Frigid, Frosty Fun in Paso Robles

After the chilly weather I encountered yesterday in San Luis Obispo, I had a feeling today would present similar challenges as I planned to play my next course…

The Links Course at Paso Robles • Paso Robles, CA • 2/10/13

Even though I knew this course would be nothing super exciting, it was the “excuse” for this weekend’s Central Coast trip. A few months ago, I had purchased a voucher from ($29 with cart and range balls, any day/time). It was due to expire on March 1, so this was the last weekend I had free to go up and use it before then. It was a perfect opportunity to pair it with a couple new courses, Dairy Creek and Chalk Mountain, which I played yesterday.

I had thought yesterday morning at Dairy Creek was cold. It was 32 degrees when I got there (causing a 2-hour frost delay) and I think that’s the coldest I had ever experienced in an attempt to play golf. That was until today, because when I rolled up to the gates of The Links Course at Paso Robles, my car thermometer and my phone both read a staggering 27 degrees!

I had a 6:30 tee time and had tried calling earlier (while still in the warmth of my motel room) to see if there would be a frost delay. I expected there would be. However nobody ever answered the phone, so I just said “screw it” and headed out there. When I got to the course, the entry gate off the main road was locked shut! I sat in my car outside the gate in the dark for a little bit and a few other cars came up and did the same. Someone finally opened the gate at 6:40.

It was just me and a few hardcore local regulars crazy enough to attempt to play today. There was actually no frost delay, but they weren’t allowing carts on the course until it melted off a little, so the front nine was walking only. I wasn’t excited about that because my body was sore from head-to-toe after walking yesterday morning on the hilly Dairy Creek course. Nonetheless, I trudged on, playing by myself as the first one off the tee with those hardcore regulars as a threesome right behind me. We were the only ones out there for quite awhile, which wasn’t a surprise.

I crunched my way through the super white and frosty turf on the front nine and then picked up a cart at the turn (another gas-powered beast that barely functioned in the freezing weather). The whole round was under 3 hours and the experience is one I’ll never forget. It was a truly surreal round of golf. I always like having a good story to tell and playing amongst the frozen tundra of The Links Course at Paso Robles will be forever etched in my own mind. 

With all the frost, I couldn’t really tell the conditions underneath, but it didn’t seem too bad. By the time I got to the back, the frost had melted off to reveal mostly brown/dormant fairways and low-cut rough. The fairways weren’t bad to play from, though. There were some thin spots here and there. The rough was patchy in areas, but not horrible for this time of year. The greens were in pretty nice shape—pretty smooth and rolled true. The bunkers had really good soft sand.

The adventure of playing in the frost made the front nine more interesting than the layout itself offers. It’s very flat and pretty wide open. There’s hardly any trouble to get into from tee to green and the medium-sized greens are easily accessible from all angles. The fairway cuts are actually pretty narrow at times, but there’s a ton of room off the fairways and the rough was easy to hit from since it was cut so low.

There are only a handful of trees on the whole course, but there are many desert scrub bushes throughout. And there are actually only a few sand traps. There are a number of grass pot bunkers that give the layout some much-needed contour and help it earn its “links” title, but the rough in them wasn’t very deep. So they were really only a minor inconvenience. The back nine is much more enjoyable than the front. The hole designs are more distinctive and there’s a little more trouble to get into (but still not very much). 

Don’t quote me on the history of this course, but I believe it was a 9-hole layout at one point and, if I am not mistaken, the name back then was The Links at Vista del Hombre. I am not sure which nine is the newer one, but I would presume the back. It seems to have more thought put into the layout and the front looks like it may have been adjusted somewhat at the point of expansion to “unify” the look and feel of the course as much as possible. These are just my guesses after playing here since the history of the course is pretty spotty online.

The Links Course at Paso Robles is an okay course. It’s nothing worth going too far out of your way for. But if you are in town and looking for a major change of pace after playing Hunter Ranch across the street, this is it. It’s fairly cheap, uncrowded, easy-to-walk and a little different than anything else in the area with a flat farmland-style links layout. Just don’t go there expecting to be impressed with the facilities, service, layout or conditions. It’s just a very laid-back locals’ course that fits with the rural lifestyle around here. Everyone there was super friendly and it’s the kind of course you can typically just show up and play when you feel like it, so it makes me think back to some of the small courses I played growing up in rural Northern California. And there’s always a special place in my heart for those types of courses that don’t pretend to be anything they’re not.

Warning: the images below are not suitable for viewers of all ages. It may not look like any sort of “golf” you are used to because of the conditions and ultra-flat terrain.

Actually, I think I got some killer pictures on the front nine in the frost and sunrise, so ignore that warning and take a peak. 

Some pictures from The Links Course at Paso Robles (2/10/13):

Then, the frost went away. The back nine offered a much more interesting layout, but much less interesting pictures today…

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