Course Review: Redhawk Golf Club

I don’t often play on Sundays (especially during NFL season), but today was a special occasion and the ideal combination of factors. For one, my team, the Atlanta Falcons, played on Thursday night so I didn’t feel the same compulsion to stay home and watch football all day. Secondly, today was the date I had agreed to play a head-to-head match against fellow Greenskeeper.org member…codename: zachary.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may recall I played in my first ever GK Cup match play tournament earlier in the year. That was Season 3 and I got unceremoniously bounced in the first round by the previous season’s defending champion. Today marked the beginning for Season 4, and unfortunately, I was eliminated in the first round once again. But more on that later. If you care about the results, I’ll write about my match after the course review.

The course we chose to play was Redhawk Golf Club in one of my favorite local golf cities, Temecula. It is a beautiful, but challenging track that we thought would make for a good venue. My opponent made the arrangements and booked a 9:09 tee time. We paid $55, which is a bit more than I normally like to pay for a local round, but not too bad for a Sunday morning “primetime” round at this particular course.

We teed about on time and were paired with a fun couple. We were stuck behind a pretty slow foursome. They eventually let us play through (awkwardly) on the 10th fairway, but that made the back nine much more enjoyable with much less waiting between shots. Overall, our pace was around 4.5 hours.

Now, I am not afraid to say that Redhawk happens to be one of my favorite Southern California golf courses. It’s been a number of years since I last played there, so I was looking forward to the chance to play it once again. It is a very fun and challenging layout with a lot of twists and turns. With houses surrounding many of the holes, there are plenty of OB stakes. Water comes into play on several holes and there are many well-placed bunkers to get in your way. There is a lot of mounding around the fairways and greens, so you won’t get too many flat lies out here.

And speaking of the greens, they are what Redhawk is most known for and they are what give many golfers fits on this course year after year. There are some downright crazy green complexes here with major undulation, multiple tiers and generally very quick speeds. Around here, the key to success is trying getting your ball on the right level and/or staying below the hole as much as you can. Then again, staying below the hole doesn’t always work because quite a few of the greens feature false fronts or big, nasty sand traps guarding the front edge.

The most memorable holes here for me are all of the par-3s, which I think are excellent. Each one is different and each one presents a different set of challenges. The 4th is an uphill tee shot to a green that features four, count ’em four, tiers! This circus-like green is also guarded in front by a huge bunker on the left and a false front on the right. All it’s missing is a windmill! If the greenskeepers are feeling generous, they’ll put the pin on the very top shelf or the very bottom. Anything in the middle is a nightmare!

The 8th hole is the signature hole at Redhawk, with a slightly downhill tee shot to a big island green. To get to the green, you walk over the bridge reminiscent of the Ben Hogan Bridge at Augusta. The 12th hole is a really fun one, as well. It’s kind of an island green itself, but instead of being surrounded by water, it is surrounded by a big desert-style waste bunker. The 17th is one of my favorite par-3s in all of Southern California. It’s a straight downhill shot with a beautiful view of the entire valley in the background.

The 14th is my favorite par-4 at Redhawk. It’s a short and tight little hole. The green features two major tiers with a huge shelf in between. Then the green is guarded by some very rugged pot bunkers in more of a links style. It’s an interesting departure and presents a very uncomfortable approach shot no matter where the pin is located. Lastly, the 18th is an interesting finishing hole. It’s a par-5 that circles around a lake. Depending on your angles and confidence, you have to decide when is best to take your shot at the green. Aggressive players and big hitters may easily go for it in two, but others may take the scenic route around the edges of the lake.

I knew from the last review on Greenskeeper.org that the course was pretty much dormant. The fairways were completely dormant. It provided some extra roll on drives and some British Open style run-up opportunities in front of the greens. The turf, though dried out and thin, was consistent and not bad at all to hit from. The rough was a bit more hit and miss. Some areas were very green and lush and other areas were more clumpy/patchy. There were some dried out/dormant parts of the rough, as well. The greens were pretty nice overall. They were playing a little softer today with all the rain, but still rolled pretty quickly on putts (not lightning fast as you’ll sometimes find here, but enough to still make those downhill, over-the-shelf putts plenty terrifying).

The coots had taken over the 8th and 18th greens and those were both unfortunately pretty covered with droppings. I was in one fairway bunker and it was pretty thin. I was in a greenside bunker later on the same hole and it wasn’t bad at all, with just enough sand to get the job done–and by that I mean holing out the shot for an unconventional par!

The conditions definitely hurt the usual aesthetic value of Redhawk, but the course is still very playable right now. If you are waiting for your first time to play it, I would recommend waiting until it’s in nicer shape. You will enjoy it more then, even if it costs a little more.

Some pictures from Redhawk Golf Club (12/2/12):

4th hole green below, showing all the crazy tiers:

8th hole below. This is a pretty one.

Here’s the 12th hole with the big waste area:

Here is 17 from the tippy top tee box:

Note: I returned to Redhawk in 2013 with better conditions and better weather, so you can check out that review here if interested.

Now onto my match. Unlike my last attempt where I played very poorly and gave a lot of holes away, today saw both of us playing very solid golf. It was a very competitive match. I was giving him two strokes, so it was pretty even on paper.

In the end, zachary pulled out the victory 3 & 2. It was an up and down match that saw him making a lot of clutch chips and putts and me burning the edges on many of my putts. I won the first hole with par, then he proceeded to win the next 5 holes (each by just one stroke) as I caught a few bad breaks and he made some great clutch shots. He gave away the 7th with a lost ball off the tee, but came right back with a beautiful birdie on the 8th to go back to 4 Up.

We halved 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Then he hit a rough patch to briefly let me back in, so I easily won holes 14 and 15. I hit a nice shot to the middle of the green on 16 and got my two-putt for par, but he hit a spectacular approach shot to only a couple feet from the hole for an tap-in birdie that sealed the match.

Of course, I ended up finally getting my first birdie of the day on 17 with a near-ace on one of my favorite holes! Too little, too late. Both of us played well, but he hit more putts when it counted, so it was a well-earned victory with his great play on and around the greens. Even with the loss, I had a great time out there today with zachary and I wish him luck in the subsequent rounds.

I guess I’ll have to wait until next year and see if Season 5 works out any better!

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