Course Review: Marshall Canyon Golf Course

It was another relaxed one-round Sunday for me. After considering a number of different tee time options online (and watching several get snatched up before I could commit), I finally ended up settling on Marshall Canyon Golf Course in La Verne.

I booked a 12:10 “hot deal” time through GolfNow that was only $22, so there was not much to lose with that price. With it being such a nice day (though a little warmer than usual this time of year), I figured I’d be in for some slow play. But as long as I set my expectations properly, I can just enjoy being out on the course.

When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see the place didn’t appear to be very busy at all. I checked in and the guy basically said I could go whenever I wanted. I teed off by myself around noon and was enjoying a great pace for the first six holes, but my fun came abruptly to an end when I pulled up to the 7th tee and found two groups waiting to hit! I ended up joining a threesome ahead of me and it was slow going after that.

Ultimately, the front nine took about 1.5 hours and the back nine was much more brutal at 2.5. Still, I can’t really complain too much about a four-hour pace on a weekend at a county course such as this. I’ll take that any day, but the way things were going early on, it was a bit of a tease.

It’s been a number of years since I last played Marshall Canyon. I didn’t remember a lot of details about the course itself, but I remember the layout being somewhat fun and the setting was fairly nice. I always felt it was one of the more underrated LA County-managed courses. Yesterday’s visit confirmed that feeling.

Now don’t get me wrong, this course has its issues like all the rest in its class, but it does offer some memorable traits. First off, the overall setting and scenery is great. It’s in a secluded part of the foothills with only one stretch along the back nine next to some houses and a small horse ranch. Otherwise, it’s pretty secluded and relaxing as the property is filled with a mix of pine and eucalyptus trees.

Also, the design is pretty enjoyable. That said, some of its quirks will not be enjoyed by everyone. Marshall Canyon definitely qualifies as a “target” layout where accuracy is more important than distance on most holes. It tops out at just over 6,100 yards from the blue tees.

What stands out most here is the fact most of the course was built on the side of a hill. But rather than running up and down the slopes, most of the holes run side-to-side. That means a lot of severely sloped fairways that can be hard to hold. You always have to aim to the high side here or your ball can trickle down into the trees. It can be frustrating at times, but it’s easily the course’s biggest defense.

Because of all the natural sloping, the greens can also be very tricky to read. You can expect a few pin placements to be brutal and it always pays to stay below the hole here.

I like all of the par-3s here, except for maybe the 7th. That one doesn’t do much for me, but the other three feature shots over small ravines and all have a nice visual presentation to them. They are somewhat reminiscent of the more modern canyon-style courses throughout SoCal.

The other notable element of Marshall Canyon is one that pretty much everybody will agree is a nuisance. And that is the cement drainage ditches that run throughout the course. Your ball can easily be caught up in one of these and can roll a long ways down the hill. It can be annoying when it happens, but fortunately the course rule is that you get a free drop from the point of entry. So they really won’t impact your score at all.

My biggest complaint about the course goes hand-in-hand with those ditches. I think I mostly walked when I made previous visits to Marshall Canyon, but this time I took a cart. My back still hurts from such a bumpy ride. The cart paths (well, what are left of them at this point) are absolutely terrible. Also, throughout the rough and parts of the fairway, the ground is pretty bumpy. Then, you also have those little drainage ditches you have to drive through on most every hole. Add it all up and it’s a rough ride around Marshall Canyon.

Now, as a county course, the conditions here won’t be pristine and I wouldn’t ever expect them to be. On Sunday, they were about average with what you’ll find at similar “muni” level courses throughout the region. In that, things were a little rough around the edges, but playable enough. The greens were soft and receptive, rolling at medium speeds. I was in one trap and it was fine. The conditions here certainly won’t excite you much, but it is what it is.

I wouldn’t recommend Marshall Canyon to everyone because it does have its quirks, but I find it enjoyable enough to come back with the right price. I’d definitely prefer to play it over many of the more boring county and municipal tracks. Conditions are comparable, the setting is nice and, though it can get plenty crowded, it doesn’t seem quite as brutal as most of the others in the category.

Some pictures from Marshall Canyon Golf Course (3/16/14):

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