Course Review: Porter Valley Country Club

I don’t devote much time on this blog to focus on private golf courses. I’m a pretty regular guy without too many “connections,” but every once in awhile I get a chance to check out a private club. That was the case today when I visited Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge.

This course opens up for public play every once in awhile, usually on Mondays like a lot of other private tracks in Southern California. Though my main focus is to play public courses around here, I do have plans to play a few more private courses in 2013 with some enticing SCGA outings coming up throughout the year at desirable clubs.

Part of the proceeds today at Porter Valley were going to charity and they were having a canned food drive, as well. The cost was only $30 (and a couple cans of food), so it was worth taking a day off from work to check it out.

This morning, I was woken up by some heavy winds in Irvine at about 4:30. That worried me because if it was that windy in Orange County, it could potentially be REALLY windy up in Simi Valley. But when I have my heart set on a round of golf, I’ll make the most of it. I zig-zagged my way along the freeways, trying to circumvent as much traffic as I could in Los Angeles. There didn’t seem to be much wind in and around L.A., so I was getting hopeful. By the time I got up to the course, though, it was howling. And it was COLD!

In case you don’t believe me, here’s a picture of the fountain in front of the clubhouse. And, this was at 9:00 in the morning, when it’s usually warmed up pretty well in SoCal.

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I was playing with a group of guys from the Los Angeles Golf Group. We teed off at 10:00 in a shotgun format. We started on the 17th hole, though we ended up playing 17 and 18 twice as we circled back around again at the end. There were a number of groups braving the chilly weather, but things were pretty well spaced out and we enjoyed a nice four-hour pace. The club was running with a skeleton crew today, without too many workers around or services available.

I didn’t really know much at all about Porter Valley before playing here, but it was about what I expected. It’s kind of an old school Los Angeles/Valley kind of course in a nice, scenic residential area. It’s not long (just over 6,000 yards from the blue tees), but it’s fairly hilly and very tight. The greens are small and there are a lot of tricky angles. The heavy winds make the course play much longer and tougher. Some shots uphill and into the wind required 3-4 clubs more than you would usually hit. There was a par-3 on the front playing at around 140 yards. I used a 4-iron (normally 170-180 yards for me). I hit it pure and ended up on the front edge of the green.

The greens here weren’t crazily undulated, but the slopes come into play with the naturally hilly terrain. They were firm and fast, and the wind definitely affected many putts for us. A few had false fronts and we saw more than one ball roll barely past the hole on a downhill putt and roll all the way off the front of a green and back down into the fairway. In fact, there were some uphill putts that would come right back to you if you didn’t hit the ball firm enough.

Though the total yardage isn’t long by today’s standards, there is a good mix of holes at Porter Valley. There are three par-5s and five par-3s, with four of the five par-3s playing fairly long. There are a few short par-4s and a few lengthy ones, too. Some play downhill like the really fun 6th hole, where a good drive can roll almost all the way down to the green 391 yards away. Then, there are some uphill holes (that always seemed to be straight into the teeth of the wind today).

The conditions were decent for winter, especially considering this has been a colder winter than normal here in Southern California. The fairways were pretty much dormant, but they played fine. They were firm and shaved tight, so there was a ton of roll-out on drives. That helped make up for the severe headwinds on some of the longer holes. The rough was also pretty shaved down, too, so it wouldn’t stop you from rolling into trouble. The greens were rolling well at quick speeds. Early on, they were very firm, but once they started thawing out a bit, they were fairly receptive on approaches.

The course didn’t blow me away and I’m not completely sure it was worth using a valuable vacation day, but it was definitely an enjoyable layout at a very good price, and we had a lot of fun out there despite the cold and windy weather.

Some pictures from Porter Valley Country Club (1/14/13):

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