The Heat is On in the Inland Empire

Sunday found me playing another triple-dip in the Inland Empire, but it wasn’t quite as hardcore as the last one as two of the rounds were on local “short” courses. That said, the triple-digit heat made it a pretty long day.

The main event for the day was a round at Canyon Crest Country Club as part of an SCGA member outing. That started at 9:00, so a friend and I had a little time to squeeze in a warm-up round nearby…

Fairmount Golf Course • Riverside, CA • 9/14/14

I was aware of this course having seen bits of it from the 60 freeway, but really didn’t know too much about it. It is a 9-hole design, but regulation length at 3,221 yards from the blue tees and 6,028 from the whites—playing to a standard par of 36.

I had booked a tee time at 6:30, which was the earliest they let me reserve. However, we showed up earlier to get out as quickly as possible, ideally going off first. That plan worked out perfectly as we were the first two off a little after 6:00. The price was $20 with a cart, though this would be an easy walking course.

Fairmount features a pretty basic layout in a flat parkland setting. Fairmount Park itself was bigger than I realized and flows into a pretty cool old neighborhood.

There isn’t anything too memorable about the course itself, but it’s a solid layout and certainly isn’t a pushover, especially when things are pretty wet and shaggy early in the morning.

The hole that definitely stands out the most (especially if you play the blue tees) is the par-3 2nd. It was still a little dark by the time we played this hole, so it looked even longer than the 217 yards it is. We weren’t even sure if we were looking at the correct green because of how far away it seemed and how narrow the approach was. In fact, you might even be able to consider this a very rare dogleg par-3 as there are some trees short right of the green that you definitely have to go over or around depending on your shot shape.

The course was in solid shape I thought. It was very green, which was nice to see, but definitely looked better from a distance than up close in some areas. The fairways were a bit shaggy and had some small patches of this weedy crabgrass (I’m not sure what it is). Still, I mostly had decent lies. The rough was okay enough and not too much of a factor. The greens were soft and slow, but the surfaces were relatively smooth. I wasn’t in a bunker, so no comments there.

There isn’t much else to say about Fairmount. It’s convenient, it’s relatively inexpensive and it serves its purpose as a solid locals’ course in the middle of Riverside. It’s better than you might think, but it’s still not worth going too far out of your way for.

Some pictures from Fairmount Golf Course (9/14/14):

We ate a pretty good breakfast up the street at Riviera Family Restaurant, which is a pretty classic old diner with a friendly staff and traditional food.

From there, we headed down to our main stop for the day…

Canyon Crest Country Club • Riverside, CA • 9/14/14

I didn’t know too much about this course, but it was a no-brainer to sign up for this outing. It’s rare that they have these outings on weekends, especially on the normally private clubs, and the price was excellent at just $55.

Of course, by the time we started at 9:00, the Inland Empire was already ablaze with 100+ degree temperatures. It was a shotgun start and our group, which included a couple other new “golf nomad” friends who share my passion for road trips and course variety, started on the 15th hole. Unfortunately, the pace was a bit slow at just under 5 hours, so it was pretty brutal in the stifling heat.

Brenda, who runs these outings, was going around to make sure everyone had fresh ice and water, so we appreciated that as it was important to stay hydrated and cool.

Beyond the heat and slow play, I ended up really liking this course a lot. It has a nice old school Inland Empire kind of feel that’s different from a lot of the more modern “canyon” style courses that popped up in the past 20 years. Most of the course winds through a residential area, but it wasn’t too much of a deterrent other than one stretch that runs along some ugly old apartment/condo buildings. Most of the houses around the course are pretty nice.

The big story at Canyon Crest right now is the amount of downed trees. There was a freak storm that rolled through this area last week and brought some flooding and even hurricane-force winds in Riverside. It definitely left its mark on Canyon Crest with dozens of trees having been completely uprooted and others with massive branches completely broken off.

It’s one of those things that really gets to you when looking at the devastation up close and personal. I’m sure some of those trees were there for a long, long time and have seen all sorts of wind, so for one brief storm to do so much damage is mind-boggling. We could even see where a couple of big trees fell on neighboring houses and did some major damage.

They are going to have their work cut out for them removing all these fallen trees, stumps and branches over the next couple months, but I am glad to say the course was in good shape otherwise. Any area around those fallen trees was considered a temporary GUR, so they didn’t affect play much. It is just kind of sad to see so many trees lost on a nice old course like this.

Canyon Crest is hillier and more interesting than I expected and there’s still plenty of trees in play. It’s a nice overall design with a good mix of holes. Uphill, downhill, doglegs, water hazards—it has all the classic features in play to keep you challenged and entertained.

The 17th hole stands out as a dogleg left par-4 with an extremely elevated tee view. Longer hitters will go right over the trees on the corner for a short approach in.

The 1st hole is memorable as the #1 handicap hole doglegging left around a big water hazard and then having a creek cutting in front of the green, as well, to force a good approach. It’s rare to see one of the toughest holes on the course as the opening hole. We lucked out a little with the shotgun start as we got a few holes under our belts before reaching the 1st.

The 4th is the signature par-3 playing along that same big water hazard for a somewhat intimidating tee shot.

Overall, I really enjoyed Canyon Crest and would definitely recommend it to anyone if you get an opportunity to play it. They do have another SCGA member outing there on Saturday, November 1, so that’s another great chance to play it on a weekend at a great price. By then, they should have a lot of the tree damage cleaned up, too, so it may be even nicer.

Some pictures from Canyon Crest Country Club (9/14/14):

Though the heat and long round drained some energy out of us, my friend and I still had thoughts of playing a third round. We decided to drive over to the next course just to scope things out and decide if we had it in us…

Colton Golf Club • Colton, CA • 9/14/14

I really only wanted to play if the course was wide open. I figured we had a good chance of that on such a brutally hot afternoon. That turned out to be the case as there were only a couple other players out there when we arrived.

The price was $18 for 18 holes with a cart. This is an executive layout with three short par-4s in the mix, so the total par is 57. Otherwise, it is a good mix of hole lengths on the par-3s, ranging from 107 yards up to 202. So it’s a great little course to work on almost all aspects of your game.

Colton Golf Club was actually designed by famed architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. You wouldn’t really know that playing there as there isn’t anything too dynamic about it in person, but it is an interesting little fact. Some of the holes blend together somewhat, but there are a couple of nice ones including the 4th and 5th, which play over small water hazards.

This is the kind of course where you can just relax and have fun trying to fire at the pins. It’s a good set-up for beginners or to work on your short game. It doesn’t pretend to be much more than this and it doesn’t need to be.

The course was in okay shape. The tee boxes were way too shaggy. They had decent grass coverage, but just needed to be cut down since it’s thick, grabby kikuyu. The fairway areas are a little dried out, but decent enough where they come into play. Some sections of rough (especially around the greens) were super, duper deep and you really had to watch your ball to keep from losing it. Other areas were pretty bare, so you never knew what you might get. I wasn’t in a bunker, but my friend found a couple and the sand looked pretty nice except for the unfortunate amount of unraked footprints.

The small-sized greens were soft and rolling slow, but pretty smooth. I thought they were good and set up for aggressive shots, which is ideal for this course.

I’m sure if I lived nearby, I’d come out to Colton every so often for a quick, cheap and fun round, but like Fairmount, it’s definitely not worth going too far out of your way for.

Some pictures from Colton Golf Club (9/14/14):

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