Course Review: The Links at Summerly

Well, if you read yesterday’s post, you are probably expecting to see a course review for Journey at Pechanga here. Things don’t always go as planned.

I got up this morning, eager to get out to Temecula and finally tee it up on this highly regarded course. I was excited to be taking advantage of a good discount rate they have going right now after just re-opening the course from fall overseeding and aeration ($64 weekday/$74 weekend rates from 10/15-11/15 with a coupon that can be found in the current issue of Southland Golf magazine).

However, as I drove down to Temecula, the weather was far from inspiring. It was just ugly out with fog, rain and drizzle. Journey is a course known for some spectacular views—views that I knew would be heavily marred by such a thick mist. Needless to say, by the time I got to the course, my excitement had dissipated greatly.

I was meeting up with a new friend there (who I met on GK). He was visiting from Northern California and it was to be his first time at Pechanga, as well. When we met up in the parking lot and stood in the drizzle, we both had the same feeling. This was not the way we wanted to experience this course. Even though the rate was good, it is still more than I typically play for local rounds (plus I knew I could still take advantage of it for a few more weeks), so neither of us wanted to pay that much for a miserable weather round.

That said, we both still wanted to play today. We decided if we could find a cheap rate on a decent nearby course (which there are plenty of along the I-15 corridor), we would still tee it up together. After a quick search on GolfNow and thumbing through my Red Dot discount book, we settled on The Links at Summerly in Lake Elsinore. We got a two-for-one rate (which turned out to be a nice $36 each), which was just enticing enough to play through any nasty and weird weather the golf gods had in store for us today.

I had played Summerly before, but it was quite a few years ago. It was not long after this unique links course had first opened. I enjoyed the distinctive layout and links features, but back then it wasn’t quite “there” yet. Since then, it has matured nicely and has become a favorite of SoCal golfers who want a good value and a change of pace.

This course is meant to be an ode to classic Scottish links style golf and, in my opinion, it is the most “true” to that concept as any other so-called links course in Southern California. Now, I’ve never played in Scotland, so I am by no means an expert on the style, but Summerly is closest to what I would expect—at least as far as SoCal courses go. 

The landscape of this course (located right next to Lake Elsinore) is very flat, but there are a lot of mounds, deceptive angles and hidden troubles that mess with your mind. Nothing is quite what it seems from shot to shot. The fairways and greens are meant to be firm and fast, and the wrong bounce or a little extra roll can send you into an unfortunate situation. It’s the kind of course where you have to play smart and occasionally employ some different strategies than you do on “normal” American courses.

Burns (like you might find somewhere like Carnoustie) zig-zag across a few of the holes and are a major nuisance out here. They are just narrow little ditches with rock walls and rocks lining the bottom. Unless you are really bold (and don’t care about your clubs), you don’t play out of them. You just pick your ball out, drop it and take your penalty stroke. There are also some desert golf qualities here, such as big natural/rugged waste areas in between holes and along the edges of the course. There are also a number of water hazards (small ponds) in play. So it really is something unique and definitely unlike anything else in Southern California.

Framing the course in the distance, there are some beautiful mountains that provide a scenic backdrop. However, the scenery directly around the course is a bit uninspiring. The minor league baseball stadium (home to the Lake Elsinore Storm) is right next door. Today, they had some sort of event going on with loud metal music and the screeches and squeals of race cars providing an less-than-desirable soundtrack throughout our round. 

Me and my friend were able to get out on the course pretty quickly, but it was still very crowded out there, resulting in a round just shy of five hours. Fortunately, the weather was a bit better here, but it changed every five minutes or so. We got drizzled on a bit, there were times of very warm sunshine beating down on us and other points where it was overcast, cool and windy. In a way, it was appropriate—definitely British Isles kind of weather patterns!

Having some course knowledge is a huge benefit at Summerly. It was only my second time playing here and my memories were quite sketchy after so many years in between rounds. It was my friend’s first time here. We were paired with another twosome, who were also first-timers. The carts here are equipped with GPS, but it’s a very basic version (just text, no pictures). Between that and the yardage book (also pretty basic) one of the other guys bought, we were able to figure our way around, even though there were several times of frustration and lengthy discussion as we quibbled about what the best target lines were from the tee boxes. There were some bad breaks and a few good breaks, but not bad for our limited knowledge. I look forward to playing here again someday (with less time elapsing between rounds), so I can play some smarter shots on a few of the trickiest holes.

The conditions were OK at best. The fairways were fine for the most part, but not cut quite as tight as I expected. There was still plenty of extra roll on drives, though not nearly as much as you can probably expect here in dry summer conditions. There were a lot of fairway areas marked as “ground under repair.” They are ugly bare blotches on the grass, but I appreciate the course’s effort to help those areas recover and allow people to get free drops onto better fairway turf. The greens were pretty beat up with a lot of bumps and ball marks.

In summary, I’m sure you can tell I enjoy this course and appreciate its unique qualities that definitely make it stand out amongst all the other Southern California tracks. For the price we paid, the “OK” conditions were tolerable and didn’t really affect play much at all. If you want a unique challenge and a change of pace, The Links at Summerly is definitely worth a visit. Just know that the first time you go there (probably the first few times), you will encounter some confusion and frustration as you navigate your way around the course and undoubtedly get a few bad bounces. To me, that’s just part of the fun!

Some pictures from The Links at Summerly (10/21/12):

(LIke most links courses, it’s really hard to get photos from course level that really show you what it’s like. The ugly weather doesn’t help add much appeal to these pictures either!)

I forgot to take any shots looking down into a burn, but the image below will give you a little idea of how they come into play. The trick is you really cannot see them at all until you are right upon them.

And don’t worry, I’ll get to Pechanga soon enough…

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