It’s been quite a few years since I last played out at Moreno Valley Ranch, but it’s a course I’ve always liked a lot. In my opinion, it’s one of the most underrated layouts in all of Southern California.
It’s one famed golf architect Pete Dye’s lesser-known designs, but it provides all the qualities you generally look for in his courses. Great scenery, subtle challenges and not-so-subtle visual touches–these are his hallmarks and they are all present at Moreno Valley Ranch. Overall, it’s a bit more forgiving than many of his other courses, but still enjoyable on every level.
I played out here this morning with one of my GK buddies. I had a GroupGolfer.com voucher I needed to use up by the end of September. It was a fantastic deal ($55 for two players, 27 holes each). Basically it worked out to $1 a hole, which is hard to beat!
We played the Lake nine first, then Mountain and then Valley. I had played Mountain and Valley a few times before, so I was looking forward to checking out the Lake for the first time. We teed off at 6:40 and were the second group off the tee. The foursome in front of us let us play through on the 3rd hole and it was wide open after that. We cruised through Lake and then didn’t run into a soul on Mountain either. Valley was more backed up and the pace slowed down significantly, but still not bad. We ended up playing all 27 holes in just about five hours total, so that’s hard to beat on a Saturday morning.
What’s great about Moreno Valley Ranch is that each of the three nines has a different feel.
Lake was more enjoyable than I expected. It’s nearest to Lake Perris geographically, but otherwise there’s not much reason to call it “Lake.” Water comes into play on just one hole and, though you get some great views of the Valley from a number of holes, you don’t really see the lake itself.
The Mountain nine is still clearly the star with some spectacular views and a number of very memorable and unique holes. To me, it’s one of the best nine-hole stretches in the Inland Empire. There is some great scenery as the course winds through the hills and boulders. It culminates in the signature par-3 7th hole, which is one of my favorites anywhere. The 7th is basically an “island” green, but instead of being surrounded by water, it is perched atop a desert hillside with very little room for error. It’s also the most elevated point on the course, providing a stunning view of the whole valley below.
The Valley nine is vastly different than the others. It is pretty flat and brings more water into play. Several greens are on the edge of a big pond with Dye’s traditional railroad tie planking along the edges of the water. A small ravine runs through the middle of the rest of the holes and helps shape the layout.
All the nines feature some cool mounding, well-placed bunkers and false edges on a number of greens that feed off into little shaved-down collection areas. Since the last time I played at Moreno Valley Ranch, I’ve been able to play a number of other great Pete Dye courses. That allowed me to better appreciate the design touches found throughout this course.
Overall, the Lake and Mountain nines were in decent shape for summer. The fairways were a little dried out with plenty of brown streaks, but the lies were nice and fluffy and the fairways were great to hit from. The rough was a little more hit and miss. There were some areas where the grass was nice and lush and others (primarily the big mounds and hillsides) where there was almost no grass at all. Most of the tee boxes were good, but a few were a bit lumpy/uneven on the Mountain nine. I was only in one sand trap on Lake and it was fine. The greens were in very nice shape overall and were definitely the highlight of the course condition-wise. They weren’t running too fast today, but they rolled very smooth and were soft and receptive on approaches.
The Valley nine was in much rougher shape because of a recent freak storm that hit this area and caused some major flood damage. The greens were still pretty good and most of the fairways were in decent shape (just a little dry). However, the flash flood definitely left it’s ugly mark on this nine as it wiped out the ravine that runs through most of the holes. Anything in that path looked like a war zone, but the marshal told us to play those areas as Ground Under Repair. The Valley nine will definitely take some time to recover, which is too bad.
Moreno Valley Ranch is still one of my favorite layouts in the area. I would love to someday see it in super “pristine” conditions because it would really be a show-stopper. If this course had the conditioning of, say, Goose Creek or Soboba Springs, it would be truly spectacular. That said, you can find good deals out here and it’s well worth the visit no matter what.
Some pictures from Moreno Valley Ranch Golf Club (9/8/12):
The signature 7th hole:
I purposely tried to avoid catching parts of the flood-damaged part of the course in my pictures in order to capture the nicest aspects of the Valley nine. But just to show you a little bit of it, here’s a picture from the 8th hole below with the washed out ravine running through the middle of the hole.