Course Review: Knollwood Country Club

With ugly weather in the forecast, I was undecided all week if I was going to play today. With the big year-end Greenskeeper.org event out at Indian Wells tomorrow, I had thoughts of heading out toward Palm Springs and staying the night, but playing out there in the poor weather this afternoon just doesn’t have much appeal.

So I slept in and checked the hourly forecasts when I got up. Nothing looked great, but it gave me the idea to just go up to Knollwood Country Club in Granada Hills. This is a course that has been on my radar as one of a few left in LA County that I needed to play. However, I haven’t been in any rush because this course has always had a bit of a reputation for big crowds and slow play. They also don’t book single tee times, so I knew whenever I played here would likely need to require taking my chances as a walk-on.

I looked at the forecast and it said the rain would clear up around 11:00, so I figured I’d finally give it a shot knowing the poor weather would likely (hopefully) keep the big crowds away. When I got there around 10:45, I could see people out on the course, but it was clearly not crowded. I checked in with the pro shop ($49.50 with cart, regular weekend rate) and was off whenever I wanted to go. I did notice a fivesome on the first hole when I pulled up and another foursome was going off when I checked in, so I asked how the back nine was looking.

He told me there were people out there, but as long as nobody was coming up to the 9th green, I was welcome to start on 10 by myself. That’s what I did. I ultimately caught up to some groups about halfway through the back nine and played a few holes with the threesome ahead of me. Then I played the front nine by myself. I played through a couple groups, but otherwise enjoyed a nice solo pace of a little over 2.5 hours, which is a real achievement at Knollwood, even if the weather was quite crappy.

It was chilly and rainy when I teed off, but the rain dissipated after a few holes and after that it was just kind of chilly and gloomy. The sun finally started to peek through as I was finishing up my last couple holes, but I was just happy to get out and around so quickly on this particular course.

I’ve usually heard decent things about the course itself. I knew it was kind of a short course and more of a “target” layout with hilly fairways and plenty of trees in play. I can say it’s definitely one of the more interesting and entertaining courses amongst the LA County owned and operated tracks, and it reminded me of two other nearby courses I’ve played: Porter Valley CC and DeBell.

There’s no super dramatic changes in elevation, but there aren’t many flat lies on the course at all. The fairways are hilly, often slanting to one side or another and forcing you to aim to the high side. A number of greens are elevated and provide semi-blind approach shots. A lot of the doglegs are very tight, as well, so you might end up laying up on several of the shorter par-4s unless you have the ideal shot shape to play more aggressively.

The greens are relatively small and are definitely tricky. They feature plenty of slope and slick surfaces, so you have to be on with your putter and your wedges to score well around here.

The conditions at Knollwood were just so-so. I’d say about average for a muni-level course this time of year. Despite the rain, the fairways were very firm and very fast with a lot of tight lies. This turns out to be a disadvantage here. With the short, but hilly and tight layout, a lot of extra roll-out usually proves more harmful than helpful. I was in one bunker and it was very wet, hard-packed sand, so hard to get a fair judgment.

The greens were in very nice shape, surprising given the amount of play this course gets. Even though it wasn’t busy today, I would have expected to see more old ball marks and beat up areas, but they were very green and smooth. And even with the dampness caused by the rain, they were rolling at very quick speeds. There were some low spots where water would puddle up, but that’s excusable after a quick, but heavy rainstorm.

Overall, Knollwood is an enjoyable course that is probably even more fun the more you get to know the different holes and shots required to play it well. It does seem the slow play is a deterrent for many coming here, so I was lucky to avoid that. For me, it was more or less a “checklist” course because it’s too inconvenient for me personally (in terms of price, location and crowds) to make it a regular stop in my rotation.

Some pictures from Knollwood Country Club (12/7/13):

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