It’s been awhile since I played this course, but I made a return visit there yesterday with a couple of friends. The main reason was because I had bought a deal voucher through Deal Caddy (GolfNow) that was set to expire at the end of the month and Saturday was my last opportunity I had to use it.
The price was great: $40 for two players. That’s hard to turn down on a course that I’ve always been fond of. I knew it probably wouldn’t be looking or playing its best in winter, but it was still worth a slight trek down to Escondido for the day.
Our tee time was 11:52. When we checked in with the starter, he told us things were right “on time,” but we ended up teeing off about 25 minutes late! In cases like this, I’d much rather them tell the truth than set an inaccurate expectation. That just made us more anxious and agitated as we waited for the call to head to the first tee. By the time we got on the course, which was moving slowly all day, it became a matter of hope that we would finish all 18 holes before it was too dark. That barely happened as we putted out on the last hole with a tiny bit of light left around 5:10. Yuck.
In many ways, this was a similar experience as last weekend at another of my once-favorite “Eagle” courses (Eagle Glen in Corona). Slow pace of play, unapologetic staff and uninspiring winter conditions added up to a bit of a disappointment overall. But unlike last week, I was playing this round with friends rather than on my own and that made it more enjoyable, even though I played terribly.
It was fun to reconnect with Eagle Crest because I had foggy memories of this course. I’ve always liked it, but I could never remember that many details about the layout outside of a few memorable holes. I actually forgot how difficult this course is. We played the blue tees yesterday and it was no picnic. Quite simply, there is not much room for error here.
Eagle Crest was designed by David Rainville. Much of the course (all of the front nine and a few holes on the back) plays along a ravine. Most holes have OB left and then red-staked hazard to the right. There are many uncomfortable tee shots because it doesn’t take much to find trouble on either side and plenty of overhanging trees come into play to limit your shot selection. A slight pull or push off the tee and you’ll be begging for your ball to stay in play on most holes. I was uncharacteristically wild off the tee, so it was a long day for me, to say the least.
I do think if they changed some of the OB stakes to ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) stakes, it might help speed up the pace of play with lateral drops instead of having to reload on the tee. Many of the OB areas are seriously close to the edges of fairways, so it’s very unforgiving when you are penalized with stroke and distance in some places.
The signature hole at Eagle Crest is the par-5 6th, mainly for its elaborate rock waterfall feature left of the green. The big boulder in the middle does resemble the back end of a horse, though, so it’s a bit of a running joke for regular players.
The 9th hole is a great one with the most elevated tee box on the course and a big pond guarding the green. The second half of the back nine does open up a little bit more, but there are water hazards in play on almost every hole and still OB to worry about if you spray it too far.
This is a fun and very challenging layout in a nice setting, so there’s plenty to enjoy about it from a design standpoint.
The course was definitely in winter condition, meaning is was not very pretty, but certainly playable enough. The greens were very good, so that helped make up for the fairways and rough, which were fairly ugly to look at. The fairways were dormant, brown and thin and the rough was very patchy and thin, as well. Most of the tee boxes were pretty nice, but the par-3s were quite chewed up. I was in only one bunker. It was a fairway bunker and the consistency was good. A little firm, but that’s how a fairway trap should be.
I would definitely recommend Eagle Crest despite the crowds, which seem to have grown in conjunction with their prices going down more and more over the past few years. I would wait until a different part of the year to get it in better condition, but they offer some good deals that can make it appealing throughout the year as long as you go in understanding how much the conditions can fluctuate in different seasons.
Some pictures from Eagle Crest Golf Club (12/21/13):