Another Good Excuse to Head Up the Coast Again

It’s no secret I enjoy visiting California’s Central Coast for a little golf. I’ve slowly been working my way down the list to check out all the different courses, so it’s always a good excuse for an overnight trip.

I headed out there this weekend for such a trip, and I am actually nearing the bottom of the list now. The main reason was because I had a Groupgolfer.com voucher to use up for Blacklake Golf Resort in Nipomo. It was $39 for unlimited play (any day, any time) and also included lunch (one menu item and one drink), so it was a great deal. The voucher was expiring at the end of June, so I needed to use it up soon.

I hit the road super early in the morning and had plans to play twice on the way up, so Blacklake would have to wait until the next day…

Glen Annie Golf Club • Santa Barbara, CA • 6/8/12

My first stop was Glen Annie Golf Club in beautiful Santa Barbara. When most people think of golf in SB, they’ll think of Sandpiper and Rancho San Marcos, which are both incredible courses. Glen Annie is kind of the forgotten course around here, which is a shame because it’s a really nice course in its own right.

This was my first time playing here, so I didn’t have too many expectations coming in. I got up there around 7:00 and was able to walk right on as a single. They sent me off by myself, but let me know there were already a few foursomes out on the course. I ended up catching up with another single on the 3rd tee and we played together. The two foursomes in front of us eventually let us through on the back nine, so the overall pace was pretty nice.

I really enjoyed the layout here. It’s built along the hillside and has some nice views of the ocean on a number of holes. It’s a fun course. Not super challenging, but enough trouble to keep you on your toes. Good variety of holes and distances, which I like.

The conditions were solid. The fairways and rough areas were decent. A little patchy here and there with a number of brown spots, but nothing that really affected play too much. The highlight here was the greens. They were magnificent—easily some of the nicest greens I’ve played on all year. Very soft and receptive on approaches, but rolled smoothly and at an ideal speed on putts.

Overall, I really enjoyed Glen Annie. It may be a bit more expensive than it’s worth ($70 for me), but compared to the other two more well-known Santa Barbara courses, it’s a good value. It’s a solid alternative if you want to enjoy a really nice course in this beautiful area without paying a ton.

Some pictures from Glen Annie Golf Club (6/8/12):

From Santa Barbara, I continued up the coast toward Lompoc. Grabbed a quick lunch at Wendy’s and then headed to my next golf destination…

Marshallia Ranch Golf Course • Vandenberg AFB, CA • 6/8/12

Note: this course is now closed.

This course is the Vandenberg AFB course, but it is open to civilians. I’ve heard mixed reviews of it before, so I was curious to check it out for myself. I got there right about noon, which turned out to be perfect timing.

They gave me the twilight rate ($27 to walk), which was nice. It also turns out they were closing down for a tournament group starting at 1:00, so it was ideal. I walked by myself and didn’t run into anyone until halfway through the back nine. So overall it was a nice quick round on a pretty nice day.

I knew it often gets windy out here (especially in the afternoon), so I was prepared for plenty of wind. Well, it was definitely howling here and that added plenty of challenge to the course.

The first hole really disappointed me. It is a very basic hole that was flat and wide open off the tee. The first green was in awful shape, as if the Air Force had been using it as a helipad or something. So, I was really getting worried. The greens got better after that. Most were in pretty good shape and others were a little more beat up. The holes got more interesting, as well. Really gets going about the 5th hole, where you start to encounter more hills and undulations. Eucalyptus trees line each hole and present some unique challenges and angles. The fairways are not as wide as they appear. This course was definitely not set up for my fade, as there was always a tree right where I’d normally aim and no bail-out room right. I struggled to find fairways.

The conditions were not too great overall. The fairways were pretty firm and thin. The rough was either sandy hardpan, gopher holes, clumps of thick grass or piles of twigs and acorns. Not pleasant. However, the grass around the greens was in great shape. So it really was a mixed bag. The tee boxes were level and sand traps seemed okay. I only hit into one and got out well enough.

Overall, Marshallia Ranch was just okay. If it were in really nice shape it would be a great deal and a more enjoyable course. That said, I won’t be rushing to come back here anytime soon, though.

Some pictures from Marshallia Ranch Golf Course (6/8/12):

I ended up staying that night in Lompoc as it was the cheapest room rate and not too far away from the other places I wanted to visit. It also gave me an excuse to eat at Don Pepe in downtown Lompoc, which is a great little old school Mexican Restaurant I discovered several years ago when I came through to play nearby La Purisima. Great food, service and atmosphere.

I also drove over to Chumash Casino and actually walked away up a little bit, so that paid for part of the trip. That was a nice bonus!

The next morning I got up early again and drove up to Nipomo…

Blacklake Golf Resort • Nipomo, CA • 6/9/12

With my unlimited play voucher, I knew I wanted to at least play all 27 holes at Blacklake (if not more). I also planned to drive all the way back home that afternoon/evening, so it made sense to get there as early as possible. I got there around 6:00, which I guess was a little too early. There were a few golfers milling around, but the pro shop wasn’t open yet. They opened the doors at 6:30 and I checked right in.

I went out first by myself on the Canyon nine and then played Oaks right after that. I didn’t run into a soul on either nine, so I zipped right through. I enjoyed both of these nines. Much more secluded and “natural” than expected for such a residential community, though there are plenty of houses surrounding most of the holes. The conditions were pretty good. The greens were nice and consistent. They were soggy in the morning, so that helped on approaches. The fairways were decent. The rough was hit and miss with a lot of bare patches and little dirt piles. A lot of oak trees and eucalyptus trees create a nice Central Coast vibe.

Then I got to the Lakes nine. This side was packed, so I joined up with a twosome. The pace was still OK (probably about 2 hours). This nine was mostly in awful shape. The greens were decent (though much firmer after drying out), but the fairways looked and played like garbage. They were very thin and mostly dead with a lot of bare hardpan areas. The rough wasn’t anything too spectacular either. The 9th hole fairway was actually in pretty good shape, though (more like the other nines), so it at least finished on a fine note. The Lakes nine was also by far the least interesting layout of the three, if you ask me.

I ended up playing the Canyon nine again to make it a nice even 36 holes. I was finished with all 36 by 12:45, so that was pretty awesome and I could have played a lot more if I wanted to.

The guys I was playing with said that the owner is purposely putting more time and money into Avila Beach right now than Blacklake (same ownership) and the addition of Monarch Dunes and Cypress Ridge has definitely hurt Blacklake, so it’s been falling into a state of disarray the past few years. I’d love to see it restored to excellent shape someday because I thought the layout was enjoyable (especially on the Canyon and Oaks nines). It seems they do have a lot of great unlimited play deals going on here, so it can definitely be a great value compared to the nearby tracks if you are just looking to get out and play while in the area.

Some pictures from Blacklake Golf Resort (6/9/12):

I hit The Habit on the way home in Ventura (my favorite burger chain) and was home by 5:15, so it worked out well because I was exhausted!

Next weekend, I’ll be taking another overnight trip to a more “inland” destination–Stevinson Ranch Golf Club in Stevinson, CA (Modesto area). It’s a little Greenskeeper.org get-together, so carpooling up there for a couple of rounds on what is supposed to be a great course. Definitely looking forward to it!

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