I took a half day off from work today and headed up to La Mirada Golf Course. With the days still being relatively short and the fact that I’ve played pretty much all of Orange County’s courses (other than Pelican Hill’s North Course, which is not in my budget right now), my options are limited for new courses that are a relatively short drive from where I work in Santa Ana. La Mirada fit the bill as geographically appealing and well within budget as an LA County-owned course. It was $40 with cart today, which isn’t too bad.
I got out there around 11:45 and could see the place was quite packed. Still, I put my name on the wait list as a single and waited around for about 45 minutes before my name was called. As I waited, I watched fivesome after fivesome going off the first tee and knew this was going to be a long day. I would be lucky to get out at a respectable time and finish before dark. Well, I was grouped with a threesome and the pace was excruciatingly slow all day after we teed off a little after 12:30. In fact, we were the last group to finish in the dark at 6:15! It was brutal, but at least it was a downright gorgeous afternoon and there are always much worse things I can be doing on a Friday than playing golf. So I relaxed and enjoyed the experience as much as I could.
I really didn’t have any expectations coming into the round. I know it’s a course that’s been around awhile and I figured it would be standard LA County “muni” fare in terms of layout and conditions. The layout definitely has an old school SoCal quality. It is tight, hilly and has a mix of holes like you might find on many local courses. Some holes were long, wide open and rather boring. Others were extremely “funky” by any definition of that word when it comes to course design.
The 16th comes to mind for funky. It’s a double zig-zag fairway and plays as a tricky risk/reward par-5. You hit from an elevated tee down into a narrow little valley. For your second shot, you can hit straight toward the green with a 100% blind, extremely uphill shot over a big hill and some trees. Or, you can lay-up way to the right on a narrow strip of fairway that takes a 90-degree turn left and slopes away from the hillside at the corner. It’s certainly an unusual, but kind of fun hole no matter how you choose to play it.
The greens at La Mirada are small and relatively flat. They do not slope as much as you might think when looking at them. But as soon as you think you have them figured out and try to play less break, they come back to bite you with a big break you weren’t expecting. With the hilly terrain throughout the course, there are some tricky fairways to contend with. Some have hills on either side that more or less funnel your ball back to the middle on mis-hit shots. Other holes have side-sloping fairways that are hard to hold and can send your ball down into the trees, sometimes even on good center-cut drives. These can be frustrating, but I am sure some local knowledge and experience would help to know the best angles for certain holes.
Overall, the course plays more forgiving than it looks. There isn’t a ton of trouble to get into on most holes, even if you spray it well off of the fairways. And though the course has a short overall yardage at 6,083 from the blue tees, it plays longer than the card would suggest. That is largely because there are six par-3s here and a few of the par-5s are relatively short. Most of the par-4s, though, play in the 380-420 range and only one of the par-3s is under 150 yards, so it’s not as short as you might think. We were aided today by some dry, firm and fast conditions on the fairways and greens, so the extra roll-out made the course play shorter.
The course was in okay shape. I thought the greens were nice for the most part. They were pretty firm and fast and naturally got bumpier later in the evening, but not bad for the heavy traffic this place gets. There were plenty of unrepaired marks, but not the worst I’ve seen. The fairways were very firm, thin and patchy—typical muni conditions this time of year. Again, not the worst I’ve seen this season. The rough was generally better to hit from than the thinner fairways lies. I wasn’t in a bunker, but the sand actually looked decent from the few I checked out. The tee boxes were actually pretty nice. They were pretty level despite the hilly terrain here and have some of the nicer green grass growth on the course. They were very firm, though, and you had to work to get the tee in the ground sometimes. Still, one of the pleasant surprises here.
Overall, I liked the La Mirada layout more than I would have expected. It’s fun and offers some unique challenges throughout. The price is acceptable and the conditions are typical for LA County courses. It will never be “pristine” out here, but you also won’t ever have to pay an arm and a leg. The drawback—as it is on most SoCal muni tracks—are the crowds and the slow play. I really don’t care for courses that put out so many fivesomes, but La Mirada is what it is and you sometimes have to just grin and bear it and hope the positives outweigh the negatives.
Some pictures from La Mirada Golf Course (3/1/13):
Below is a view from the 16th tee. Kind of shows a bit of how funky a hole it is.
Of course, you know I love the course critter shots. As is typical at LA County courses, the squirrels are pretty bold here. This guy was eating a french fry from one of my playing partners…
And a first on a golf course, there was these two black bunnies hanging out by the 15th tee box. I’ve seen plenty of wild brown rabbits around courses, but never black ones. These ones looked more like pets that were released. They were relatively friendly and obviously used to being fed by golfers. Cute.