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Play better golf, get fit at unique camp at Omni La Costa in SoCal

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CARLSBAD, Calif. – Russ Labrasca looks at his watch.

“4,500 calories burned, and it’s only 4 o’clock,” he says. “I feel great.”

Labrasca will burn a few more calories by day’s end. He and his wife, Judy, have signed up for a week of the PFC Fitness Camp, a weight loss program based at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

Labrasca, who works in the banking industry in Houston, says he was initially worried how his body would hold up to the “Golf Fit” version of the program, a series of morning workouts, followed by afternoon golf lessons, all on a limited-calorie diet. The results shocked him.

“I hit it (the golf ball) better than I have in years, simply because I was limber,” he says. “The diet is designed to give you energy. When I hit the range, I was set and ready to go. In years gone by, I would have never lasted for a two-and-a-half-hour lesson and feel as good as I do.”

While Labrasca was playing golf under the watchful eye of TOURAcademy Omni La Costa instructors, his wife tackled other fitness adventures, such as hiking and ocean kayaking.

This “Golf Fit” program created last year is truly a one-of-a-kind in the golf resort industry. Co-founders Ryan Relyea and Zach Cutler launched the PFC Fitness Camp in Utah before migrating to La Costa, an iconic destination renowned for promoting wellness and healthy living. La Costa’s luxurious accommodations, world-class spa, Chopra Yoga Center and premier golf and tennis facilities, not to mention the beautiful SoCal weather, make it an ideal fit. “A lot of people have no energy,” says Wendy Sallin, the camp’s director of fitness. “A lot of people find themselves when they are here.”

PFC Fitness Camp

Don’t think of PFC Fitness Camp as another “Biggest Loser” knockoff. People of all ages and fitness levels participate. Sallin says one man who weighed 560 pounds stayed for a month, as did a relatively fit 22-year-old who “just wanted to feel better.”

“It runs the gamut, from people who are 20 pounds overweight to those who are not at all,” she says.

The ‘Golf Fit’ program costs roughly $5,000 per week. A typical day starts with a 6:30 a.m. nutrient shake followed by multiple workouts, healthy meals cooked for breakfast and lunch, educational seminars and afternoon time set aside for golf clinics on the range or playing one of La Costa’s two courses. An active day ends with a 5 p.m. meal with the group. No alcohol or dining off the menu is allowed, although the food and drink at the resort’s fabulous restaurants have tempted a few who lost their willpower.

“The fitness (program) is well thought out,” Labrasca says. “They take you to the brink, then you move on to something else.”

Campers are encouraged to continue a healthy lifestyle after they leave. They’re given a 12-week at-home coaching program, guided by a book and meal and fitness plans, to continue their weight-loss and work-out regimens in the real world.

“We don’t want a quick fix,” trainer Todd Bassler says. “We want to change your lifestyle. We want to give you a guideline to success.”  


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A taste of golf boot camp

Trekking in and out of the Champions' many deep bunkers should make one plenty fit. 

I got a taste of the “Golf Fit” program during a recent three-day stay.

I had my finger pricked, so my blood could be analyzed. Measuring my body fat percentage was a painful reality check (don’t ask).

Other baseline tests felt like a flashback to a fifth-grade presidential fitness test. My group of coddled golf journalists was scheduled to run a timed mile, but we protested so much that it was scaled back to a half-mile jog.

Inside the gym, I had one minute to do as many pushups as possible, quickly followed by holding a plank position for as long as I could. At the end of the week, participants redo many of these tests to gauge their progress.

The afternoon exercises using TRX suspension training thoroughly tested my tiring muscles. These elastic bands, which can be attached to a ceiling, wall or door frame just about anywhere, strengthen a golfer’s core while also enhancing flexibility. We spent the last 15 minutes releasing key stress points on the body by sprawling out on the floor with a foam roller, one of those “hurt-so-good” moments during a workout.

Playing better golf is, obviously, the reward for all this hard work. La Costa’s Legends and Champions courses – recently revived after multi-million-dollar renovations by Steve Pate and Damian Pascuzzo – have never looked or played better.

Thankfully, my group wasn’t saddled with the 1,500-calorie-a-day diet of the campers. We did sample some really good gourmet health food prepared by La Costa’s talented chefs. Nobody really cared for the gluten-free pancakes at breakfast one morning. However, that vegan and gluten-free carrot cake served after dinner at the Bistro 65 was a hit. If this is what healthy tastes like, sign me up again.  

The only thing missing from the whole experience was the ‘I survived golf boot camp at La Costa’ T-shirt, a souvenir I’m sure everybody would wear with pride.