Weekend Golf Adventures in the Southland

After a few weeks off from golf, I got back to it this weekend with a vengeance. I had some ideas heading into the weekend, but nothing quite went as planned. However, everything worked out even better than I would have hoped. 

My original plan for Saturday was to drive out to the Coachella Valley. I had an errand I needed to run out in the area, so it seemed like a good excuse to visit a new Palm Springs area course. Unfortunately, the Santa Ana winds picked up late in the week and were blowing hard at my house on Friday night. High wind advisories were listed in the Coachella Valley through Saturday afternoon, so I figured it wasn’t the best place to visit when the winds were howling.

I decided to play it by ear on Saturday. The wind was still blowing hard at my house early Saturday morning, but was beginning to subside. I scoured GolfNow for a good tee time in either Orange County or San Diego County, but found nothing that interested me too much. Then, I remembered I had a GroupGolfer.com voucher for The Golf Club of California in Fallbrook. It was good after 11am on Saturdays, so it seemed like a perfect chance to use it.

I didn’t bother to call ahead as I usually don’t have too much trouble walking on as a single. I got there just a few minutes before 11:00—perfect (or so I thought). They guy in the pro shop told me they were booked solid until about 12:40. D’oh!

I was still determined to golf, though. My backup plan was to then head just down the road to San Luis Rey Downs, which is another course I haven’t played. I’ve never heard anything too great about this course, but figured I’d give it a shot. When I got to the course, it was just plain ugly. The whole place was dormant, ugly brown and just looked like garbage. These sad conditions were enhanced by the fact that the holes I could see from the road looked pretty boring. The parking lot was also pretty packed. I just was not feeling it. I am sure I’ll play here someday, but will wait until it’s at least in good shape and/or I can get a great discount deal.

So I hit the road again with no real plan in mind. I headed east on the 76 and then north on the I-15 toward Temecula. After some thought, I decided to go and try CrossCreek in Temecula, which is one of my favorite SoCal courses. I haven’t played here in several years and had read a few pretty good reviews of it recently on Greenskeeper.org, so it was worth a shot.

I got out there around 11:40, checked in at the pro shop and they told me I’d have no problem getting out soon. It was $54, which wasn’t too bad on a weekend at a nice course. Perfect. I used the restroom and when I came out, the pro shop guy waved me over and introduced me to another single. However, this guy had a 2-for-1 coupon and needed someone to share it with. I gladly volunteered, so it ended up being $37 each. Even better!

We teed off just before 12:30. The first few holes were quite slow, but the pace quickened as the day went on. Our group was a little slow, but so was the group behind us. So eventually we had a nice cushion on either side, which was nice. We were able to finish all 18 holes before it got dark, so I can’t complain about anything.

The course was in pretty good shape. With so many other local courses having ugly dormant grass this time of year, CrossCreek was in relatively great condition. A few patchy areas here and there, but the rough was pretty lush, the fairways were consistent and the greens were in solid condition.

CrossCreek is a great course in my opinion. It offers a nice variety of holes (some short, some long) with a lot of fun risk/reward options. There are a few wacky hole layouts here and overall I’d call it more of a “shot-maker’s” course. A lot of strategy involved and accuracy will help you out on many holes. It’s in a beautiful, secluded setting with no houses on the course itself. There are some beautiful hilltop homes you can see from the course, which only add to the appeal. Lots of cool old oak trees, a creek that runs through several holes and other various environmental surroundings.

Some pictures from CrossCreek (1/28/11):

I had pushed back my Coachella Valley plans to Sunday, so I booked a tee time at Desert Dunes in Desert Hot Springs. I liked that it was on the western side of the area and just off the 10 Freeway, so I wouldn’t have to drive quite as far. A friend also recommended I might like this course and he was right.

I got a “hot deal” on GolfNow for $63 at 8:08. I ended up getting there pretty early, though, and they let me head out immediately to the first tee where I joined up with a threesome of Desert Dunes regulars—three cool guys who were proud of the fact their three initials spelled L.S.D. and were enjoying some grass beyond what was found on the Desert Dunes fairways and greens. Speaking of, my playing partner at CrossCreek was also smoking a bit, so that was a running theme this weekend.

There was little to no wind this morning and the weather was absolutely perfect. It was chilly the first few holes, but once the sun was shining it was a gorgeous day in the desert.

I really enjoyed this course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It’s in more of a rugged setting on the north side of the freeway. Definitely less polished and “residential/resort” as most other courses in the area. No houses on the course and wide open views of the desert all around. The course layout is more of a links style using natural mounding from tee to green to create some unique challenges. For the most part, the fairways are pretty wide and easy to hit, but there are environmental desert areas that can come into play on most every hole if you hit wayward shots. I can see the wind being a real equalizer here in this exposed area, so the course probably wasn’t playing nearly as tough as it could be. I got it on a pretty tame day in ideal conditions.

Holes 10 and 11 provide a nice little break with some big trees framing the fairways and greens, but mostly it’s more of a desolate desert setting with sage brush and cacti providing the landscape. I did have a run-in with some rather vicious ants near the big pond on the 16th hole when reached into retrieve a ball from the water. My wrist today is covered with bites, along with a few on my legs.

The course was in pretty nice shape. Seems like some of the grass is still coming in, but the fairways were nice and consistent and the rough was quite lush in most areas. The greens were in pretty good shape, though a little firm for my tastes. I can imagine these greens being really hard to hold on a super dry and windy afternoon out here.

Desert Dunes is a bit out of the way when compared to the concentration of courses in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and La Quinta, but it’s a great course worth visiting. I’m very glad I made the stop there this weekend. And, of course, I also got to stop at Hadley on the way home for some tasty farmer’s market style snack treats.

Some pictures from Desert Dunes (1/29/11):

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