Crossing a Couple More Off My List

So, the life of the Golf Nomad is not always so glamourous. Sometimes you have to dig through some coal before you get to the diamonds. That’s what today’s story is all about.

Tomorrow is my marquee round for the weekend. I usually don’t play on Sundays during NFL season, but my team (Atlanta, 6-0 baby!) is on a bye this week so it frees me up a bit more. Tomorrow, I’ll be teeing it up at Journey at Pechanga in Temecula. It’s a course that’s been high on my SoCal “wish list” for sometime. The prices there are normally much more than I’d prefer to play for a local round, so I’ve just been waiting until I could stumble upon the right deal. Well, I finally got the deal I’ve been looking for, but more on that when I post my review of that course.

With a great course (and still relatively expensive price) planned for tomorrow, today was all about keeping things cheap and crossing a couple of courses off my list. But I didn’t really want to drive all the way to San Diego or deal with the LA munis on a weekend, so that pretty much narrowed it down to a combo I’ve been eyeing for some time—yet have never been in any huge rush to play: Yucaipa Valley Golf Club and Calimesa Country Club. They are close to each other geographically and definitely fit the bill in terms of price and convenience.

Yucaipa Valley Golf Club • Yucaipa, CA • 10/20/12

For some reason, I’ve always been intrigued by this course, so it was the round I was looking more forward to today. The setting seemed nice with the mountains in the distance, their prices seemed reasonable and most of the GK reviews had relatively positive things to say about the course layout.

I wouldn’t say I had “high” expectations, but I expected to enjoy this course. I was kind of let down. The layout is much more residential than I realized. Houses surround pretty much every hole and the layout isn’t anything terribly exciting or interesting. The back nine does get more interesting and a little more scenic than the front, so that helped me feel better about the course by the end of the round. But I was still hoping for a little more. I was kind of hoping this would be a little hidden gem, but it was just an average course.

I’ve been haunted by fog lately and it reared its ugly head this morning, putting a damper on the round both literally and figuratively. I drove through some fog on the way to the course, but when I was there it was only a little cloudy and seemed like it was going to be a nice day. However, right before we teed off, a heavy fog bank rolled in and blanketed the course. It stayed with us pretty much the entire front nine and slowly dissipated on the back. We got a few bits of sunshine on the final couple holes. Unfortunately, the fog obscured any of the nice mountain surroundings, too, which I only got to enjoy briefly on the back nine.

The fog added to what where some of the soggiest conditions I’ve ever encountered on a course on a non-rainy day. Everything was wet and mushy, which added some challenges to the round. The fairways were either shaggy and sopping wet or they were thin and muddy. The rough was medium length, but definitely made much tougher by the wet conditions. Bunkers were damp, but the sand was still fairly soft (I was only in one bunker, though). The greens were also very soft and quite slow. They’ve mostly healed from recent aeration, but were still very pock-marked with old ball marks (and new ones from the groups in front of us), so there were some really bumpy putts. The sogginess definitely marred my view of the course, so I would be curious to play it in the afternoon once things have dried out a lot more. However, I still won’t be racing back here any time soon.

One last thing to note about Yucaipa Valley is that it’s hard to lock in a tee time here as a single because their GolfNow times are always jacked up and their website doesn’t allow for single bookings. However, the online tee time deals are always better than the rack rate, which bothered me. So I called ahead yesterday and the pro shop girl just told me to book a twosome on their site (no booking fee) and it wouldn’t be a big deal if I showed up as a single. I don’t really like doing that, but that’s what the course actually suggested so I did. It was worth it because I paid only $37.50 instead of the $56 they would charge me if I just walked on. They didn’t raise an eyebrow when I checked in as only a single. Whatever works, I guess. They also have coupons directly on their website, so there are deals to be had. I definitely wouldn’t pay more than $40 for this course.

Some pictures from Yucaipa Valley Golf Club:

From Yucaipa, I headed just a few miles down the street and into Calimesa. The border between San Bernardino County and Riverside County is right in between. I had called ahead to Calimesa Country Club before heading over and they told me to “come on out.” However, when I got to the course, the parking lot was a zoo. Turns out there was a wedding just about to start. The course was pretty wide open, though.

Calimesa Country Club • Calimesa, CA • 10/20/12

Note: This course is now closed.

I checked in and they let me right out. The price was only $35 and included the cart, so I didn’t have much to lose. I was able to tee it up right before a foursome and then didn’t run into anybody else on the course until the 12th hole. A foursome let me play through and all was good. I ended up zipping around this course in just about two hours!

Let’s just say my expectations were pretty low for this course. It’s the epitome of a “checklist” course for me, but I knew it would be a package deal with Yucaipa Valley someday. Well, I have to say I was actually a little pleasantly surprised with this much maligned course. Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it was more fun than I had anticipated.

I will start by saying the layout is not for everyone because it’s a short, target golf design. It’s not very long overall at just over 5,900 yards from the blue tees, but there’s still a diverse mix of hole lengths. There are some super short holes and some fairly long ones to keep you working, and all the greens are tiny. The layout is pretty tight and there are a few funky holes for sure. There were several holes that had a very similar layout (slight dogleg right with an elevated green tucked around a corner).

What many people don’t know about Calimesa is that it’s a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design and it definitely has some qualities that take you back in time a bit. The whole vibe is very old school around here with the run-down clubhouse, the old-timers and regulars hanging around in restaurant, and the crusty old oak, pine and olive trees peppered throughout the course. It also helped that the clouds finally burned off and I got some spectacular weather while on this course.

The conditions were what I would guess are average for Calimesa. They were nothing great, but not as horrible as I would have feared coming in after reading some unpleasant GK reviews. The greens were pretty lush and green, though very soft and spongy—a bit too shaggy and slow for my tastes. The grain on these greens really has a major effect on putts. There were a few dead areas on some of the greens that were just filled with sand. However, they kept the pins away from any bad areas, which is good.

The fairways had plenty of brown spots and didn’t look too great. Some were better than others condition-wise (a few actually quite nice and a few not-so-nice), but nothing that affected play much. The rough was pretty lush and green throughout, with some bare/hardpan areas on the outer edges and amongst the trees. The tee boxes were mostly level (a few were off-kilter a bit) and very lush with grass. It was too lush for my liking, though, because the kikuyu grass was a bit too shaggy and still a bit wet. I wasn’t in any sand traps, so no comments there. 

To sum up, Calimesa Country club was better than I expected, but then again I had very low expectations. For the price and ease of getting on out here, it’s a decent option if everywhere else is busy. I know many that would not like the layout, though. I found it kind of fun as tight, short target golf suits my game. It is what it is.

Some pictures from Calimesa Country Club:



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