The Long and Short of North San Diego County

Saturday found me in North San Diego County, but it wasn’t an all-day adventure. I’ve been running myself a little ragged lately, so it was nice to still get in plenty of golf without wiping out my whole weekend.

The first stop was a course I had played before, but have never reviewed on this site…

Marine Memorial Golf Course • Camp Pendleton, CA • 9/20/14

This was my second time here. My friend and I decided it was a good option for a Saturday morning round. The prices are reasonable here and you generally won’t have to deal with quite the crowds that you will on most other SoCal courses.

We booked a 7:37 time and were paired with a couple of nice guys. I ended up taking a cart while my friend walked, so it was $53 for me, a few bucks extra as a single rider. The pace was great as we never really pushed the group ahead of us and the group behind us never got close, so we finished in under four hours.

Marine Memorial is a nice overall layout and is located on the Camp Pendleton USMC base, which is one reason it doesn’t draw huge crowds. It is open to the public, though, and easy to get in the base gates with a valid ID (i.e., driver’s license for us civilians). Of course, military personnel and veterans will get a better price than us regular folks and rightfully so.

Like most military courses in Southern California, the layout of Marine Memorial is relatively straightforward and there isn’t a huge amount of trouble to get into. There are no water hazards and only a couple stretches where out of bounds might come into play with a really bad drive. And like most military courses, its main defense is that it plays pretty long at over 6,800 yards from the blues and 6,400+ from the whites. Like we did at General Old Golf Course a couple weeks ago, we played the blues and it may have been a bit too lengthy for my game as I was hitting 3-wood into most greens. Well, trying to anyway!

They did have the par-3 blue tees on the back nine playing up with the whites, so that was one bit of a break for me.

I do like the setting of this course as it is very secluded with no homes around. It plays within a little valley and both nines go out and back in each direction. Wind is often a factor here and the valley itself creates a bit of a “wind tunnel” effect with most holes playing either directly into the breeze or with it. It wasn’t windy on Saturday morning, but the other time I played here was in the afternoon and it was a 1-2 club difference.

There are some holes I like here including the dogleg right par-4 3rd and the only significant elevation change on the course, which is the par-4 11th. It features an elevated tee and a shot over a hillside with a slight dogleg right in the fairway.

The course was in good overall shape, highlighted by the fairways. For the most part, they were great and I almost always had perfect lies on the kikuyu turf. The rough was more of a mixed bag, but it was mostly quite lush. There were some sections where it was super deep and brutal other other areas where it was more cut down and less of a factor. You never quite knew what you would get, so it was best to try and avoid altogether. The bunkers looked a bit crusty, but the ones I was in had decent sand.

The greens were mostly good, rolling at medium speeds. I did notice a couple that had some damage. The 1st green had some big brown patches and areas still under repair. The 18th had a big spot that was a different color than the rest (repaired/replaced at some point?), but it didn’t affect play or the roll of the ball at all.

Overall, I would easily recommend Marine Memorial as a good option to consider in North SD County. When compared with its closest neighbors, I would say it’s similarly priced, but generally in better shape than Oceanside GC. It’s not as nice a course as Arrowood, but the rates are much more appealing.

Some pictures from Marine Memorial Golf Course (9/20/14):

After finishing the main round, I hung out to play the Leatherneck Nine course that is located on the small hillside next to the driving range. Last time I was here, I don’t even think I noticed there was this little pitch and putt course. It was just $5 to play and is technically a course (they even have a scorecard for it), so I figured I’d knock it out.

It didn’t appear anyone was on the course, but when I walked up to the first tee there was a group of five teeing off. They were hitting all over the place, but thankfully let me through. I walked all nine in less than a half-hour. By that time, they hadn’t even reached the 2nd green yet!

There really isn’t much to note about the Leatherneck par-3 course. The longest hole is 105 yards, but it plays straight downhill. So you really don’t need to bring more than a wedge and a putter. The greens are tiny, slow and bumpy, but the other parts of the course were pretty well maintained.

This course is there as a good warm up round, a place to work on your short game or to bring a beginner player. That’s about it.

Some pictures from Marine Memorial Golf Course (Leatherneck Nine) (9/20/14):

I had thoughts of knocking out 2-3 more short courses in the area, but I really wasn’t feeling that great and didn’t feel like spending the whole day out in the sun. I did go ahead and play one more quick round, though…

Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club • Carlsbad, CA • 9/20/14

I didn’t expect too much from this par-3 course, but I’ll try anything once. Playing here reminded me of why I originally didn’t make it a goal to include all the “short” courses on my Southern California checklist. I have nothing against par-3 courses, executives and 9-holers because that’s what I grew up playing and most of them serve their purpose very well. Some of them, though, just aren’t worth the hassle.

I suppose Rancho Carlsbad is okay for what it is as an 18-hole par-3 course within the small gated community where it is. I’m sure if I lived in this neighborhood, I’d come out every so often to hit the ball around. The holes range from 75 yards up to about 150, but most are on the shorter side. There’s a few fun holes hitting over a little creek, but nothing too noteworthy.

The greens here are small, relatively firm and most are crowned right in the middle, which makes them very hard to hold. The set-up of the greens kind of ruined the fun of a short par-3 course to me. For beginners, I could see it being a little too frustrating if the greens don’t hold good shots. For us experienced players, the appeal of a course like this is to fire away at the pins to try and stick it real close on all these short, simple holes. Though I was hitting the ball pretty well, I only stayed on a handful of greens in regulation. I will say I was having fun (and success) chipping aggressively here after missing the greens!

The course was in mediocre shape. Most tee boxes were pretty chewed up, but the greens were decent enough—rolling at medium speeds and pretty smooth because their firmness wasn’t resulting in many ball marks that might normally go unrepaired on a course like this. The rest of the course was pretty dried out, patchy and ugly.

The price was $22 to walk 18 holes, which seemed like too much for this course. It wasn’t too crowded and I finished in a little over an hour, so that worked out well.

One other important thing to note about Rancho Carlsbad is that it also features an 18-hole foot golf course. This is becoming more of a trend, but this is the first time I’ve seen the two courses so intertwined. Basically, each hole here doubles as a foot golf hole, but the actual bigger foot golf holes are located off to the side of the normal greens and don’t affect play for regular golf.

Where it does affect play is if there are foot golfers and regular golfers out on the course at the same time. I played through one sixsome of foot golfers on the front nine and it was a little awkward, like skiers and snowboarders fighting over the same runs. I will say foot golf does look kind of fun, but I’d rather the courses not be so intertwined. It’s confusing in terms of course etiquette and perhaps a bit dangerous, too, especially on a course that is set up for beginners of either form of golf.

Some pictures from Rancho Carlsbad Golf Club (9/20/14):

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