Coastal Trip, Day 4: Time to Get Crazy

After 271 holes over the previous three days, playing just 18 on Sunday before heading home might seem like a bit of a letdown. I could have played more, but I opted to get home and watch the end of the wacky PGA Championship at Valhalla. I’m glad I did because that was highly entertaining watching them scramble to finish in the dark with some top golfers in the mix.

Plus, my Sunday morning round turned out to be a good end to a great trip…

The Club at Crazy Horse Ranch • Salinas, CA • 8/10/14

I had never heard of this course before seeing some tee times on GolfNow the week prior. I was already staying in Salinas, so it seemed like a convenient option. The reason I had never heard of it is because it used to be Salinas Golf & Country Club, which I was aware of before.

In fact, this is another course that was once private and has now decided to open to the public amidst a tough golf economy. I don’t know exactly why they decided to rename and rebrand the club, but I guess they have their reasons.

Though I still knew very little about the course, I decided to take the plunge. I booked a 7:10 tee time for $65. During other parts of my trip, I was talking with some of my playing partners about other courses I planned to play. Almost all of them lit up when I mentioned Crazy Horse Ranch. They seemed excited about the fact this place was no longer exclusively private and they really started to get me intrigued.

Well, I sure am glad I did take the chance at Crazy Horse Ranch. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, probably ranking only behind Black Horse as the one I liked best.

Though they do offer public tee times, the vibe around here still feels fairly private. I got the feeling I was the only non-member out there early in the morning and the guy working the pro shop was nice and welcoming. Things seemed pretty casual with the early tee times, so I ended up going off by myself behind a couple groups of regulars. Of course, I caught them and played through on the front nine, so I enjoyed my own quick pace after that and had a hell of a time.

I guess I had my own misconceived views of Salinas as the town’s never been much more than a pit stop to me along various road trips. I see flat, open farmland and wouldn’t expect such a top-notch course. Nor would I have expected such a hilly Jack Fleming design peppered with neat old trees that oftentimes reminded me of a shorter, tighter version of Hunter Ranch. There are a handful of holes some people might deem a little too funky, but that’s their problem.

That is primarily the front nine at Crazy Horse Ranch, which is very narrow and hilly with some really tricky holes. The overall yardage is not long, topping out at 6,106 from the blue tees. By the way, they’ve fully embraced the horse theme here. The tee markers are colored horseshoes and the tees are named for the country’s most famous races. Blue = Triple Crown. White = Belmont. Red = Derby. Gold = Preakness.

The highlight of the front nine is surely the par-3 5th with a straight downhill shot that is protected all the way down the hill by some big trees. It’s equally fun and intimidating.

The back nine flattens out, but also offers some strong and interesting holes. The back-to-back par-4s of 14 and 15 are good ones, though they were extra tough for me Sunday morning. Things were so damp out that early that there was absolutely no roll-out on any drives. These are both tricky dogleg right holes that require a pretty decent tee shot to clear the corners. In both cases, I was left short and had no real angle in because of the trees on the corner.

Other than being so soggy, the course was in exceptional shape all the way around. I guess in Salinas where there are so many successful farmers, they really know how to keep things lush and green. There’s no need to go into specifics because everything was beautiful. On that same note, I happened to drive by the other local course (Salinas Fairways) and was impressed at how green it looked, too.

I don’t think the secret’s completely out yet at Crazy Horse Ranch, but it is a great option in this area (especially if they are able to maintain such great conditions over the long term). I’m sure the longtime members will prefer to keep that secret safe, but it’s a sign of the times and I’m sure glad I went and played it.

Some pictures from The Club at Crazy Horse Ranch (8/10/14):

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