Wrapping Up My Labor Day Weekend

Most times I get a three-day weekend, I’ll take a little road trip. But I’ve already had plenty of those this summer and a couple more coming up soon, so I figured I’d keep it close to home over the Labor Day holiday. Well, “close to home” by my standards. After two rounds out in the desert Saturday, I was ready to go again bright and early Sunday morning…

Journey at Pechanga • Temecula, CA • 9/1/13

Okay, so I had played here before. In fact, I made my first visit to Journey last October and if you want a more detailed review, you should probably check that out (click here). I don’t need to go through it all again, but I will talk about what I experienced Sunday.

I played with a group of friends, having hooked up through our connections on Greenskeeper.org’s awesome community of golfers. One of them had purchased a set of UnderPar.com vouchers for Journey at Pechanga. Basically, it was $85 a player and included a same-day replay round, so it was too good a deal for me to pass up.

We started at 7:50 and had about an hour in between rounds to grab a quick lunch at the snack bar and relax on the little patio out by the starter’s shack. Both rounds were about 4.5 hours each, so it was a long day out there.

If you read my last review, you’ll see I was very impressed with this place upon my first experience. The conditions were near-immaculate and the aesthetic quality of the course captivated me.

This visit was a little different, but still positive. It was kind of a “Jekyll & Hyde” kind of day, though. The morning round presented soft, lush conditions and the full mystique of the course was in effect. It’s a course that captivates you visually with a lot of dramatic views and a design that is equally fun and frustrating at times.

The first time through, everything seemed to look and play nice. The greens were gorgeous and just about perfect. Other than a few sand traps that seemed a bit too thin (mixed with a couple others I found that were fantastic), there was no complaints as we decided to play the white tees.

Perhaps it was a bit foolhardy, but we moved back to the black tees for the second round. But it wasn’t just the added distance that provided what seemed like a drastic change. The afternoon winds picked up and swirled in every direction, seemingly changing every 30 seconds as you waited to hit your shots. The course dried out and firmed up, providing more roll-out on fairways (on which I seemed to notice more thin/bare spots than the first time around) and less receptive greens. And speaking of the greens, they got rather chewed up as the day went on with a lot of unrepaired ball marks and spike marks really making things bumpier.

We were all getting tired during a long day out in the sun and wind, and we were getting our butts kicked by tougher course conditions and further-back tees. Whatever it was, the course definitely lost a little luster the second time around. Some of the design quirks here became a bit more annoying and the vibe was a bit more negative within our group. It was rather interesting that things seemed to change so much.

Despite the second round feeling more exhausting than exhilarating like the first one, we still had a great time out there and I still like this course a lot. Playing the same course twice in one day always feels somewhat tedious to me anyway, so no doubt that had some impact. Journey at Pechanga is one of the most interesting, scenic and entertaining courses around, especially if you can get a good deal there. The view from the 6th tee will always be one of the best you’ll find on any course anywhere!

Some new pictures from Journey at Pechanga (9/1/13):

After a busy weekend, I had just enough energy to squeeze out 18 more holes on Monday…

MCAS Miramar Memorial Golf Course • San Diego, CA • 9/2/13

I probably would have been content to enjoy the full day off on the Labor Day holiday, but this seemed like a good time to check out this course on the MCAS Miramar base. They do allow public play, but it has always seemed like weekdays were the best bet for booking tee times as a civilian.

Even though it was a holiday, Miramar had plenty of times open on GolfNow, so I snatched up a “hot deal” 11:04 time for just $27 and mustered up the motivation to drive down to San Diego and sleepwalk my way around the course.

I was paired with another threesome and we teed off on time. The place was quite busy and we waited a little on most shots, but still got around in about 4 hours and 15 minutes. So it’s wasn’t bad at all. With a nice coastal breeze on a slightly cloudy day, the weather was quite enjoyable after all the heat and humidity I experienced over the weekend. It was a very relaxing round.

It might not have been just my lack of energy or the calming climate that lulled me into a trance, because Miramar is definitely not the most interesting or exciting course I’ve ever played. For the most part, it’s pretty blah. The landscape is as flat as flat can be and there’s no interesting scenery around, unless you count the big radar tower in the middle of the course.

There are a few somewhat interesting holes here that piqued my interest at times. The 7th stands out most as a good par-4 with fairway bunkers that definitely come into play on the tee shot and one of the biggest, nastiest bunkers I’ve ever seen guarding the front right of the green. From the fairway, you can only see a tiny sliver of the left edge of the green and the rest is hidden behind this menacing sand trap.

Beyond that hole and a handful of other nice spots on the course, it’s a rather boring track. The greens are the best overall features here as they are well-conditioned. They are soft and receptive enough on approaches, but smooth and medium-quick speeds on putts. Though the rest of the course is extra flat, the greens feature some good contour and sloping to help make up for it.

Other than the greens, the rest of Miramar was in questionable condition. I was really worried early on because the first couple of fairways looked like they haven’t been mowed in over a week. When I was hitting a ball out of three-inch deep kikuyu in the middle of a fairway on the first hole (the ball settled down into it of course), I realized it was going to be a long day.

However, the rest of the fairways at least seemed to have been mowed more recently and there was a lot more green than brown on the course. Still, it was hit and miss out there (probably 25% hit and 75% miss) throughout the fairways and rough. There were shaggy unkempt patches, thin/bare patches and a few really nice patches here and there, so you never knew what you’d get. I’d say somewhat average “muni” level conditions in terms of grass coverage, but below average effort by maintenance.

Unless you are like me and determined to play everything in Southern California, Miramar is probably not really worth the trouble. It’s an okay course and will satisfy your urge to tee it up at a reasonable price if you are a local, but there are so many better options throughout San Diego County you should consider first if coming in from out of the area.

If you are a civilian playing here, make sure to enter the East Gate off the I-15 at Miramar Way. Have your ID, car registration and proof of insurance ready to show the guard at the gate and it’ll be no hassle to get on the base and find the course from there.

Some pictures from MCAS Miramar Memorial Golf Course (9/2/13):

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