Course Review: StoneRidge Country Club

To round out my Memorial Day weekend, I drove down toward San Diego to play this normally “private” course in Poway. StoneRidge Country Club was established in 1962 and features an old school Ted Robinson layout through the hills and neighborhoods.

I had noticed earlier this year the course was offering some limited public tee times through GolfNow, but they were available on Mondays only. Though I wanted to play the course, I knew it probably wasn’t worth taking a Monday off work just for it. So with the three-day holiday weekend at hand, I thought I’d give it a look. I didn’t expect to see any tee times available on the Monday holiday, but there they were! It was a real pleasant surprise and a perfectly convenient time to finally play the course.

I booked a 7:27 tee time for a walking rate of $35, which is a nice deal anywhere on the holiday. Because they offered a walking rate as an option online (which is rare) and I had seen some pretty flat parts of the course while driving by on the way to Maderas recently, I figured it would be a good round to walk. I don’t walk courses as much as I used to, but sometimes a little extra exercise is nice if the course isn’t too hilly.

Well, StoneRidge turned out to be much more hilly than I expected (especially the back nine), so I labored a bit to get around. But I survived and it was a very good workout. When I checked in, there weren’t too many people around the small clubhouse. The pro shop guy told me there would be another threesome joining me at my time, so I hit a few range balls to warm up and saw a couple of groups go off the first tee. Then, the guy came out at 7:15 and told me I could go ahead by myself if I wanted. I ended up playing through one of those groups on the 3rd hole, but never really pushed the other foursome of old dudes (all clearly members in carts who are used to playing a quick morning pace) as I sluggishly trudged up and down the steep hills on the back nine.

The front nine is about what I expected from StoneRidge. When you drive by parts of the course on Rancho Bernardo Road, you can see a couple of pretty flat and basic-looking holes. I knew from pictures on their website that it might be a little more interesting than that, but still nothing super exciting.

The front nine begins and ends with some slight hilly sections and there are a few interesting holes like the 8th, a par-4 that doglegs severely to the right for an uphill tee shot. The 9th is interesting in that it can be played as either a mid-length par-3 or a short par-4 depending on where they set the tees that day. Monday had it playing as a par-3, which made it a par-71 course. However, I think it would be more fun as a par-4 as it’s reachable for some and there’s a small pond guarding the front of the green to force a risk/reward decision for longer hitters.

I wasn’t really too blown away by the front nine, but it was fine. The back nine, however, kind of won me over with more of a roller coaster design through the hills. This side features plenty of major ups, downs and doglegs to put a premium on strategy and accuracy. This side reminded me of the best parts of Meadow Lake in Escondido (or perhaps a better version of that course) with hints of Balboa GC. For my Los Angeles area readers, I might liken it to Porter Valley CC, Knollwood or even LA Royal Vista. I think it encapsulates what makes these designs fun (and sometimes frustrating if you are off your game). If you don’t like the layouts of these courses, you might not care for StoneRidge.

The back nine at StoneRidge also features some nice scenery back in the hills, including a brief glimpse of Maderas Golf Club from the 15th green. I think it helped that the sun had come out by the time I made the turn, so the front naturally looked more gloomy and flawed compared to the back.

One of the more interesting holes here is the short par-4 14th, which is a slight dogleg right that plays straight downhill and is basically a blind shot from the tee. There’s a mirrored periscope up by the tee box to see when the group ahead of you clears the green because long hitters might want to go for it. Even average hitters can just about get to the green if they hit all the right slopes on the way down. Local knowledge would have been helpful here for me because I aimed further right than I needed to and caught the rough halfway down instead of the fairway.

The 18th is also a very nice finishing hole that’s similar in that it plays downhill all the way from tee to green. It’s longer than 14, though, but you can bite off a big chunk with a proper drive to catch the right slopes. Your second shot is then over a small pond that protects the front and left of the green. It’s a nice-looking approach view and it’s a very fun way to finish if you have a match (or money) on the line with your buddies.

The course was in decent shape. As I’ve been saying a lot this year, it’s “not necessarily super pretty, but it’s very playable.” The tee boxes were good and level, but the grass on several of them was a little too shaggy. The fairways were a splotchy mix of grasses (rye, bermuda, kikuyu all intertwined), but they were cut consistently and I always had good lies. The rough was more of a mixed bag. I was only in one fairway bunker. It had very soft, but heavy sand. The greens were the highlight. You could see the aeration happened a little while ago as you can still barely notice the “dots,” but the surfaces were very smooth and pretty quick. A member I talked with afterward told me they were running quite slow today, though, and normally are in the 12-13 range!

All in all, StoneRidge turned out to be worth the visit and the price was very reasonable for a normally private course on a holiday. The front nine is okay and the back nine is definitely more dramatic. Some people won’t like the “target” aspects of the design or the severe slopes of the back nine that can be tricky for a first-time player that is unfamiliar with the course, but I found it to be equally fun and challenging on that side. I probably wouldn’t take a Monday off from work just to play StoneRidge, but I’m glad I got to check it out.

Some pictures from StoneRidge Country Club (5/26/14):

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