Yesterday, I spent another day down in San Diego County, exploring a couple of courses I hadn’t played before. There are still quite a few courses down there I’ve yet to check out, so I was scouring GolfNow all week in search of the best deals.
The best deal I saw was a 12:06 tee time at Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul for $61. That doesn’t seem like that great a deal compared to some of the deals I’ve been getting lately, but their normal weekend rates are over $100, so it was a relatively good rate for what is supposed to be one of the area’s premier courses. I locked that down and continued to look for an early morning time as a “warm up” round at another course near there. I had a few decent choices, but settled on Eastlake Country Club in Chula Vista, which is a course I’ve always heard is a solid option from SD locals I’ve played with in the past.
Eastlake Country Club • Chula Vista, CA • 9/15/12
The morning tee time was 6:22 and cost me $51, which is a bit more than I really wanted to pay. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion it wasn’t quite worth that fee, but sometimes you have to pay to play. One interesting fact about Eastlake (I think) is that it’s the southernmost course in California. At least that’s what I can tell from the map.
I was paired with a fun threesome of guys. We were fourth off the tee, but never really saw the groups ahead of us after the first few holes. The groups behind didn’t press us at all, though, so it was a nice relaxed morning pace. We still got around in about 3:45, which was great.
I would consider Eastlake a pretty average San Diego area layout. It was designed by Ted Robinson and I’ve never been super-excited by any of his courses that I’ve played over the years (with the exception of Tijeras Creek, which I love). It’s a solid design with some nice aesthetic touches (he loves waterfalls), but nothing earth-shattering. There’s a few nice holes at Eastlake, including the 12th, which is a beautiful “signature” par-3 with multi-tiered ponds protecting the green. The back nine is more interesting and scenic than the front. Overall, it’s not super challenging (we played the blue tees). The fairways are pretty forgiving and wide, and the greens aren’t too difficult or well-protected.
The course is pretty beat up right now. It looks better in the pictures than it actually was. The fairways and rough were pretty patchy with a number of dead/brown spots and inconsistent lies. The tee boxes were level, but a few (the 10th hole comes to mind) were a little too shaggy. I was in one bunker and it was fine. It was a little wet that early in the morning, so it was hard to tell how soft the sand is normally. The greens are still recovering from a recent ½ aeration. The good halves of the greens (where all the pins were) were nice and lush (and VERY soft/spongy). They were super slow, though.
I won’t be in any rush to play Eastlake again. It’s a decent course and if you can get out there for under $40, then go ahead. Otherwise, I wouldn’t pay much more than that for this course.
Some pictures from Eastlake Country Club (9/15/12):
The signature 12th hole:
The pace at Eastlake worked out perfectly, as I had ample time to get out to Jamul (pronounced “hah-mool” I was told by someone I played with at Steele Canyon). As the crow flies it’s only about 10 miles from Chula Vista, but it takes about 30 minutes to get there depending on which indirect route you take. I took a scenic drive along Otay Lakes Drive.
Steele Canyon Golf Club • Jamul, CA • 9/15/12
I forgot to mention how hot it’s been here in Southern California this week and Jamul was perhaps hotter than anywhere with temperatures over 100 degrees on Saturday. It was definitely toasty when I arrived, but I figured that might work in my favor. I was hoping the heat would scare everyone away and I could get my round in quickly. I was wrong.
They had a small tournament set to tee off on the Canyon nine and a wedding getting ready to happen in the afternoon, so it was busier out there than expected. However, as the day went on, it really wasn’t too bad on the course.
I was paired with a threesome and we teed off a little earlier than our time on the Meadow nine. There wasn’t anybody in front of us, so we set our own pace on that side. When we got to the Canyon nine, there was a fivesome(!) teeing off on the 1st hole, so we had to wait a little at the turn. Fortunately, they moved pretty quick and we didn’t press them too much on that nine. I ended up playing by myself afterward on the Ranch nine, where I caught and played through that fivesome on the third tee, only to run into a sixsome(!!!!!!) on the green. I skipped the 4th hole to get around them, but came back around and played it later. All in all, it took me about six hours to play all 27 holes at Steele Canyon, though it didn’t really seem that bad even with the hot temperatures.
The course is very dried out right now. It was definitely not its best showing condition-wise. The fairways and rough are about equal brown and green. They were very dry, but still very nice to hit from. The fairway lies were nice, fluffy and consistent. The rough wasn’t cut super duper deep, but the ball really sinks down in it and makes it very tough to hit from (and tough to find sometimes). The tee boxes were fine and the one sand trap I was in was excellent. The greens were also quite excellent. They were VERY fast and a little firm, which was extremely hard to get used to after the slow/soft greens at Eastlake. There was a lot of dead leaves and other natural “debris” on the greens, which was a nuisance on long putts.
I enjoyed the Steele Canyon layout overall and it’s the first Gary Player design I’ve ever played. The Canyon and Ranch nines are much more compelling (and scenic) than Meadow, which features only a few minor elevation changes. Canyon is especially fun with all the major changes in elevation, forced carries and a lot of great views. Ranch was also quite beautiful with a few canyon-style holes to start off before it flattens out and winds it’s way around a small local ranch. I didn’t love it as much as some other similar style courses in SoCal and I’m amazed they charge so much to play here. I would never pay over $100 and the $61 I paid was at the top end of what I would be willing to pay here.
For a “high-end” price tag at their normal rack rates, I thought Steele Canyon was lacking in high-end service. I was shocked they make you pay for range balls with that expensive a round. There should be ice chests on the carts given how hot it can get out here. They also just got brand new carts here, but surprisingly there was no GPS, which would have been extremely helpful on some of the tricky holes. Also, you rarely see fivesomes (let alone sixsomes) on high-end level courses, even if it’s a non-busy day.
I was also very surprised they didn’t have a 9-hole replay rate for people who just want to play all three nines. They charged me $30 for another full 18 (which isn’t bad if you can play all 18) as a twilight “replay” rate, but I would rather have paid a little less for just the additional nine holes like you’ll find at pretty much every other 27-hole facility.
With the right deal and conditions, Steele Canyon is worth the trek out to Jamul, but it’s just not worth it at the full weekend rack rates if you ask me. It is a nice layout and features some great scenery, but I would still consider it a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t measure up to my expectations.
Some pictures from Steele Canyon Golf Club (9/15/12):
I ate dinner at a small Mexican restaurant (more of a take-out place) in Jamul called Old Campo. The food was OK, but also a less-than-stellar experience service-wise. From the ants in my soda cup to the refried beans they forgot to include with my combo plate to the guy that barely knew how to operate the cash register, it was kind of a fitting way to end a slightly disappointing day on the links.
Last but not least, I want to dedicate this post to my my dear cousin, Sarah, who passed away suddenly last weekend. She was an avid follower of this blog and always offered up many positive words of encouragement that made me feel good about the stories and experiences I’ve been sharing here on this site.
Sarah, you will definitely be missed by me, your friends and everyone in our family. Rest in peace, cousin.