Following is a history of Fallbrook Golf Course, pieced together from various sources, plus other pertinent historical information. We cannot guarantee accuracy, and there are doubtless many gaps. Help us improve this by contacting SaveFallbrookGolfCourse@gmail.com. Thanks! See also: Historical timeline for Fallbrook, CA area.
1949: Lawrence “Larry” and Elizabeth “Betty” Ryland Cooke buy land in Fallbrook. Some of this land becomes an avocado ranch (the original purpose for the land), but the “bottom land” is below the frost line and therefore unusable for avocados. Ultimately, this bottom land becomes part of Fallbrook Golf Course.
1951: A battle for water between the federal government (Camp Pendleton) and Fallbrook citizens begins, to later become San Diego County’s oldest, active civil case. By Kristina Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 20, 2016.
1952: United States vs. Fallbrook Public Utility District. Water wars.
1960: With partners, the Cookes incorporate the project Fallbrook Golf Club, Inc. The Grant Deed conveys title to Fallbrook Golf Club, Inc. to two legally-described parcels (Parcels 1 and 2) consisting of nine Assessor Parcel Numbers as set forth on the face page of the Grant Deed. San Diego County grants the Agricultural-zoned property Special Use Permits. Under these permits, six of the parcels are designated for use as “Recreational-Vacant Land” and three parcels as “Golf Course”. Harry Rainville is hired as course architect.
1961: What is now the back 9 opens as the front 9.
1962: The current front 9 opens. Total area of the course is reportedly 118 acres, and course length is 6,223 yards from the tips. The course would later be reduced to 116 acres.
1965: The club house opens.
1969: Former LPGA pro Mickey Wright holds a professional tournament at the course. Since then, the Golden State minitour has held occasional events here.
Early 1970s: Additions to the club house are opened (golf shop, new office, snack bar).
1979: Following severe El Nino storms, Live Oak Creek flooding covered nearly half the course and damaged parts of it. Daunted, the Cookes’ partners sell them their share and the club becomes a Cooke family-owned business. The Cookes repair the damage and reopen the course.
1990: Blair Cooke Davey, daughter of Lawrence and Betty, assumes sole ownership of the club, and continues running it.
1993: Employee Leasing, Inc., incorporated in California, “doing business in California as Employee Leasing, Inc. of Nevada“, is incorporated in Nevada (W.J. Blue and Brian J. Lanari, Presidents, 4834 Sweetgrass Lane, Bonsall, CA). Brian Lanari serves as payroll manager 1998-2012. (See lists of six and eleven of the various Lamberson/Lanari corporations plus a more complete list of Lamberson/Lanari-corporations, in Nevada and California, at the end of this timeline.)
1996: Jack Leroy Lamberson incorporates OnceBlue Enterprises, Inc. in California. (OnceBlue also does business as Personnel Leasing.)
1998: According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Fallbrook course sells 65,000 rounds a year.
2003: In March, a warehouse belonging to the course burns down, destroying 80 golf carts and causing $1 million in damages. It is never rebuilt.
2003: Jack Lamberson and Brian Lanari of Onceblue Enterprises, Inc., doing business as Personnel Leasing, are embroiled in a case involving a City of San Diego construction contract. Personnel Leasing’s “president, Jack Lamberson, testified in deposition that Personnel did not pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums for the work force.”
2004: A court challenge to the property’s water rights for access to the southernmost well is won and affirmed on appeal. The full case is Nevada Lending Corp. vs. Fallbrook Golf Club, Inc., is available in PDF: 1-35; 36-70; 71-106; 107-142; 143-178; 179-214; 215-250; 251-286; 287-297. Blair Cooke sells the course to Colorado golf course operator Stacey Hart (aka Stacy Hart) for $5.2 million plus $2.5 million for an additional 40 acres of undeveloped land next to the course on which Hart plans to build 23 houses. Mile High Bank of Denver, Colorado arranges the financing. Stacey A. Hart takes ownership of the course as Fallbrook Golf Club, LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability corporation. Hart is originally from Las Vegas where his family reportedly has casino and real estate holdings.
2004: John Toma, who has been running the Sunrize Cafe in Bonsall for two years, takes over the Club’s restaurant and reopens it as the Hukilau restaurant in April. With great food and service, the Hukilau is an immediate success.
2009: Stacey Hart defaults on the balance due on the $2.5 million he paid for the 40 acres of undeveloped land next to the golf course. The Denver Post reports that “Hart, who admits he’s withheld payments, says his beef is with the zoning of the undeveloped land, where he intends to build houses. ‘The overall zoning was supposed to be 23 lots, now it’s down to 11,’ Hart said. ‘It’s a dispute. The bottom line is we thought we bargained for more than we got.'”
Late 2010 – early 2011: Hart hires one of Jack Lamberson’s companies to handle payroll for the Fallbrook course. Lamberson’s company also does payroll at the San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course in Bonsall.
2012: Mile High Banks of Denver, Colorado forces an over-leveraged Stacey Hart to divest himself of some of his holdings and he chooses to sell the Fallbrook course. Hart sells the course to his payroll manager Jack Lamberson under the name Fallbrook Golf Course, Inc.. The Lamberson Family Trust [LFT Investments, Inc., incorporated in Nevada] is the sole stockholder in Fallbrook Golf Course, Inc., incorporated in California in 2011.
For the down payment, Mile High Banks takes a Note on Lamberson’s vacation home at 243 Eldorado Drive, Lake Arrowhead. (Zillow value June 2012: $1.1 million. Purchase price 2005: $842,500. Zillow value May 2016: $879,000.). A $720,000 Deed of Trust dated June 22 is recorded against 243 Eldorado Drive on June 29, 2012, maturity date June 22, 2018. Mile High Banks secures $2.88M with a Deed of Trust against the golf course itself for a total purchase price of $3.6M.
Escrow closes on June 30 and the Lambersons take over the course on July 1, 2012. Its 44 employees staff the busy Hukilau restaurant and bar, the pro shop and snack bar and maintain the course where its loyal golfers enjoy 200 rounds of golf daily, 73,000 rounds a year.
By the end of 2012, Mile High Banks (the primary asset of Big Sandy Holding Company) is failing. Strategic Growth Bancorp purchases Mile High Banks’ stock in late 2012 through U.S. Bankruptcy Court for $5.5 million, promising to infuse $90 million of new capital into the bank. Strategic Growth renames Mile High Banks First National Denver.
2013: In Fort Worth, Texas, Stacey Hart has accumulated $10 million in debt on a golf course with an estimated value of $500,000. The front and back nine are split and Hart files for bankruptcy. The reorganization plan states: “Stacey A. Hart will remain as president of the Debtor following confirmation of the Plan. Mr. Hart will retain his sole ownership interest in the Debtor. Mr. Hart will receive a salary of $8,000 a month following confirmation of the Plan. Mr. Hart’s son, Tom Hart, who is not an owner, shall receive $8,000 a month in compensation as well.” Tom Hart lives in Colorado. Weeds are so high on the Fort Worth course that the neighbors respond by mowing it themselves.
2013-2014: In Fallbrook, the Lamberson team struggles to run a golf course, bar and restaurant. The top-notch crew in place at the time of purchase is long gone, moved on to great success at the nearby Z Cafe owned by John Toma (who built it on the success of his former Sunrize Cafe). By December 2013, the restaurant/bar’s name is changed to Jack’s Place in honor of owner Jack Lamberson. Negotiations with locals to manage the bar, restaurant and a wedding business all fail to materialize when, after weeks or months of discussions, the owner changes the terms at the last minute.
February 2015: Fallbrook Land Conservancy purchases 47.74 acres next to the course, for $437,500 ($9,164/acre), from the Cooke family. This land includes the same acreage that Stacey Hart defaulted on in 2009 after he discovered zoning and San Diego General Plan restrictions allow only 11 homes, not 23, to be built on the property. This number would be later reduced by the San Diego County General Plan, rendering the property unsuitable for real estate development. Hart had originally committed to paying $2.5 million for 40 acres ($62,500/acre) in 2004. The Fallbrook Land Conservancy pays $437,500 ($9,164/acre) for 47.74 acres, a stunning reduction in value. The County of San Diego General Plan restrictions apply to all of semi-rural San Diego County, including eastern Fallbrook’s Gird Valley, and require minimum lot sizes of 4, 8 or 16 acres.
2015: Watering of the Fallbrook course fairways ceases in April, breakfast service is cancelled, and staff are reduced to fewer than 10. On June 27, 2015, the restaurant/bar reopens as AJ’s Taphouse in honor of the Lambersons’ grandson AJ Lanari who assumes the role of manager.
Hours are sporadic, closing as early as 6 or 7 PM on weekends even when the bar and patio are full of patrons. The promised breakfast service never materializes. Reviews on Yelp detail the downward progression. By the close of 2015, reviews are overwhelmingly negative and most of the regulars grow impatient with the lack of progress and move on to other venues. The community worries about the health of the course and there is virtually nothing to show for the $900,000 Lamberson says he spent improving it since 2012 or the $1.6 million he says his company has “pumped” into it. Offers to help are ignored or rebuffed. Requests by neighbors and the various golf club members to speak to the owner are ignored. In November, Fallbrook Golf Course stops offering annual memberships. Rumors fly about a sale of all or part of the Fallbrook Golf Course to a residential developer or mitigation banker. Residential development on the course conflicts with the Fallbrook General Plan and is risky under the County General Plan. With the ruined San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course only a few miles to the south as an example of a fallow course facing development and stuck in mitigation banking paperwork limbo, there are grounds for concern.
December 2015: At the request of Donald Ross of EarthBalance of Florida and REC Consulting, Inc., Army Corps of Engineers’ (ACOE) Richard J. “RJ” Van Sant III and David Lawhead of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife take a golf cart tour of the back nine. Ross/Earth Balance and REC request “agency representatives’s feedback on the site’s potential for habitat restoration” and receive the public employee’s time and input even though there is no official proposal (prospectus) submitted for creating a mitigation bank (a public process). FOIA’d ACOE correspondence notes, “It’s true … this would be the 2nd controversial golf course/potential mitigation bank site in SD County. This one (at the Fallbrook Golf Club, which is just a few miles away from the Moosa Creek Mitigation Bank located at the former San Luis Rey Downs Golf Course in Bonsall) we don’t have a prospectus for yet. RJ visited the site with the consultant, but we don’t know if they are moving forward or not at this point.” (Jan. 26, 2016 email from Shanti Santulli, the ACOE Project Manager for the San Luis Rey Downs mitigation bank, to five others at ACOE including RJ Van Sant [the potential mitigation bank project manager for Fallbrook Golf Course] and ACOE’s public affairs officer.)
January 2016: Concerned neighbors organize SaveFallbrookGolfCourse.com and engage a potential buyer to contact Jack Lamberson about the golf course but Mr. Lamberson tells him, “The golf course is not for sale.” Over 200 people pack a standing-room-only meeting at the Fallbrook Library (Jan. 30) to learn about the threats to the Fallbrook Golf Course and Gird Valley. Although invited, no one from any of the involved government agencies, including ACOE, is available to speak. The Lamberson family declines to speak or send a representative. Joan McConnell acts as MC and representatives of Fallbrook Land Conservancy and Save the Downs speak on mitigation banking and land use policy. SaveFallbrookGolfCourse.com’s Teresa Platt delivers a PowerPoint presentation (updated Mar. 2, 2016) on the issues of concern. Michael Harrison of Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office addresses the group. The press is engaged. Jack Lamberson pens several letters to the homeowners around the course. It is reported that the escrow to a mitigation land back, “a done deal,” will close January 15. January comes and goes, no escrow closes.
February 2016: Lamberson states that his Lamberson Family Trust’s [LFT Investments, Inc. of Nevada] three payroll companies are subsidizing the course at the rate of $100,000 to $250,000 a year. Jack Lamberson owes First National Denver $2.8M on the course plus almost $700,000 in additional debt on his Lake Arrowhead property, debt that was secured as a down payment when he purchased the course for $3.6M in 2012. The course is declining fast and worth far less than its original purchase price. Lamberson closes the back nine on Feb. 1, only to reopen it a day later, then announces the back nine will close Feb. 15. SaveFallbrookGolfCourse.com supporters pack a February 15 Fallbrook Community Planning Group meeting and many people speak. The press is engaged. It is reported that the sale of a portion of the back nine to a mitigation land bank won’t close on February 15 after all but will close on February 20. There are questions about how a land bank that only wants to buy acreage near the creek can complete that sale when the Parcel is not legally subdivided. The Fallbrook Women Golfers (who have played at the course for 54 years) reluctantly vote to move to another course. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, South Coast Region, confirms Jack Lamberson is attempting to sell all or part of the Fallbrook Golf Course to Don Ross of EarthBalance.com, a wetlands mitigation land bank based in Florida. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the vast majority of wetlands destruction in Florida where mitigation banks were criticized for diverting DOT (taxpayer funds) to mitigation banks with poor track records. Even the Sierra Club weighed in as being “generally critical of wetlands mitigation banking”. Mr. Ross has gone on record defending the sale of wetlands credits from dry land. At the Fallbrook Golf Course, February comes and goes, no escrow closes.
Companies owned by Jack Leroy Lamberson, Bonnie Sue Lamberson and/or Brian Lanari–California Corporations: Contractors Associates, Inc.; Employee Leasing, Inc.; J.L. Lamberson; Lanari and Associates, Inc.; Obei, Inc.; Onceblue Enterprises, Inc.; Personnel Leasing Inc.; Redlands SLS Construction Company; Worker Leasing. Nevada Corporations: Contract Labor, Inc.; Contractors Associates, Inc; Employee Leasing, Inc. of Nevada; JB Corporate Management, Inc.; Lamberson Family Limited Partnership; LFT Investments, Inc. Houses tied to Jack and Bonnie Lamberson, Brian Lanari: 31350 Lake Vista Circle, Bonsall, CA 92003; 4834 Sweetgrass Lane, Bonsall, CA 92003 , 243 Eldorado Drive, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352.