I had planned to take it easy this weekend. After five weekends in a row with a lot of driving and a lot of golf, I wanted to decompress a bit. My plan was to take a half day off of work on Friday and play in the afternoon, then have all of Saturday and Sunday to myself to relax and maybe do some cleaning around the house.
Well, that didn’t quite happen. Friday went as planned. I went over to Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley to play the Classic course there. I had made a 12:07 tee time and got in contact with some guys from Greenskeeper.org to get a foursome together. We had a good time out there on a perfect day weather-wise. I was never really on my game Friday, so it wasn’t quite as “satisfying” a round as I wanted. I think that’s what led to Saturday’s events. More on that later.
Mile Square Golf Course • Fountain Valley, CA • 6/29/12
I had played the Players course here many years ago. I don’t remember being too impressed with it. Pretty basic muni layout, but Mile Square has always been a bit more expensive than other similar courses in Orange County like Costa Mesa and Willowick. So I was never in any hurry to get back and play the Classic course, but this Friday seemed like a good opportunity to finally check it off my list.
It was surprisingly uncrowded out there, so we teed off on time with no groups directly in front of us. We played at a nice leisurely pace and finished in just about four hours, which is rare to find on an OC course on a Friday afternoon in summer.
The course itself was pretty much what I expected from playing the other course before. Very flat without too much trouble to get into. There are plenty of trees on the course, but you really have to spray it to bring them in play. Only a few water hazards and not a ton of sand traps, so it’s pretty forgiving out there. The course was in solid shape from tee to green. Mostly green out there with some patchy/dead areas here and there. Nothing that really affected play. The greens were very nice. They were soft and held well on approaches, but smooth rolling on putts.
Overall, it was a decent course in pretty good shape. For my money, I would still rather play Costa Mesa or even Willowick even with the crowds they attract.
Some pictures from Mile Square Golf Course (Classic) (6/29/12):
After an unsatisfactory round as far as my playing went, I got home Friday night and began snooping around on GolfNow.com, searching for a good deal on Saturday. There wasn’t anything that intrigued me too much, so I went to bed and decided to enjoy the relaxing weekend I had planned. By the time I got up Saturday morning, I was already getting antsy. So I began searching online again in search of a deal.
Then I found a “Hot Deal” on GolfNow at Lake San Marcos (the regulation Country Club course, not the executive layout there). It was listed at $23.99 for a 11:37 tee time. I knew this course was nothing too exciting, but that was a great deal. Not a super long drive (a little under an hour) and so cheap that even if it sucked, I wouldn’t be out too much.
However, when I went to book the time, GolfNow was giving me error messages. I ended up having to call them and during the time that I did, the deal actually went down to $19.99. I was able to book it on the phone for that price (after about 20 minutes of going back and forth with the representative).
Lake San Marcos Resort & Country Club • Lake San Marcos, CA • 6/30/12
Editor’s Note: Since the posting of this review, this course has changed its name to St. Mark Golf Club.
From the parking lot, I was kind of impressed when I got there. Big clubhouse that looked pretty nice from the outside. Then, when I turned the corner and saw the course, I was less impressed. Very brown out there and the couple of holes I could see looked quite boring. I was paired with another single and a twosome and we teed off a little after our time. We never had anyone in front of us, but despite my best efforts to keep a good pace going, our group was playing slow. We did finish in about 4.5 hours, but that should have been better.
With the exception of the greens, the conditions out there are horrible. Not much green grass to be found in the fairways or rough. Mostly dead or hardpan areas throughout. The rough wasn’t good either, except around the greens it was decent (though you never knew what to expect from your lie). There were actually a couple of holes on the back nine where the fairways were in relatively nice condition, but the rest were downright awful. The greens, however, were excellent. They were the only saving grace of this course. Very soft and smooth, and they rolled pretty quickly. It definitely paid to be below the hole here.
The front nine had a couple of interesting holes, but for the most part was pretty boring. Then the back nine layout perks up quite a bit with a number of really interesting (and challenging) holes. The 10th is a long par-4 at 460 yards. The 12th is a beast of a par-5 at over 600 yards. It is a massive dogleg left (which really sucked with my fade) and basically a big “U” shape around a hillside. The 13th is a narrow little par-3 with very little room for error and a major slope down and to the left. I remember remarking to my partner how pretty much of this course would be if it were well-maintained. It’s kind of a shame. Overall, it reminded me a lot of Shorecliffs in San Clemente and Cresta Verde in Corona, which are two courses people love to hate. They all feature interesting designs (too funky for some people) and scenery that could be pretty if the courses were in good shape.
However you want to categorize Lake San Marcos, I won’t be back unless I hear the conditions vastly improve.
Some pictures from Lake San Marcos Resort & Country Club (6/30/12):
I immediately wanted to wash the taste of Lake San Marcos out of my mouth. It was about 4:00 when we finished, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to get some super twilight rates at one of the other nicer courses in the area. I knew Twin Oaks wasn’t far from LSM and that it was supposed to be nice, so I drove up there to check it out. The course looked awesome from what I could see driving up to the clubhouse and there didn’t appear to be too many people out there, so I was getting excited. I went into the pro shop to check on availability and they let me know they had a big tournament group out on the back nine and they were just about to make the turn on the front. So unfortunately, there was no way I’d get out at that time. It was a bummer, but it is definitely high on my list of courses to play now.
By now it was getting even later, so I decided to make my way home. As I was driving west on the 78, I decided to check out one more option. I looked The Crossings at Carlsbad up on my phone map and saw it was only 10-15 minutes away from where I was. I knew this was a pretty nice (and pretty expensive) course, so it could be worth a visit at super twilight rates.
I called over to the course to see how busy it was. The guy said “it’s pretty wide open, so come on out!” The price at this time was $45, which still seemed kind of steep for a super twilight rate, but this course is normally around $100 on a weekend, so I figured it was my best chance to play it for a relatively decent rate (as long as I had a good chance to finish all 18 before dark).
The Crossings at Carlsbad • Carlsbad, CA • 6/30/12
I got there and teed off right at 5:00. Couldn’t see anyone in front of me and played quickly through the first few holes. I was feeling good about the pace until I ran into another single after a few holes. I caught up to him and we joined up because I knew there were other groups we’d ultimately catch up to. We then caught up to another single who was waiting on slower groups ahead, so we joined up with him and played the rest of the round as a threesome.
The back nine was slower going, but we were able to finish with barely enough light out there to see our putts on the 18th green. As long as we finished, I was happy with the price I paid.
I really enjoyed the course a lot. The front nine is more forgiving than it looks. It’s very hilly and there aren’t too many flat lies to be found, but most of the fairways are pretty wide and easy to find. Then the back nine gets much more dramatic. It winds through a canyon and is built amongst a lot of environmentally sensitive areas. There are some major changes in elevation, the fairways are much tighter and have much more severe slopes, there are plenty of forced carries and the greens are some of the craziest you will find anywhere. Major undulations and many impossible-to-read breaks.
The back nine is very scenic, however the views are marred by some big powerlines and towers running through the middle of the course. On the front nine, you get planes taking off from Palomar Airport next door and you can hear screams from nearby LegoLand on a few holes, so the setting is not as peaceful as it could be for this style of course. Still a very enjoyable layout, though.
The course was in good shape overall. Most of the fairways were green and lush. A few were a bit more dried out and beat up. The sand in the bunkers was extra heavy and soft, so I was glad I only found one out there. The greens were in good shape, though a bit bumpy this late in the day and way too many unrepaired ball marks. The rough was shaved down very tight and appeared to be a clumpy mix of different grasses. It was very spotty looking, but it was so shaved down it didn’t affect play much.
All in all, I really liked this course and would gladly pay there again. However, I would not pay full rack rate, but if you can get out there for under $60 (especially on a weekend), you should jump at the opportunity.
Some pictures from The Crossings at Carlsbad (6/30/12):
Then you get to the back nine. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t good as it was getting dark, so the pictures are a little rougher.