A Little Bit of Fun Before My Big Milestone

Tonight, I am heading out to Las Vegas in preparation for a very special round tomorrow. But more on that later. For now, I have a couple rounds to get caught up on…

Tustin Ranch Golf Club • Tustin, CA • 8/22/14

I was able to finagle a half-day off of work yesterday in order to join in with a small group from Greenskeeper.org. The special event was the final match in this year’s GK Cup match play tournament. I got bounced in the first round robin group play this year, but I was still excited to be there as a witness for this year’s winner. Dconnally defeated rgm2525 (3 &2) in a battle of “Fire vs. Ice.” Congratulations to David for the victory and to Ron for making the finals.

I actually played in the first of two groups, with that match happening directly behind us. We were able to work out a very favorable $60 rate, which is about as good as you’ll ever do at Tustin Ranch when it’s not your birthday. In fact, on my birthdays are the only other times I’ve played here.

You can read last year’s birthday round review from Tustin Ranch Golf Club if you want to know my thoughts about the course design. I am writing this brief updated review is to bring attention to the GK Cup (any Greenskeeper.org member can join, so be ready to sign up for the next one). Also, I just wanted to speak about the current conditions and show some updated pictures. In the past, I’ve only played early in the morning with heavy overcast skies, so it was nice to get some pictures on a sunny summer afternoon.

The course was in pretty good shape. Pretty much what I am used to playing this course in August in years past with things a little dried out. The tee boxes were good, but there was some sort of fertilizer or something on the turf that left a powdery residue all over my driver head. The fairways were mostly great—a little dappled in color and some thin spots here and there, but I mostly had excellent lies in the tight summer bermuda that I love to hit from. The rough was more hit and miss. It’s an odd hodge podge of kikuyu, rye and bermuda, so you never quite know what lie you are going to get. Sometimes it’s just bare dirt, too, amidst our drought. Still, I would say more good than bad.

The greens were very soft and rolling at medium speeds. They were definitely the slowest I’ve ever encountered here, so you could actually stop your ball if putting over one of the giant shelves to a front pin. The bunkers seemed about evenly split. They either had soft, beautiful white sand or regular brown sand. I found three bunkers on the day (two greenside, one fairway) and they were all of the white variety. Those I thought were excellent, but I can’t speak for the others. Either way, it would be nicer if they all matched.

Speaking of the bunkers, perhaps the greatest things at Tustin Ranch right now are the rakes. Man, these things are nice! They are really big, long and sturdy, so you can rake up after yourself with the greatest of ease. I wish all courses would shell out a few extra bucks for rakes like these.

We had a really fun day out there and the price was right. I love coming here on my birthday because the staff is always great and the facilities are excellent, but their normal rates are just too much. It will never be my favorite layout around, but it’s fine and there are a handful of holes (mostly on the back nine) that I do really like (numbers 2, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 18 come to mind). Obviously, I feel the same about most Orange County courses that are vastly overpriced, but it is what it is and Tustin Ranch seems to be doing just fine catering to a higher-end clientele.

Some pictures from Tustin Ranch Golf Club (8/22/14):

This morning, I had a little “administrative” Golf Nomad work to take care of before I could hit the road to Vegas this afternoon (after my fantasy football draft, which is always a priority).

Tomorrow, I will be playing my 500th different course. However, I had to squeeze in #499 this morning. I wanted to play as early as possible. I wanted to play as close to home as possible. I wanted it to be relatively inexpensive. And, of course, I needed it to be a course I’ve never played before. Knowing I couldn’t work out any private course invites on such short notice, a local short course was in order…

Heartwell Golf Course • Long Beach, CA • 8/23/14

I’ve always heard pretty good things about this par-3, 18-hole course. Somehow, though, I’ve never played it until now. It couldn’t have worked out better!

I got there around 5:45 when it was still fairly dark out, but I walked right on and was teeing of a few minutes later by myself. This course has lights, so they open early and close late. I played the first few holes under the lights before the sun started to come out. I played through a couple of twosomes on the front nine, but otherwise zipped around in about an hour and 15 minutes.

The price was a very reasonable $18 for walking 18 holes. A buck a hole is always okay with me!

There isn’t anything too noteworthy or exciting about the layout at Heartwell. It’s a fine “pitch and putt” par-3 design that is fun without being terribly challenging. Visually, it feels like a simpler, miniature version of El Dorado Park just down the street. The terrain is flat and lined with plenty of trees (which will come into play with a bad shot). The greens are small and pretty basic without much slope or undulation. What you see is what  you get, so take aim at the flag and fire away.

Probably the nicest holes here are the 14th and 18th, which are next to each other and play over a little pond. The holes range from 85 yards up to 140, so you’ll be using short irons and wedges all the way around.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good a shape the course was in. Some tee boxes were way too chewed up and sandy, but everything else leading up to and around the greens was fairly lush and well maintained. In fact, I think these are some of the nicest fringes I’ve seen all summer! The greens were super soft in the morning and there were too many old, unrepaired ball marks, but they rolled relatively well at medium speeds. I was in one bunker, which was very damp, but the sand seemed decent enough. All in all, things were quite well kept for a basic par-3 course.

Heartwell is ideal for beginners or anyone looking to get out and work on their short game skills. The prices are reasonable and the conditions are well above average for its class, so it serves its purpose very well. The lights and long hours are helpful, as well. Other than the first green, which was pretty dark, the rest of the course seemed relatively well lit around the tees and greens.

Some pictures from Heartwell Golf Course (8/23/14):

(I didn’t get too many good pictures because it was so dark and the lights really didn’t jive with my camera early on, so most of these pictures are from the back nine.)

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