Another Adventurous Day in San Diego

Yesterday was another Golf Nomad kind of day. Nothing quite went as expected, but in the end, I got to enjoy some new golf experiences and that’s all that matters.

Friday afternoon, I did my usual GolfNow sweep, looking for deals at SoCal courses I haven’t played yet. I ultimately found a $47 early bird “hot deal” at Sycuan Resort (Oak Glen course) for 5:59am. The rest of their morning times were either $65 or $80 (not sure why the fluctuation), so that rate seemed like a worthy deal. And since there are two great regulation courses at Sycuan (not to mention their 18-hole par-3 course, Pine Glen), I figured I’d make a whole day of it down there. At worst, I would play the two main courses (Oak Glen and Willow Glen) and perhaps squeeze in a bonus round on the little course (Pine Glen), as well…

Sycuan Golf & Tennis Resort (Oak Glen) • El Cajon, CA • 7/14/12

The Sycuan Resort is down in El Cajon and it’s just shy of 1.5 hours from my house. So needless to say, I got up super duper early (which I’m used to) to get down there in time. I got there a little too early and the pro shop wasn’t even open yet. I had to walk around a bit just to find a bathroom that was open.

I teed off in the second group of the day. It was myself and two other singles. The first group got a bit of a head-start on us, so we didn’t really crowd them too much. All in all, the round was a perfect dawn patrol pace of about 3:15.

I was very impressed with the Oak Glen course on all levels. It is a fun layout—challenging, but fair. The key to success here is really just to stay out of the trees, which is easier said than done with some tight holes and tricky doglegs. There are plenty of trees, a few well-placed water hazards and some minor elevation changes to add challenge and scenery to this course without it being super tough. It offers a good mix of holes and lengths to test all your skills.

The course was in excellent condition, as well. Some tee boxes were a bit unlevel, but the grass was lush and consistent on them. The fairways and rough were nice, green and very lush. The rough was not too deep, but well maintained. I was only in one bunker and it seemed OK, maybe just a tad thin. The greens were the best part, as they were just shy of “immaculate” in my book. They were very soft and receptive, but had smooth surfaces and quick rolls. They firmed up and sped up a bit as our morning round progressed, but were just about perfect in my opinion. I did have to repair a few extra ball marks here and there, but not bad. 

Some pictures from Sycuan Golf & Tennis Resort (Oak Glen) (7/14/12):

One of the guys I played the morning round with told me they had very good replay rates, so in my head I was excited to play the second round on Willow Glen. He was also planning on playing 36, so we tentatively planned to stay paired up for both rounds. After finishing Oak Glen, we went into the pro shop and they told us it would be only $30 for a replay on Willow Glen, though we’d have to wait 30-45 minutes for the next opening. No problem! That was too good a deal to pass up. However, when they went to ring us up they discovered that we had played our first round at a discounted “early bird” rate and that a replay rate was not doable for us. We’d have to pay the full $65 rate.

Had I not already been pumped up in my head about the great replay rate, I may have still done it. But that unreduced number (and the fact they really made no effort to try and cut us any kind of deal or retain our business) kind of took the wind on my sails, so I decided to save Willow Glen for another time when I can get a better rate. Oh well. Oak Glen is in excellent shape and is a great course, and I know Willow Glen is just as good (and even better by most accounts), so I can’t wait to get back there! It’s very green and lush out there right now, so a beautiful time of year to play these beautiful courses. I’m sure my Willow Glen visit will be sometime soon within the next few weeks.

I began searching GolfNow on my phone to try and find another good deal somewhat near Sycuan. I was determined to play another round after such a long drive and I’ve barely played anywhere in the southern part of SD County so I knew there would be options. The best option appeared to be one of the Cottonwood courses that are also in El Cajon or perhaps Steele Canyon which is not too far away from there. Steele Canyon’s rates were a bit too steep for my liking and, though Cottonwood had some good deals on GolfNow, they were only for a minimum of two players. Bummer.

I was losing steam, so I just started driving home. I headed back west along the I-8 and the idea occurred to me that maybe I should go check out Coronado Golf Course. I knew it was pretty inexpensive, I knew how to get to it (just go across the giant bridge onto Coronado Island) and figured I’d be able to walk on pretty easily at that time of day (late morning). So, foolishly, I didn’t bother to call ahead. Fortunately, traffic was light and it didn’t take long at all to get over there. It was pretty overcast and foggy along the waterfront, but when I got to the course it looked to be in pretty nice shape for a muni track. It looked pretty green out there and, though the layout didn’t look like anything too dramatic, it looked like a very enjoyable setting for golf.

Unfortunately, when I got up to the clubhouse, I could see a lot of big banners and booths implying that they probably had a tournament or some other special event happening. I asked the first employee I saw and he confirmed an event was plugging up the course until after 2:00. It was a little before 11:00 at this time, so there was no way I would be waiting around. It was a good scouting mission, though, so now I know Coronado is worth playing soon.

I got on GolfNow again to do another sweep, just in case I missed something earlier. The best option I could find this time was Mission Trails Golf Course. They had a time at noon for $35 and they had a bunch of times listed, so I figured it may not be too crowded out there. I booked it and headed straight over…

Mission Trails Golf Course • San Diego, CA • 7/14/12

I teed off right on time and played with another single. We later joined with a twosome because we were all stuck behind a bunch of big groups. It seemed a bit slow-going at points (especially at the turn because 10 is a par-3 and there were two groups waiting on the tee when we got there), but it still worked out to an average 4.5 hour round.

The front nine is fairly underwhelming. There are a few fun and funky holes with some tricky angles and odd landing areas in the fairways. Visually, it kind of looks wide open here, but it’s much tighter than it appears. The fairways are cut tight and trees are placed in awkward positions that can definitely mess with your angles of attack. Also, on the front, you have to be aware that there are small cement drainage ditches running across almost every hole. They are marked as lateral hazards, but don’t have any red stakes so they are hard to see from a distance. You really have to be aware of where these ditches are. I got lucky by bouncing out of them on a few shots, but also got unlucky a couple of times and it cost me two penalty strokes on one hole in particular.

The back nine perks up quite a bit with some more enjoyable holes that are much more scenic along the edge of a lake. There are a number of blind tee shots and even trickier angles than the front. Overall, the greens are very forgiving throughout the course, though. They don’t have much slope or undulation and they aren’t protected by too many hills or bunkers. So there are plenty of scoring opportunities if you play it straight and safe off the tees. It’s not a long course, so some big hitters may just leave the driver in the bag on all but a few holes.

As far as conditions, I would say it was in “average” muni shape from tee to green. It was nothing too spectacular to look at, but most fairways and rough were good to hit from (just really dry and brown). There were plenty of thin/hardpan patches, but not that bad compared to some cheap muni tracks I’ve played. I was only in one trap and the sand seemed OK. The greens were in really nice shape and they were the highlight of the course (at least in terms of conditions). They were very quick, but still soft enough to be receptive on approaches and chip shots.

The layout may be a bit too funky and/or short for some, but I enjoyed it overall. I won’t be rushing to play here again, but I would come back. For under $40 on a Saturday, it’s a decent option. The back nine is definitely enjoyable, especially with perfect San Diego weather and a nice coastal breeze all afternoon!

Some pictures from Mission Trails Golf Course (7/14/12):

 

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