit, so the first goal is to get it greened up and manicured better. After that, we have projects that we really hope can make a statement.”

Some of the other plans for the course include new golf carts, adding a lake on the front nine, resurrecting several of the longer tee boxes, trimming trees and adding or restoring 10 to 15 sand traps.

Barbara Worth Golf Resort
Barbara Worth Golf Resort

Readshaw said the resort can be a strong draw for snowbirds who annually flock to the Southwest from November through April. He’s also hoping that the renovation projects help the site become a golf destination for people who like to play in the winter, but don’t want to pay green fees approaching $150 that are charged at some high-end desert courses. He said green fees at Barbara Worth won’t exceed $50.

“We envision a course with new and improved amenities that people will want to drive to or visit and spend a week or a weekend,” Readshaw said. “I guarantee that next year at this time the course and other facets of the property will be in very, very good condition.”

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