It’s been a number of years since I first played Oak Valley out in Beaumont, but it’s a course I’ve been dying to go play again. Now that I’m in a position to start going back and replaying some of my local favorites (especially those that I haven’t reviewed on this site), the timing was perfect to finally make my return to Oak Valley.
A friend and I found a great deal on GolfNow. It was a “hot deal” rate of $36 for a 12:37 Sunday time. I also had a $10-off reward that I had earned, so that made it just $31 a player and a no-brainer booking decision.
We got out to the course around noon and the place was a madhouse. As we were waiting in line to check in, we heard the pro shop guys saying they were running around 45 minutes behind. It was a bit chaotic and frustrating to say the least, and it didn’t start the round off on a good note.
Apparently, they had a big tournament group in the morning that was completely overbooked and poorly planned. Also, Oak Valley is set to host the Canadian PGA Tour Q School tournament this week (Monday-Thursday) and there were a bunch of guys from that event out there trying to get practice rounds in.
I felt bad for the starter at the first tee, who was rightfully confused and frustrated as people gathered around him aimlessly. The pro shop guys didn’t do a whole lot to set expectations or tell anyone what to do, so everyone just kind of swarmed the starter as he tried to sort things out. Amidst the chaos, I think we actually lucked out a little and got out earlier than we were supposed to. Still, it was around 1:15 by the time we teed off.
We were paired with a twosome of those aforementioned Canadian Tour hopefuls. They were a couple of nice guys from Houston. It was both fun and intimidating to watch them dissect the course during their practice round. I felt bad because we were just trying to move things along at a normal pace while they tried to study course features, distances, green undulations, etc. There were a number of other guys walking throughout the course and doing their own practice routines, too, so it was distracting at times.
Honestly, I’m surprised they had any public play on Sunday. Between the morning tournament and letting these guys have their practice rounds, it probably would have made more sense just to keep the normal public players away for the day. Oh well.
Beyond the rough start and these other little distractions, the rest of the day went very well. Once on the course, the pace was pretty decent (4.5 hours) and the course was in great overall shape. Everything was looking and playing nice, though my only gripe was the quality of the bunkers. They were not very good with only a thin layer of crusty sand to work with.
As for the course, I now know why I was looking forward to coming back and playing it again. I didn’t remember too many details from before, but I remember liking it a lot and it always gets good word of mouth. Hands down, this is one of the best courses the Inland Empire has to offer. No question about it. You hear Oak Quarry, Goose Creek and sometimes even Soboba Springs or Morongo in that conversation, but Oak Valley sometimes gets slightly overlooked. It shouldn’t be.
This is a really great course that has a dynamic design and great aesthetic “look” despite being in kind of a weak location right next to the I-10 freeway and in a residential area. The homes around the course don’t really infringe much and the way they used the canyons, hills, native grasses and trees, it’s well-framed for a relatively secluded feel.
Overall, Oak Valley has a more “lush” feel than the canyon style courses found throughout this area.
There are many great holes at Oak Valley. For whatever reason, the one I remember most from my only other visit was the 3rd. It’s a really fun par-3 with a severely elevated tee box and a great open view of the valley overlooking the freeway.
The 11th is also a fantastic par-3 with water in play on the right. It’s a pretty intimidating tee shot as it’s relatively long and there’s not a lot of room for error.
Other notable holes include the stretch of 15, 16 and 17, which are all visually stunning and challenging designs.
This is definitely a tough test of your game. Accuracy is at a premium and distance is also a big factor. From the blue tees at Oak Valley, it plays at over 7,000 yards. We were a little fortunate yesterday because they had a lot of the back tees closed off in preparation for the Q School tournament. The guys we played with still hit from there, but we played the markers and most of them were moved up a little bit.
As for the design itself, I have nothing bad to say about Oak Valley. It’s a great course on all levels and deserves to be in the conversation about the Inland Empire’s best courses. It was unfortunate we caught it on such an unusually hectic day, but I know that’s not the norm here and I will definitely look forward to my next opportunity to play it again—sooner than later this time!
Some pictures from Oak Valley Golf Club (4/6/14):