Course Review: Eagle Glen Golf Club

I played here on Saturday afternoon, but I’ve been gathering my thoughts about it since then. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great experience on this visit to Eagle Glen, so I have some mixed emotions about it.

This used to be one of my favorite courses in the Inland Empire. I have fond memories of playing here back in the day and it was always a nice treat. Then, it was a Troon managed course and they always had a nice emphasis on service with free yardage guides, logo-emblazoned ball mark repair tools, etc. I always felt the place was quite overpriced, with weekend rates over $100. However, my friends and I had the old Golf Passbook, which enabled us to play at 50% off a few times a year. So for around $55, Eagle Glen always felt like getting a great deal on a nice course.

Their prices have come down some over the years to match the economy, but the course and service are clearly not what they used to be. Everything about it just felt like an old pageant beauty who’s now a bit too long in the tooth. Its best days seem like a distant memory.

I played here a few years ago when I was getting back into golf. I found myself slightly disappointed then when compared with my older memories. Yet, I would always be one to defend the course if someone said something negative about the layout.

Condition-wise, this course seems to fluctuate wildly on Greenskeeper.org reviews, so I guess it’s all about timing on that front. I can sometimes look past some condition issues at a place like this because there are other qualities that have always drawn me to Eagle Glen.

With that in mind, I’ll focus on the positives first.

I’ve always been a fan of the layout here. This is a really fun course that is challenging, yet fair. There’s a great mix of holes and no two of them play the same. The front nine plays along a canyon, bringing a lot of trouble into play with very few flat lies. Most of the fairways are fairly forgiving, but it still doesn’t take much to send a stray ball into canyon.

There are some great changes in elevation and some spectacular views of the Temescal Valley. The 3rd tee box offers a great view of the entire back nine set in the valley below. The 4th is a nice par-3 with an elevated tee.

The 8th is another beautiful par-3 set in the middle of the canyon and then the 9th is a narrow par-4 atop the ridgeline. The 10th is yet another great par-3 with a downhill tee shot.

The back nine flattens out significantly with more of an open links style design through holes 12-15. The course finishes strong, though. The 16th hole goes back up along a different ridgeline and the 17th is my favorite hole on the course, a really neat little par-3. Last but not least, the 18th is a short, but tricky par-5 that will tempt long hitters with numerous risk/reward decisions as you hit across water a couple times.

In other words, there are many very memorable holes here and that’s part of the reason I love it.

Perhaps the most talked-about hole at Eagle Glen, though, is the diabolical par-4 2nd hole. I know many people who absolutely despise this hole, but you can count me as one of its few fans. There’s no denying it’s a quirky design, but it’s one that makes you think and I think it gets more fun the more you play it.

From the tee, you have no idea what’s going on. They do have nice GPS systems in the cart, so if it’s your first time here, really pay attention to it. It features a split fairway. From the tee, you’ll see the left part of the fairway right in front of you. No mystery there. Then there’s a big hill between that fairway and the upper fairway to the right. There are a few big, nasty bunkers on that hillside. You can barely see the green from the tee box, so it’s very disorienting.

From the blue tees, the 2nd hole is 305 yards and can be played multiple ways based on your distances and your guts. One option is to hit a safe lay-up shot to the left. You’ll have a reasonably short shot in, but it will be kind of a blind shot up the hill to a green you can’t really see much at all. It is very tough to judge. The second option for an average-length hitter is to try and hit the top shelf with your tee shot. There is not much room for error with this option, but the reward is a very easy approach with a wedge and a perfect, level angle at the pin.

For those who can hit the ball a long way, the “no guts, no glory” option is to try and drive the green. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it would definitely be the most entertaining way to play the hole.

Because it offers these options, I find it to be a unique, but interesting risk/reward hole design. I do understand why many people dislike it, though, so everyone’s certainly entitled to their own opinions!

Okay, enough of the positive stuff. After all, my fondness for the layout and scenery at Eagle Glen was unfortunately not enough to salvage my experience on Saturday.

I booked an 11:00 tee time as a single through EZLinks. The price was $47 for the time, but I used up a Groupon deal I had, so it was only $25 for me total. I’m glad that’s all I paid. They were overbooked and backed up because of a tournament group out on the course, so it was around 11:35 when our group finally teed off. The starter was pretty unapologetic and laid-back about it. He told me how once the tournament group cleared off, it would open up for everyone on the back nine. The same guy came around several times in the marshal cart and kept promising the pace would get better (and also talking about how good a shape the course was in). It irked me because I knew it wouldn’t improve much for us being at the back of the pack.

We finished with just barely enough daylight at 4:50. So the on-course pace was a terrible 5 hours and 15 minutes, but in my mind the delay at tee off counts, too, so that made it almost six hours total. That’s unacceptable even for a muni course, but even more disappointing on a course that still pretends to be something special.

As for conditions, I understand it’s winter and it’s clear they didn’t overseed. It wasn’t pretty, but it was still reasonably playable. The fairways and rough are very tight, semi-dormant bermuda. The turf was a little inconsistent, though. Some spots were decently fluffy underneath and other areas were hard as a rock, so you definitely had to pay attention before hitting the ball. The tee boxes had the best, greenest grass on the course, so those were mostly quite good. The bunkers were pretty thin, but manageable. The greens were pretty solid. They were receptive for us on approaches and fairly true on putts. The starter said they were rolling at 12+ stimp speeds, but there’s no way. They were fairly quick (especially on downhill putts), but definitely not that quick.

If I had paid $47, I would have been let-down enough with mediocre conditions and an awful pace of play. But I also had in the back of my mind I had gotten an email from Eagle Glen earlier in the week promoting a super “special” December deal of $69 after 10:30 on weekends. To me, that’s way overpriced for the current conditions and I’m afraid to even know what the non-special weekend rate is.

I really hope to hear good things about Eagle Glen in the future. I sincerely hope it moves back in the right direction or that my experience was a rare anomaly. It does seem to get very mixed reviews on GK, so it really seems hit and miss here. Until I see a lot more hits than misses on a consistent basis, I will go ahead and avoid my old friend Eagle Glen, which is rather sad for me to say.

Some pictures from Eagle Glen Golf Club (12/14/13):

View from the 2nd tee below. Really hard to see what’s going on from that angle…

Here’s a view from behind the 2nd green. Shows a little more perspective, but you really have to play it to understand it.

The 4th:

The 8th:

Approach view on the 9th:

The 10th:

The 17th. Usually looks much cooler in normal daylight:

Luckily, I snapped a picture overlooking the 18th before my round. By the time I played it, it was too dark for photos.

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