A Little Bit of Home Cookin’

I’m spending 4th of July in my hometown of Crescent City, CA. Of course, when I come back home, I always like teeing it up on some of the local courses and enjoying a bit of nostalgia.

Salmon Run Golf Course • Brookings, OR • 7/3/13

I’ve written about this course a number of times already on this blog, so I won’t go into as great a detail as normal. This course did not exist when I was growing up, but once it did open I fell in love with it as my top local choice with Brookings being just a half-hour drive away.

Salmon Run is not a long course, playing at just under 6,300 from the tips. But don’t let the distance fool you because it’s a very tricky layout. There are a lot of tight holes, tough angles and a number of large, difficult greens to contend with. It is target golf to the max with hazards waiting on every hole to snatch your ball up. It’s almost impossible not to lose at least one ball during your round here.

I was sad when I played Wednesday to see that the signature 4th hole is still playing from the alternate tees. I first encountered this a couple of winters ago, but I could understand it as a seasonal solution because the zig-zagging “Lombard Street” path going up the hill to the upper tee boxes could get quick slippery during the wet winter months. But to see them still using the lower tees more off to the side in the middle of summer bummed me out. I guess it’s a permanent change.

However, you can still walk up the path and you are welcome to hit your tee shot from up-top. That’s what I did Wednesday. They aren’t maintaining the tee boxes too well, though, so you just kind of have to find a decent enough spot to hit from and let it rip!

My favorite hole here is actually the 15th, which is another really fun par-3 with a nice drop off from tee to green and a creek that runs in front of the green and along the right side. There are tall trees in play along the left of the green, so it’s a tight shot. It’s a beautiful and fun hole.

On all but a few occasions, Salmon Run generally kicks my butt and this visit was no exception. I lost several balls in the wilderness and couldn’t make a putt to save my life. It’s a course that always gets into my head and perhaps that’s why I love it so much. I know it can be tamed and a great score can be had with smart, safe shots, but it just never seems to work out the way I envision it.

What made a round at Salmon Run irresistible Wednesday was the price. I saw a 12:30 time on GolfNow for just $10! Usually it’s around $50 or so to play here with a cart (you really wouldn’t want to walk it as it’s a hilly beast). Our price didn’t include a cart, but that was only $14, so for $24 it was a steal of a deal.

There was hardly anyone out there on a warm afternoon, so we teed off early and finished quickly without really running into anyone or having anyone push us from behind. It was ideal!

The course was in just “okay” condition–not the best I’ve seen it. The greens were pretty nice and mostly smooth, rolling at medium-quick speeds with pretty firm surfaces as usual. The fairways were mostly good, but still some bad spots and a few real soggy/muddy areas (several right in front of greens). The rough was much spottier. It was lush and deep in some areas and just patches of dirt in others. Things can get a bit wild if you are off the fairways here. There are not many bunkers on the course and they use a couple different kinds of sands, but they looked to be okay. I didn’t hit out of any of them. I would say conditions are overall below this course’s standards, but you should never expect super pristine conditions here.

I always enjoy my visits to Salmon Run. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere on a scenic and secluded course that is equally fun and challenging with such a tight and hilly layout through the woods of Southern Coastal Oregon.

Some pictures from Salmon Run Golf Course (7/3/13):

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View from the “new” 4th tee:

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View from the original 4th tee:

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The 15th hole:

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I wasn’t sure if I was going to play at all Wednesday, but the price and weather at Salmon Run was too hard to resist. Then, it got my golf juices flowing and I decided to make a pilgrimage back to my childhood course.

Kings Valley Golf Course • Crescent City, CA • 7/3/13

It’s hard to contemplate how much of my youth was spent on this very course. It’s where I learned to play and learned to love the game of golf. It’s also the reason my short game tends to be stronger than my long game.

I used to come out here all the time with my buddies because it was right down the street from where we all lived. Usually we’d golf, but sometimes we’d just go and play pool inside the small clubhouse. One quarter per game on the ratty old table. Then, while I was in high school, my parents bought me full passes for the course a couple of summers in a row. I would go out there every single night after dinner and play as many holes as daylight permitted–at least 18 and often 27.

It’s been a number of years since I visited my dear Kings Valley, but it always makes me happy walking on my old stomping grounds. This place has changed so little over the years. The clubhouse is still exactly the same and that exact pool table is in there, looking rattier than ever. The sights, the smells, and everything about it just brings me back to my childhood and makes me smile.

I believe when I first started playing there, it was $7 for nine holes and $11 for 18. But I know by the time I graduated high school (1993), it was $9 for nine and $14 for 18. I was shocked to see those were the exact same prices Wednesday when I walked into the clubhouse. They still had sodas for a dollar and pull cart rentals are just a dollar, as well. Insane!

However, last time I played there the conditions were not great. It seemed the course might be on its last legs and made me sad. Whoever owns it now really seems to be making a great effort because the course was in nice shape. They had planted some new trees along the border fence along holes 3 and 4. The greens were in very nice shape and the rest of the course, though still shaggy and rough around the edges, was as green and lush as I’ve ever seen it. This made me very happy.

The course itself is nothing too interesting. It’s a 9-hole, par 28 layout without too much trouble to get into at any point. It has small little greens that don’t have much undulation or protection. The eight par-3s range from about 90 yards up to 160 and then the one par-4 is only about 230 yards. That said, it’s still a tricky hole if you play a fade or have a slice because big trees (OB) line the left and it’s super tight from tee to green. Draw and straight hitters can easily drive the green, but I’ve never been able to in all my times of trying!

Though I only intended to play nine holes, I ended up circling around for a full 18 because I was having such fun on a perfect evening that brought back so many great memories on my favorite little course.

Some pictures from Kings Valley Golf Course (7/3/13):

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Last and unfortunately least…

Del Norte Golf Course • Crescent City, CA • 7/5/13

To round out my hometown golf visit, my brother and I played at Del Norte Golf Course this morning. When I was growing up, we called this the “big” course. It always had a bit more mystique as we were used to playing the “little” course at Kings Valley most of the time. Still, we’d venture up towards Hiouchi about once a summer to try our luck here. The results were rarely good because hitting drivers and longer shots was just not in our repertoire with all of our practice being on short par-3s.

Oh well, I always looked forward to my childhood visits up to Del Norte and I didn’t mind playing it again later in life once I was more accustomed to playing regulation length courses. However, the more “real” courses I’ve played over the years, the less sentimental I feel about Del Norte. Whereas Kings Valley fills me with such positive memories, Del Norte always leaves me feeling a bit flat.

This is just a 9-hole layout, but they do have slightly separate tee boxes for front and back nine play. The front nine plays to a par of 35 and the back is 36. The first time around, hole #1 is a relatively long par-4 (430 yards) and after the turn, it plays as a relatively short par-5 (475).

What I can say about Del Norte is the setting is great with redwood trees all around the course. However, they really don’t use a lot of the natural “resources” here to their advantage. They’ve actually removed a bunch of trees since I was young, which takes some bite out a few holes. Most notably is the best (and toughest) hole here, which is the 4th. It’s a tricky par-4 with a semi-blind tee shot over a hill and down into a narrow little valley. From there you hit back up a hill to a green protected by a well-placed bunker in front. This hole was even more narrow and intimidating before they cut down a lot of trees along the right sides. Between that and the fact that my skills are much better now than when I was a teenager, it’s definitely a less frightening hole than I remember it.

Otherwise, the course is pretty straightforward, playing up and down some mild hills, around a few doglegs and alongside tall trees, creeks and ditches. If they really put some money into renovating the course to add some more contour and design touches, it could be a good one given the setting and terrain. For years, they’ve talked of buying more land and expanding it into a full 18-hole track, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Condition-wise, Del Norte was similar to the way it’s always been. Pretty shaggy in fairways and rough with plenty of bad brown (thin or muddy) spots, but plenty playable overall. The greens were actually as good as I’ve seen them–pretty smooth and running at medium speeds. The greens here are small and with the hills, there’s a lot more break on them than it seems.

Other than for a little nostalgia and convenience, there isn’t much other reason to play Del Norte. The price was decent this morning at $36 a player with cart for 18 holes. We teed off with nobody in front of us around 7:45 and were finished by 10:45, even though we got stuck behind a few groups after making the turn.

Some pictures from Del Norte Golf Course (7/5/13):

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