January 13, 2015 – Ghilarducci, Mandujano helping revitalize San Rafael public golf course
Pristine greens and state-of-the art carts do nothing to diminish the renaissance taking place at Peacock Gap Golf Club, located little more than a 2-iron shot from the edge of the bay.
But it only takes a minute or two to realize there’s more than high-tech gadgets and spot-on putting lines contributing to the San Rafael public golf course’s revitalization.
There’s a distinctly positive energy about the place since it was purchased by Marin residents and brothers Ray and Joe Syufy in 2011.
“We want Peacock Gap to be a public golf course that feels like a private course,” head golf pro Rod Ghilarducci said.
Since Ghilarducci’s arrival as head pro. Peacock Gap has introduced GPS-enhanced carts and electronic teaching tools.
Since Ghilarducci’s arrival as head pro. Peacock Gap has introduced GPS-enhanced carts and electronic teaching tools. (Robert Tong – Marin Independent Journal)
In the not-so-distant past, however, Peacock Gap was not aging gracefully. The clubhouse was weathered, worn and decades beyond its prime.
The natural creeks – think Augusta National – running through the 6,100-yard course were vanishing under the overgrowth.
And the greens were mean, algae-infested and about as true as putting on a cobblestone street.
Not surprisingly, the golfing public was staying away in droves.
The dilapidated clubhouse was replaced by a handsome 19,000 square-foot redwood-sided building, which hosts everything from business meetings to full-blown weddings.
The course, under the direction of recently hired head course superintendent Mario Mandujano, is freshly cut and clean.
And the greens, re-sodded in 2012, are smooth as silk and meticulously maintained by Mandujano and his staff.
There’s no question much of Peacock Gap’s new luster is traceable to the young hires of Ghilarducci and Mandujano.
Ghilarducci, 33, working his first job as head golf pro, had humble beginnings in the sport. He never touched a club until he moved to his mother’s house, just beyond the 12th hole at San Geronimo National Golf Course, at age 17.
“I was a later-bloomer to the game,” Ghilarducci said. “We lived right there on the course so I started messing around hitting the ball on the course even when I wasn’t supposed to be out there.”
Ghilarducci is self-taught. He said he learned golf by studying and mimicking the habits of the best players. He begged for a job at San Geronimo and ended up parking carts. By 2001, he was working at the Pebble Beach championship courses, mostly Spyglass Hills.
By then, he was passionate about golf, playing tournaments at every opportunity and eyeing his PGA pro card. He moved on to Meadows Del Mar in San Diego and worked three more years there before returning to Marin, where he landed an assistant golf pro job at Meadow Club.
Rod Ghilarducci, the Peacock Gap Golf Club head pro, has helped preside over a recent revitalization and modernization of the San Rafael golf course.
Rod Ghilarducci, the Peacock Gap Golf Club head pro, has helped preside over a recent revitalization and modernization of the San Rafael golf course. (Robert Tong – Marin Independent Journal)
He took on an increasingly larger role in Fairfax and earned his PGA pro card in 2008.
“The playing part of earning the PGA card was easy,” said Ghilarducci, who shot the mandated two rounds under 76 at San Jose Muni. “But I was never much for school as a kid and the written part was much more difficult. But when you are passionate about something it gets a whole lot easier.”
Mandujano, 31, applied for the head superintendent job at Peacock Gap when Ghilarducci, his former colleague at Meadow Club, advised him of the opening.
Mandujano, who grew up in the East Bay and still resides in San Pablo but earned his GED at College of Marin, said he never played golf. But he started helping a friend with golf course maintenance in his late teens.
“I was outdoors in the sunshine and I loved it,” he said.
He worked five years as assistant superintendent at Meadow Club before landing the head superintendent position at Peacock Gap.
“My goal here is to keep the entire course nice at all times,” Mandujano said. “But keeping the greens nice is my No. 1 priority. If the greens are right, people will remember it and they will come back.”
Ghilarducci is no doubt a bit biased, but he insists the greens at Peacock Gap are as good as any he has ever played.
“These are the best greens I’ve played and I’ve played all over the place,” Ghilarducci said. “The only way you will believe how smoothly putts roll is if you come out and see it for yourself.”
The new GPS-enhanced carts, where a golfer can order his lunch or chart the exact yardage from the fairway to the flag with a tap of the on-board screen, are just one of the high tech devices in use at Peacock Gap.
Ghilarducci is fond of a new teaching device known as Flight Scope, which is powered by Doppler Radar and tracks a golfers swing data and follows the entire flight of ball.
“The Flight Scope tracks club speed, ball speed, height and distance of the shot and even the spin,” Ghilarducci said. “The Flight Scope is great for teaching and the carts are great for the players. Technology is taking this game to places you never thought of.”
Ghilarducci says his most important role at the course, however, is player development.
“How do you get players to come out? By making them better players,” he said.
Of course, those who strive for lower scores on the golf course cannot always afford pricey private lessons.
To that end, Ghilarducci says weekly clinics, which are tentatively scheduled to begin in early March, are a cost-effective alternative.
Ghilarducci says there are other plans in the works for the coming months at Peacock Gap including a singles clinic, night glow-ball tournaments, junior leagues and the annual Nike Junior Camp in June which attracts as many as 200 youth participants.
For more information go to peacockgapgolfclub.com.