Course Review: Twin Oaks Golf Course

The finale of my Thanksgiving weekend local golf adventure found me at Twin Oaks Golf Course down in San Marcos. It’s a course I’ve been wanting to play for some time, so today was finally the day.

I didn’t know much about this course prior to earlier this year. I was playing a round at Lake San Marcos in June and wanted to wash the taste of that poorly conditioned course out of my mouth. Twin Oaks was not far away, so I drove up there to try and squeeze in a late afternoon round. As a drove into the parking lot, I could see a number of holes. The course looked interesting and definitely appeared to be something I’d probably like a lot. The course that day was also beautiful and green, so it was exactly what I needed after so much brown/dead grass over at Lake San Marcos.

It didn’t look very busy that day, but when I checked in with the pro shop they told me there was a tournament out on the course and there’s no way I’d be able to get out at that time. I ended up playing at The Crossings at Carlsbad instead, which turned out to be a worthy alternative. However, I’ve been wanting to go back and play Twin Oaks ever since.

Unfortunately, Twin Oaks never seems to have that many deals. Their normal weekend rate is $74, which puts it in a medium price range and a little more than I typically prefer to pay for local play. So I waited patiently for a good deal and the right timing, which turned out to be yesterday.

I reserved a GolfNow hot deal time at 12:16 for $45. Like Rancho Bernardo Inn, which I played Thursday, Twin Oaks is managed by JC Golf and I was able to use the same promo code to save an additional 20%. The total was $36, which is about as good a deal as you’ll find on this course. Finally I’d get to play it.

As is typical of something that you build up in your head over the course of a long wait, Twin Oaks disappointed me Saturday. Well, kind of. You see, when it comes to the actual course layout and scenery, it actually lived up to my expectations. But in terms of conditioning, it was a drastic difference from what I saw earlier in the year.

With all this in mind, let’s start with the positives. This is a fun layout in a wonderful setting. Though the course is surrounded by plenty of neighborhoods, there aren’t too many houses around the course itself. Trees and brush surround each hole to retain a nice secluded feeling and only a few parallel fairways, which I like.

Architect Ted Robinson (whose designs I am usually not terribly inspired by) did a good job weaving this course through the natural terrain. There aren’t any major elevation shifts, but there are a lot of hills and undulation, providing very few flat lies. The greens are medium-sized and some have pretty tricky mounds and slopes, but are not too crazy. Most of the greens are pretty well-protected by bunkers and mounding, as well, putting a premium on approach shots.

There are a few holes that stand out. One is the par-3 7th, which is a knee-knocking carry shot directly over a big pond to a two-tiered green without much bailout room behind the green if you are thinking of clubbing up. I also like the par-4 9th hole, which is kind of the signature here. It features a downhill tee shot and then an approach over water without much room for error on that second shot. The par-4 15th is a funky dogleg left that’s a lay-up for most off the tee to a raised landing area on the right. Then you have a fun downhill approach over water to a tricky green. The par-5 18th is a good finisher with an elevated three-tiered green protected by a big, scary bunker in front.

All the par-3s here are tough as Twin Oaks boasts some lengthy ones. From the blue tees, they are 194, 170, 207 and 194 yards respectively, and the “short” 170-yard one is the 7th which I described above with a full carry over the pond! And though the par-3s are tough, there are no par-4 holes over 400 yards and all the par-5 holes are over 500 (longest one—the 18th—tops out at 561 and plays every inch of that). So it’s kind of an unusual mix of hole lengths to create the 6535 total yards of the course. But because the extra yardage is found in the par-3s and par-5s, it actually plays shorter than that total yardage would suggest.

So, the layout I enjoyed a lot. The conditioning, however, was a different story.

Sadly, the course was in dreadful shape with the exception of the greens. The fairways and rough are completely dormant right now. Everything was almost all brown with only a few patches of green here and there. It seemed like a lot of different grasses fighting each other, so every fairway lie was a little different. The dry fairways were running firm and fast with the surrounding rough pretty much shaved down to nothing. That makes it hard at Twin Oaks because most of the fairways slope strongly one way or the other and it’s easy to roll into trouble with no grass to slow down or stop your ball. Around the greens, the rough was more lush and consistent, so those areas weren’t too bad. 

It seems they are trying a new type of sand in some of the bunkers. Most of the bunkers had an older crustier sand, but several on the back had this heavy coarse white sand that was really tough to hit from in the fairway bunker I had found. When I dug my feet in, I sunk down about a foot into this stuff. The ball sinks down easily, as well, so it is hard to pick it clean for a fairway bunker shot. It may play better in the greenside bunkers, but was very tough for fairway traps. It looks pretty, but I’m not sure it’s the best choice.

On a positive note, the greens were in relatively nice shape. A few seemed a bit chewed up and all had some pock marks here and there from unrepaired and poorly repaired ball marks, but most were very nice. They were pretty smooth and rolling at medium speeds—”perfect” speeds if you ask me. They were receptive on approaches, as well.

It wasn’t super busy when I arrived, so the starter let me go off early around 11:45. I played by myself for a few holes and then joined a threesome ahead of me on the 7th. We were stuck behind the foursomes ahead, but the pace was still pretty good. The whole round was a little under 4 hours on a beautiful day in San Marcos, so I have nothing to complain about there.

Though I would recommend avoiding this course right now unless you get a killer deal, I very much look forward to playing it again when it’s in better condition. After all, I really enjoyed the layout and setting. It is definitely worth checking out again when the conditions improve during a better time of year.

Some pictures from Twin Oaks Golf Course (11/24/12):

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