GK Saturday in Malibu

Yesterday, we had our annual Greenskeeper.org outing at Malibu Golf Club. As always, it was a blast!

This was my second time playing the course. I played there last summer in the same event and fell in love with the fun layout and beautiful, secluded canyon setting. When most people think of Malibu, they think of sunny skies, rich people and beautiful beachfront property. What not everyone realizes is how deep things stretch into the rugged canyons here. Malibu Golf Club sits right in the middle. Only a few hilltop homes can be seen from the course. Otherwise, it’s out there all by itself.

The course uses the rugged canyon landscape to its advantage as each hole is carved through the hilly terrain. Most every hole features an elevated tee and an elevated green, so you’ll find yourself hitting down and then back up a lot. There are some side-sloped fairways, some wicked doglegs and pretty narrow fairways, so the priority here is to keep your ball in play and hit to where you can see it.

Though tight, target-style golf courses often get labeled as “funky” or “gimmicky,” Malibu does not fit those annoying descriptions. On pretty much every hole, you can see where the ideal landing area is from the tee and you can then choose your strategy (and your club) wisely to reach it. If you do, you’ll be left with a good angle of approach. With the elevated greens, it’s not always easy to know the best aiming points for approach shots, but the GPS in the carts is nicely detailed and helps immensely. Now don’t get me wrong because local knowledge and previous experience is helpful throughout this course, but it’s not vital to success. I actually played better here last year when I knew less about it!

I would describe Malibu as a very “fair” test because good shots are justly rewarded and bad shots are generally punished. The front nine is less forgiving than the back nine with stray drives almost always resulting in lost balls in thicker patches of trees and hillside brush. The back nine still plays pretty tight, but there are more parallel holes and open areas amongst the trees. You won’t have a fun or easy shot from them, but at least you might find your ball.

Beyond a layout that I truly enjoy and a setting that’s gorgeous, we found the course to be in magnificent condition. The greens were great—smooth on top and soft/receptive on approach shots. The fairways were excellent with lush, perfectly manicured kikuyu that perches your ball up like a tee on every shot. The rough is good and consistent in the primary cuts just off fairways and around greens, but the lies are less predictable the further you stray from fairways (sometimes extra deep/thick and other areas pretty bare). The one bunker I was in seemed a bit thin. 

The kikuyu grass here is definitely part of the story at Malibu. One of the reasons I chose to play Whittier Narrows the day before was because I figured it would be good practice on this grass that thrives in the summertime heat of Southern California. It sure is nice, but it will definitely make you work from any lies in the rough and on touch shots around greens. Depending on if you are with or against the grain, it requires different strategies. For me, there are days when I chip great on kikuyu (Friday, for instance) and there are days where it drives me nuts. Saturday was one of those days, unfortunately.

I am also happy to report that the management listened to one of our big complaints last year and installed some drinking water stations on the course itself. It’s still not much (just two jugs—one on the front and one on the back), but better than the nothing we encountered last year. Progress is progress.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I think this is a fantastic track. Not everyone loves it and if target golf isn’t your style, then it may not be the place for you. That said, I do feel kind of sad for anyone who doesn’t like or can’t appreciate a course like this that’s fun, beautiful and challenging like all good courses should be.

Lastly, the Greenskeeper event went off well. There was a lot of chaos after the round caused by another giant tournament group checking in and overwhelming the clubhouse and bar areas. But with dozens of smoking hot caddie girls up for auction or just hanging around to provide eye candy for the tournament participants, not all of us minded the “distractions” this group brought with up them. Still, JohnnyGK and the staff at Malibu Golf Club put on another great event for us. We all had plenty of fun on a beautiful course, some people won some great prizes and we all enjoyed the camaraderie that can only be found at a GK event. 

Some pictures from Malibu Golf Club (7/27/13):

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