So Many Oak Trees, So Little Time

I have a lot to get caught up on after a busy weekend of golf. It took me about halfway through my round yesterday to realize that, though I went all over the place the past two days, there actually was a theme to it all: oak trees!

I do think they are a beautiful aesthetic part of many California courses, but I definitely got my fill of those crusty old trees this weekend.

It started Saturday, when I was prepping to play in the Greenskeeper.org outing at one of my absolute favorite local courses, CrossCreek Golf Club in Temecula. Since the event didn’t start until noon, I figured I’d get a warm-up round in during the morning. I ended up keeping it very cheap and simple…

Welk Resort San Diego (Oaks Course) • Escondido, CA • 5/18/13

There are two courses here. One is the executive Fountains Course, which looks like fun. However, I had limited time and also wanted to focus on my iron game a bit. Therefore, I opted for the par-3 Oaks Course. I couldn’t really find a scorecard for it online, but I was hoping for more variety of hole lengths. Unfortunately, it really is just a true “pitch and putt” course. There are a few holes around 120, but most range from 85-110 yards. Many guys won’t need more than a wedge and a putter for this place.

Otherwise, the course is pretty basic, so I won’t go into great detail. No holes are really dramatic and there’s no too much trouble to get into other than a drainage ditch that bisects the course and you have to hit over it a handful of times.

As the name of the course would suggest (and the running theme of this post), there are a lot of oak trees on the course and they will affect some shots. There are a few holes where you more or less have to hit over or around overhanging branches to get at the hole, so a few creative shots are required.

The conditions were fine. The greens were super soft and putts rolled smooth. The tee boxes were a bit chewed up, but I was always able to find a decent place to put my ball down and hit off the deck.

For $15 to walk on a Saturday morning, it was a decent warm-up option to practice my short game. It was really drizzly in the morning, so very few people were out on the course and I was able to get around quickly. I’m sure I will come back someday to play the Fountains Course as it’s clearly the more interesting option of the two courses at the Welk Resort.

Some pictures from Welk Resorts Golf (Oaks Course) (5/18/13):

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That was just the warm-up, because this day was all about coming back to one of my favorite courses…

CrossCreek Golf Club • Temecula, CA • 5/18/13

I was in the first group out of the Greenskeeper.org event, which meant I didn’t have to wait around too long before teeing it up. However, we had a larger-than-usual group of 40 players this time, so there was a lot of waiting around after we finished. It seemed like it took forever for all the groups to funnel in!

I always have fun at these events and this one was no exception. I knew this was the first time many of the people were playing CrossCreek, so I was excited to share my passion for it with everyone else. It’s always been kind of a hidden secret.

CrossCreek is one of the more secluded courses in Southern California. It’s set back amongst the rugged hills a few miles west of downtown Temecula. It’s definitely a different world as you make your way out to the course on beat-up old roads with little signs of civilization. There are no houses directly around the course, which is nestled down in a little valley, but there are some huge estate homes perched high up on the hillsides surrounding it. It’s a really neat setting for a course.

There’s a small creek that runs throughout the course and definitely affects many shots. There are many big oak trees, as well, which provide a serene beauty to the course and will come into play on a number of holes. It’s very quiet out here other than the sounds of nature. Rattlesnakes and tarantulas have been known to be prevalent out here, but we didn’t see any of them. We did see a small coyote on the 3rd hole, which was cool.

What I like about CrossCreek is the vibe of the course changes every few holes. The first five holes don’t feature any elevation changes, but bring the creek and the trees in play a lot. These holes are definitely “target” golf style—not long, but positioning is key off the tee. The remainder of the front nine (holes 6-9) open up significantly and have more of a “links” feel with much longer holes. More bunkers come into play and there are some slight elevation changes that flow with the natural undulation of the terrain.

The early part of the back nine (holes 10-14) are more “canyon” style holes that feature more significant elevation changes, rugged desert terrain, a few forced carries and dramatic vistas. Finally, you close out on a very challenging stretch of holes (15-18) that tighten up as you get back into the woods and the creek really makes its presence known (hence the name of the course). These are some tough holes that some golfers may feel a bit too “funky,” but it’s my favorite part of the course.

The 16th is definitely the trickiest hole here with a tight fairway that slopes severely from left to right and can be hard to hold. The 17th is a gorgeous par-3 set back on its own and hitting over the creek to a secluded green. The 18th is a tough finisher as you have to hit to just the right spot at the end of the fairway to have a clear angle to the green down and around the corner.

There’s a fine line between success and failure on almost every hole at CrossCreek, which I personally appreciate. Not everybody will like it and without local knowledge or previous experience it is a very tough course the first time through. They do give you a yardage book before the round, but it is sparse on details and really doesn’t show you everything each hole has in store for you. I believe they had GPS at one point back in the day, but they don’t now. That would be very helpful, though.

The conditions of the course were excellent with lush fairways and thick rough. The greens were mostly smooth (a few bumps here and there as is typical for poa annua in the afternoon). The practice green was definitely slower than the ones on the course, though, so that was unfortunate as we had to adjust early on.

Haters can hate, but CrossCreek is and will continue to be one of my absolute favorite courses in all of Southern California. It’s a hidden gem. On one hand I hope everyone knows about it so they can stay in business and keep putting money into the course and facilities to keep them great. On the other hand, I kind of hope it remains a bit of a secret so I can know it’s there undisturbed by big crowds and residential developments.

Some pictures from CrossCreek Golf Club (5/18/13):

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After a long day at CrossCreek, I went out to the parking lot to find I had a flat tire! A few guys stuck around to help me out with it and someone at the course actually patched it for me, which was really cool. I’m glad I didn’t have to ride home on the donut spare and so far the patch has held up perfectly. That was a good bit of luck because I already had another tee time set for early Sunday morning…

Los Robles Greens Golf Course • Thousand Oaks, CA • 5/19/13

It’s only fitting I’d end this weekend in Thousand Oaks. This was a pre-paid GolfNow “hot deal” time, so I would have been bummed if I missed it. But I got up there just fine and things went smoothly.

My tee time was for 6:48 and the price was $47. In my opinion, that is still too steep for this course, but it is one of the better weekend morning rates I’ve seen for it. The rack rates here seem like way too much for what you get. By the time my group teed off, they already had a steady flow of groups going off in front of us. However, we teed off right on time and finished in just a tad over four hours. We waited a little here and there, but the pace was great overall. The pro shop and the starter did an excellent job announcing who was on the tee next and getting everybody lined up efficiently.

This was my first time at the course and my expectations weren’t too high from previous reviews on GK. The front nine is exactly what I expected and is a real confidence boost with a lot of scoring opportunities. All the holes are pretty short and trouble is easy to avoid. I was feeling good with my 3-over 37…that was, until I got to the back nine.

The back nine I’m convinced was designed by Lewis Carroll. At some point during the round, you fall into the rabbit hole and encounter a strange, twisted labyrinth of oak/eucalyptus trees, hills and golf holes that all kind of mash together with seemingly no rhyme or reason. I usually enjoy courses that other people deem too “funky” (CrossCreek, for instance) but this one got a little crazy even for me at times on the back nine. This side is much longer, tighter and trickier than the front. There were several times I’d hit my drive right in the middle of a fairway only to be left with no good angle in because of overhanging trees in my way.

Two holes that stand out as the most awkward are the 15th and the 18th. The 15th is a pretty long hole that doglegs left and then has a couple of oak trees right in your way on the approach. For a low-ball hitter like me hitting a longer club uphill into the elevated green, there really was no good angle of attack.

The 18th was stretched at one point to create a more dramatic finishing hole. Aesthetically, it does look quite nice with the creek in front of the green and the nice clubhouse in the background. However, the design of the hole is definitely weird. I hit my drive right next to the 150 marker pole (normally meant for aim, as well). However, I had no shot at the green because of the big eucalyptus trees hanging over from the left. Because I play a fade, I was screwed by my position.

I’m sure local knowledge does help and I think I would fare better on the back nine if I were to play here again. The carts do have a nice GPS system, which I wasn’t expecting.

The course was in decent shape. The tee boxes were great. The fairways, though mostly green and lush, definitely had multiple types of grass growing in and were patchy throughout. Same for the rough. The greens were nice. A bit bumpy here and there, but mostly good surfaces and very soft/receptive on approaches. I was in two bunkers. One was absolutely perfect sand and the other one had a big puddle in it, so it was super wet and hard to get a read on the sand density.

Los Robles Greens is what it is. It’s not for everyone. For the price, I don’t think it’s worth it and I won’t be in any rush to come back unless I find a really great deal. The conditioning was decent enough and the service was good. The layout is mostly fine other than a handful of overly funky holes on the back nine. There are a couple of tricky holes on the front, but they are shorter and easier to manage strategically.

Note: This course has been renovated since I played it and I haven’t had a chance to return yet. I don’t think the layout or routing changed much, but the bunkers were redone along with some major turf reduction. Some of the pictures may not reflect what the course looks like now.

Some pictures from Los Robles Greens Golf Course (5/19/13):

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