Taking a Bite Out of Apple Valley

A half-day off from work Friday set me off on a roundabout little overnight trip to visit some of the more out-of-the way courses remaining on my list. The first afternoon was spent up in the high desert in Apple Valley…

Apple Valley Golf Club • Apple Valley, CA • 2/7/14

I’ve been trying to get up to this course for several weekends now, but never quite made it happen. Through my previous attempts, though, I learned the course does a 9:00 shotgun every day during the winter months. The built-in frost delay and group start is probably a good idea given the high desert climate here.

That also means that things clear out pretty quickly for open afternoon play, which is what I went to take advantage of Friday. I got to the course around 12:30 and it was already pretty cleared out. The price was $27 with cart and I headed right out to the first tee. There were scattered singles and twosomes I noticed during my round, so things were moving quickly for everyone and I finished in about two hours.

The course itself is a pretty straightforward and traditional layout. There isn’t anything overly exciting about it, but it’s a solid design. The fairways are all tree lined, but the trees are mostly spread out and there’s ample room for error off of most tees.

The greens are relatively large and do offer some challenge for your short game. There are four sets of men’s tees ranging from 6,805 yards (black) down to 5,929 (gold). I played the blues at 6,477, but the course played a little shorter than that because of firm winter conditions.

As I would have expected this time of year (and especially with the super dry winter we’ve had), the course wasn’t looking too pretty. It was firm, thin and mostly brown throughout the course. Most of the trees (other than the joshua trees) were devoid of leaves, so the course had a desolate feel. Still, the course was in decent playable condition.

The greens were rolling pretty smooth and quick on putts, but the firm surfaces made it hard to hold approach shots. I was in a couple of bunkers and the sand was okay. They use a pretty coarse sand here since it can get so windy, but it gets the job done just well enough.

Apple Valley is somewhat scenic with the bigger mountains in the distance and some rocky hillsides closer by. I’m sure it looks much prettier when things are nice and green on the course.

Overall, Apple Valley is a solid course with pretty good pricing, so it’s a good option in the high desert where there’s only a handful of courses to begin with.

Some pictures from Apple Valley Golf Club (2/7/14):

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I had only planned to play Apple Valley GC on Friday since I got a late start, but things worked out so I got to visit another local course that I’ve always heard pretty good things about…

Ashwood Golf Course • Apple Valley, CA • 2/7/14

Ashwood is considered an “executive” course because total par for 18 holes is under 70. Therefore it was not on my official SoCal regulation course checklist. Still, it’s one I figured I would play someday.

The place wasn’t very busy at all when I arrived, so I paid my $19 (cart included) and they said I could play any two of the nines I wanted. You see, this is a 27-hole track. There’s the Mesquite nine (par-32), Sycamore nine (par-33) and Birch nine (par-32).

I started off on Sycamore and got around pretty quickly before running into a twosome on the last couple of holes. I could see some groups out on the neighboring Mesquite nine and those guys made the turn there, too, so I ventured over to Birch next and there wasn’t a soul out there but me. When I finished, there was still plenty of daylight and I could see Mesquite looked pretty wide open, so I just went ahead and helped myself to a bonus nine to round out the full Ashwood experience.

One reason it was so wide open was because the temperature was dropping quickly and the wind was getting worse and worse. By the time I finished it was really cold and blustery out there.

For the most part, Ashwood is more of a links style design and build to handle the strong winds this area gets. It is woven throughout a Del Webb residential community, so the short design and lower par are definitely senior-friendly. That said, this course is anything but a pushover. It is a really well-designed track that looks great and offers plenty of challenge for all skill levels.

There are no par-5s and there is only one par-4 over 400 yards, but there’s actually a good variety of hole lengths and layouts. There are a handful of short par-4s around 300 yards or less that offer some fun risk/reward decisions for longer hitters.

With Ashwood being a links design, its main defenses are the large, undulating greens and the plentiful bunkering. There’s no shortage of big sand traps here and they are best if avoided. There are a number of nice water hazards found on each nine, as well.

The only drawback on this visit was the fact the course is also in high desert winter condition, so it didn’t look nearly as pretty as it could. There are many unobscured gorgeous views of the mountains (especially on the Birch nine).

The course was in pretty dry winter shape, but it was a little softer/nicer in most fairways compared to Apple Valley. The rough was cut tight, so it was not really a factor. The greens were much softer, but still rolling fast on putts and they got a bit too bumpy toward the end of the day. I was in a number of bunkers and they were all over the place in terms of quality. One on the Mesquite nine had really fluffy white sand. Another on Birch was mostly pebbles and then I saw just about everything in between in other bunkers.

Basically, Ashwood is as nicely designed, constructed and maintained as any regulation course around. It’s just slightly scaled back, so don’t dismiss it because it’s worth checking out. Personally, I would put it ahead of any of the other Victor Valley courses, so I am glad I was able to play it.

Some pictures from Ashwood Golf Course (2/7/14):

Sycamore:

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Birch:

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Mesquite:

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