SLO County Doesn’t Mean Slow Play

It’s no secret I enjoy playing golf up along California’s Central Coast. I’m staying here in Paso Robles tonight. I played two courses in San Luis Obispo County today and I’ll be playing at least one more tomorrow morning. I’ve played most of the courses on the Central Coast, but there’s still a handful I’ve yet to play and I plan to knock out a few of those on this little weekend trip.

Dairy Creek Golf CourseSan Luis Obispo, CA2/9/13

I had a dawn patrol tee time set up here (6:32), which meant a very early morning drive for me. When I had checked the weather report yesterday, I saw that it would be clear, but chilly, this morning. I had contacted someone at the course and they said they rarely have frost delays at Dairy Creek.

Murphy’s Law was in full effect. When I rolled into the pitch-dark parking lot a little after 6:00, the temperature gauge in my car read a balmy 32 degrees. So not to my surprise, there was a frost delay of two hours. I ended up teeing off at about 8:30. It was me and another setting the pace as the first players off. So even though the delay set me back significantly, I knew it would still be a relatively quick round. It was at just a tad over three hours.

Dairy Creek is a fun course. It’s a hilly layout with plenty of twists, turns, ups and downs as you work your way through the little valley where it sits next to El Chorro Regional Park. The front nine is a bit more open and a little more forgiving off the tee. The back nine tightens up significantly with narrower landing areas and a few more blind shots.

There is a small smattering of trees on the course, but not too many really come into play. The challenge on this course comes in the form of the hills and undulations. If you catch the wrong breaks, you can end up in some undesirable spots–including a number of environmental hazard areas that are prevalent on the back nine.

Many of the greens are elevated making for some uncomfortable approach shots where you can’t see exactly where you are hitting to. The greens here are very large and feature plenty of undulation, so you can expect to have some three-putts in your round.

The course was in pretty good winter shape. Once the frost melted off, things were pretty soggy for awhile, but dried out relatively quickly as the morning went on. The fairways were decent for this time of year and all the lies I had were pretty good. The rough was a bit patchy, but not bad overall. The greens were in excellent shape. They were made a bit softer by all the rain yesterday, so they were nice and receptive. The surfaces were nice and smooth, though, so putts were rolling true and a little quicker as they dried out more. The sand traps had good sand, as well.

I paid $47, which was the weekend walking fee. Not bad. The carts here seem too expensive ($17 per rider) and I thought walking would be a good way to keep warm after the frost delay. However, I underestimated how tough this course is to walk with so many ups and downs and some good distances in between several of the holes. I survived fine, but it was definitely a workout.

I would recommend Dairy Creek to anyone. It’s a relatively affordable option in a scenic setting–especially the back nine, which has a lot of great views.

Some pictures from Dairy Creek Golf Course (2/9/13):

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Yes, those are wild turkeys roaming the fairway above. They let you get right up to them, too, as you can see below…

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After finishing at Dairy Creek, I headed just a little further up the 101 to Atascadero, home of my next golf adventure…

Chalk Mountain Golf CourseAtascadero, CA2/9/13

I got here around 12:30 and it didn’t look too crowded out on the course. That’s one thing I love about golf on the Central Coast. It’s a much less “stressful” style of golf than you find in Southern California. Courses are easier to get on and you’ll rarely find a round over 4.5 hours–even on a beautiful (albeit a little chilly) day like we had today. I paid the afternoon rate (with cart this time), which was a very reasonable $37. The carts here are gas-powered, which is rare these days. They are slow, they smell, they don’t have much power and the brakes are pretty shot. And that’s just part of the fun I guess.

I headed right out to the first tee and there was a threesome teeing off. I figured they’d let me play ahead, but they didn’t. The first hole at Chalk Mountain is a very tough par-5 and they must have taken a half-hour to play that one hole. I eventually hit my tee shot and after waiting a bit (and seeing the course was fairly open ahead of them), I just decided to jump ahead of them. I picked my ball up and went straight to the 2nd tee.  I cruised around the front until I ran into a couple of groups on the 9th hole.

The group directly ahead of me recommended I skip 10 since it was more open beyond the group ahead of them, so I did. I passed another group on 12 and then joined a twosome for the final three holes before going back and playing the 10th and 1st holes once they were clear. So it wasn’t a traditional round, but I got all 18 in fairly quickly. The round took about 3 hours total, so not bad at all.

Chalk Mountain is an interesting course. It’s not for everybody, though. It is very tight, very hilly and there are many awkward/blind shots. It reminds me of a shorter, tighter, funkier version of nearby Hunter Ranch, just not as nice. Similar scenery and layouts. From the blue tees, this course tops out at 6,299 yards. There are many trees on the course and they come into play a lot. Crusty old oak trees and other trees dot the terrain and there are plenty of overhanging branches to get in your way and impact your attack angles.

As my first time playing the course, I was definitely at a disadvantage in terms of course knowledge. This is the type of place where the more you play it and know the best strategies for each holes, the better you can score. Without such local knowledge, it is a frustrating layout for a first-timer. I know many people who would consider Chalk Mountain a bit too “funky” (short, tight, hilly and awkward) and though I generally like this type of course, it bordered on too funky even for me.

The course was in OK shape for winter. It was patchy throughout and there were plenty of brown/thin areas in the fairways and rough, but it was playable enough. If you stray too far off the fairways, conditions worsen. Some patches where it’s just dirt and other places underneath the trees where the rough is super deep and it’s hard to even find your ball.

The greens at Chalk Mountain are relatively large, but not too crazy with the undulation. They were too firm for my liking, so it was hard to hold shots. They were smooth on top, though, and rolling at quick speeds. The sand traps were filled with good sand, so no complaints there. The tee boxes had a lot of uneven spots, but I was generally able to find a decent spot to tee it up.

I’m tempted to call Chalk Mountain “the poor man’s Hunter Ranch.” It’s not a bad option at all and prices are very reasonable, but if you are in the area and only have time for one round, definitely pay a little more and play Hunter.

Some pictures from Chalk Mountain Golf Course (2/9/13):

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