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Exec Club

Microsemi Corp.’s Jim Peterson is a competitive guy.

But when he’s got his golfing shoes on, he tries to put business aside.

“I try to make it more congenial,” said Peterson, chief executive of the Irvine-based chipmaker.

“When I go golfing with friends or other businesspeople, the last thing I want to do is compete against them,” he said. “We do that for a living.”

Peterson usually golfs as part of a foursome at the private Marbella Country Club in San Juan Capistrano, a stomping ground for local executives.

Microsemi executives from human resources and investor relations are members of the club.

Paul Folino, Microsemi chairman and executive chairman of Costa Mesa-based Emulex Corp., also is a Marbella member.

Others include banker Jay Baumgardner, David Greminger, president of Irvine-based homebuilder Fieldstone Partners California LLC, and Ken Olsen, a broker in Prudential California Realty’s Monarch Beach office in Dana Point.

Set behind a guarded gate, the lushly landscaped club spans about 100 acres.

It has all the country club fixings—golf, tennis courts, heated swimming pool and events for members.

Many members also live behind the gate at Marbella, where there are about 350 homes, including 100 condominiums, on another 200 acres.

Broker Olsen built a home at Marbella in 1991. Folino is new to the neighborhood.

Marbella also draws members from the nearby Hunt Club and Stoneridge neighborhoods.

Most of its members either live or work nearby.

A few people trek from Newport Beach and other cities.

One of Marbella’s closest competitors is Mission Viejo Country Club.

Marbella is owned by Santa Monica’s NGP Realty Sub LP and operated by Santa Monica-based America Golf Corp. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Starwood Capital Group own both companies.

Marbella is in a rural setting with an ocean view from atop the golf course.

The 18-hole course, designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf, is considered challenging for experienced golfers.

Its rolling fairways have two downhill holes and one uphill hole.

“There are a lot of elevation changes that make it very challenging,” Baumgardner said.

Amenities, Events

Marbella’s 50,000-square-foot Spanish-style clubhouse has a full kitchen and various rooms for dining and events. It also has a golf and tennis shop and a gym.

On any given day, the club holds events for members, such as pasta night, taco night and happy hour.

The club also rents rooms and the lawn for nonmember events such as weddings.

This year it will be the site of 20 weddings.

It’s trying to expand nonmember events while keeping events for members a priority.

Marbella has about 700 members, including 480 “full golf” members, which is the most expensive membership, costing about $20,000 to join and about $600 in monthly dues.

Capacity for Marbella is about 550 golf members.

Many people join because their friends are members, said Bri Grill, director of membership sales.

The club sells other kinds of memberships, such as a social membership, designed for people who don’t want to play golf or tennis but want access to the clubhouse and member events.

Monthly dues are about $200 for a social membership.

Memberships extend to immediate family members—spouse and children.

Marbella holds holiday events for families and has daily activities for kids, such as lessons in golf and tennis, and a competitive kids’ swim team called the Manta Rays.

“They’re very attentive to families,” Peterson said. “It’s more of a family activity than a bunch of guys standing around lighting up smelly cigars.”

He said he occasionally brings his grandkids to the club.

Peterson joined nearly a year ago.

The club is near his homes in Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano.

“The feel was good,” he said. “When I met the people they had nice smiles. Everyone knows your name.”

The membership makeup is a mix of executives, doctors and other professionals and retirees, according to Grill.

About 40% of members are retired.

Members can host business meetings and clients at the club. Many come to relax.

“A lot of them leave work at the door,” Grill said. “This is their place to chill.”

Founding

The club, founded in 1989, has weathered some bad economic times, even a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the 1990s.

It opened with 200 founding members who paid about $30,000 each to join.

It began as a dues-free club. It eventually adopted dues after coming up short on revenue.

Founding members include Joan Irvine Smith and a number of professional sports players.

The country club and the homes were developed by Laguna Niguel-based Fairway Land Co., according to Olsen.

At the time, Olsen headed up Fairway’s subsidiary, Marbella Properties.

NGP Realty, formerly National Golf Properties, bought Marbella in 2001 for a reported $12.5 million.

In 2003, Goldman Sachs and Starwood Capital Group acquired NGP and American Golf’s 225 courses, including Marbella, for about $1 billion.

American Golf manages several courses in Orange County including Fullerton Golf Course and Casta del Sol Golf Course in Mission Viejo.

The company also runs a few country clubs, including Dove Canyon Country Club and SeaCliff Country Club in Huntington Beach.

American Golf has sold a number of courses and clubs and now manages about 100.

Marbella has been one of the stronger properties for the company, according to Olsen.

“It’s the oldest cliche in real estate: ‘location, location, location,’” he said.

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