More Fun in Sunny San Diego

I told you all about my visit to San Diego Country Club the other day. That round was certainly the “main event” for that day of golf. But as you’ve come to expect from me, it definitely wasn’t the only golf I played that day. In fact, I played two additional rounds—one before and one after!

Cottonwood Golf Club (Lakes) • El Cajon, CA • 9/23/13

Note: This course is now closed. The Ivanhoe Course is still open, though.

This was my second time visiting Cottonwood. Last year, I ventured down there for a round on the Ivanhoe course, which is generally regarded as the better of the two tracks here. This time, I played the Lakes course, which wasn’t bad at all.

Because of a mid-morning tee time at San Diego CC, I needed to get around Cottonwood pretty quickly and that’s what I got. I booked a 6:00 time directly with the course. It was a $25 early bird rate (with cart), which was actually a few bucks cheaper than the same time on GolfNow. I ended going off second by myself, but the twosome in front of me ultimately let me pass after a few holes. I finished in about two hours, which was ideal!

The layout of both Cottonwood courses reminds me a bit of Brookside up in Pasadena. It just has a similar feel, if you ask me. It’s a relatively nice setting with no homes directly around the Lakes course and all 36 holes are pretty tightly compacted within the property, but still spread out just barely enough to not feel completely cramped.

Not unlike its bigger brother, the Lakes course is very flat and pretty forgiving from tee to green, and the greens themselves aren’t anything too difficult to navigate. There are some doglegs to contend with and trees can get in the way at times. There are a handful of water hazards on Lakes (as the name might suggest), but nothing super intimidating.

Probably the most notable part of the Lakes course is the combination of holes 12 and 13. They provide a brief, but nice, change of pace early on the back nine. The 12th is a dogleg right par-4 that goes back into a small canyon with a slight uphill approach to the green. Then, the 13th is the signature par-3 here with an elevated tee to a relatively well-protected green (water short and a hazard area long, as well.

Beyond those couple of holes, there isn’t anything too exciting or distinctive about the Lakes course, though it’s a solid track on all levels. It provides just enough challenge and variety to satisfy your craving for golf.

The Lakes course was in decent shape. It had some issues, but was plenty playable. It was quite damp that early in the morning, so it was hard to get a great read on anything. The fairways were somewhat spotty, but it seemed like mostly good grass throughout. The rough is more of a mixed bag—sometimes terrible and sometimes fine. The greens were decent. They were bumpy in places and had a lot of debris on them (leaves and such), but were soft/receptive and mostly smooth for putts. They were, however, very slow because of how wet they were. The one sand trap I was in was pretty awful.

Neither Cottonwood course is worth going too far out of your way for, but as a relatively inexpensive local option, it gets the job done. They have many specials throughout the week (including a free birthday round), so it’s not hard to get a good rate here.

Some pictures from Cottonwood Golf Club (Lakes) (9/23/13):

After my round at San Diego Country Club, I could have been plenty satisfied heading home with 36 holes under my belt for the day. But curiosity got the better of me and I decided to at least do a drive-by of this next course since it wasn’t too far away…

Bonita Golf Course • Bonita, CA • 9/23/13

One of the reasons I wanted to check this course out right now was because there was just a recent review on Greenskeeper.org claiming it was in about as good a shape as it’s ever been. It seemed like a ringing endorsement and the timing would be right for me.

I got over to the course around 3:00 and it didn’t look too busy. I checked in with the pro shop and was teeing off a few minutes later. The price was $31 with cart. This would be a nice course to walk, but as the third round of the day that was not an option for me. The pace was nice early as I was behind two separate singles and things moved along perfectly for the first six holes. Then we hit the “wall” and it was slow going after that. One of the singles left at the turn and another was absorbed by one of the groups ahead, so I just hung back and played by myself. As slow as it felt at the end of a long 54-hole day, it was still a fine overall pace of about 3.5 hours.

I didn’t know too much about Bonita coming in. I figured it wouldn’t be a drastic shift from Cottonwood since the courses are not too far from one another. They definitely feel like “cousins,” but I was more impressed with Bonita overall.

The layout is pretty good. I wouldn’t say great, but it’s a solid course. The landscape here is very flat sitting in a small valley next to some ranch properties. With barrels marking each hole number and horseshoes as the tee markers, they definitely embrace this ranch setting. Though foothills surround the course on all sides, the only elevated points at Bonita are the 10th green and the 11th tee. And even then, it’s a very minor elevation shift there.

Otherwise, Bonita offers a pretty straightforward layout with tree-lined fairways. There are a few tricky holes with some sharp doglegs like numbers 8, 13, 17 and 18, but nothing too dramatic. Some holes early on are very wide open and others play pretty tight through the trees.

What stood out most during my visit to Bonita were the conditions. The course was in fantastic shape. The fairways were almost perfect with lush grass, tight cuts and beautiful lies throughout. The rough was a bit spotty the further you stray from fairways, but the primary cut was pretty nice throughout the course. It was cut pretty low, so it wasn’t penal at all. Throughout the fairways and rough, there were occasional small “dead” patches that were just bare dirt. That’s the only thing keeping me from giving the fairways a perfect “10” rating, but those spots were very few and far between.

The sand traps did get a “10,” though, as they were filled with resort-quality soft white sand. Some tee boxes had been aerated and were a bit chewed up, but it was never too bothersome. The greens did have plenty of unrepaired marks being late in the day, but they were mostly quite nice.

My experience at Bonita was definitely enhanced by the great conditions. I liked the course well enough, but it wasn’t so interesting that I’d be dying to come back. However, if the conditions can remain at this high a level, it’s definitely a step up from some of the lower-end courses in the area—especially considering rates are pretty comparable (if not cheaper) than competing mid-level tracks located nearby.

Some pictures from Bonita Golf Course (9/23/13):

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