The Inland Empire Strikes Back

Saturday found me driving around the Inland Empire in search of some new golf. I had an afternoon round planned with a friend at Glen Ivy Golf Club, but I used the morning to check out a couple more short courses on my list.

As usual, I got started nice and early…

North Golf Course • Sun City, CA • 10/11/14

Note: This course is now closed.

I booked a 6:35 tee time through GolfNow ($29 with cart), but ended up teeing off a few minutes after that. When I checked in, the pro shop guy told me I’d be out second and the two older gentlemen in front of me didn’t seem too interested in letting me go off first. On a course like this that gets so much play from its community residents, I didn’t want to shake up any routines, so I just hung back.

I caught them on the second tee and they offered to let me join them or to stay behind and play it slow. I found it a little odd they wouldn’t let me play through, so I ended up joining them. It turns out they come out most Saturday mornings to help “open” the course while playing. They move the tee markers to new spots, unlock the bathrooms and empty the trash cans while they play. I still don’t think me playing in front of them would have made a difference, but I didn’t question it and just went along with the plan. It was a little awkward at first, but we settled into a rhythm and still finished at a quick pace of a little over two hours.

The course itself isn’t anything too exciting. It is a full 18-hole executive layout and plays to a par of 61. It is connected with the Sun City “active adult” community, but open for public play. It is just north of the other Sun City course, California Golf & Art Club (still the dumbest course name anywhere), which I played many years ago and am in no rush to visit again. I don’t know if the two courses are technically related or perhaps were at some point, but I don’t care enough to research it further.

The funny thing is if you blindfolded me and dropped me off on North Golf Course, and then asked what it reminded me most of, I would have said it felt like a shorter version of California Golf & Art. It is a similarly basic course. It’s not horrible, but there isn’t much detail to go into.

As an executive, it does have a decent mix of hole lengths. There are a couple par-4s in the 390-yard range and a few of the par-3s play upwards of 185 yards. The greens are quite small and can be difficult to hold, but they do not feature much slope or undulation, so once you are on the surfaces, putts aren’t too hard to figure out.

The course was in okay shape. The tee boxes were fine, though they had the back tees closed for maintenance on most holes and some were playing up with the reds. The fairways seemed to be all or nothing. The good parts were very good and the bad parts were pretty bad. Probably 60% great and 40% thin/bare spots. The rough was even more hit or miss. The greens were decent and rolling at medium speeds. The were pretty terrible with what little sand there was pretty damp and compacted in the morning.

With a price tag of almost $30, I’d probably rather pay a little more and opt for something more interesting. North is well suited for the Sun City community residents as a senior-friendly layout and would be a good “intermediate” course to take a newer player to who has outgrown pitch and putts but is not quite ready for regulation.

Some pictures from North Golf Course (10/11/14):

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Because I didn’t get out first at North, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to squeeze in another nine before meeting my friend at Glen Ivy. Still, I had time to kill, so I decided to at least do a drive-by of this next course and see what it looked like…

Cottonwood Golf Center • Moreno Valley, CA • 10/11/14

I only recently learned of this course’s existence once I started listing out all the short courses I needed to play in SoCal. When I arrived, it actually looked better than I expected and there weren’t too many people out. I decided to give it a shot.

It was $11 to walk the nine holes. I jumped out right before a fivesome, but it only took a few holes before I caught some people. I went a little nuts jumping over to play holes 7-9 and then back for the middle stretch so as not to run into anyone. It was a very inefficient route I took, but it worked out and I was able to finish as quickly as I needed to.

The scorecard lists Cottonwood as a par-27 course with all par-3 holes. However, the 3rd hole is actually a 240-ish short par-4 according to the tee box sign. I’m not sure why the scorecard is different, but it is what it is. The scorecard also lists a blue set of tees, but none exist on the course. The rest of the par-3s (from the whites) range from 124 yards up to 145. The 8th and 9th play along a little pond and are definitely the most interesting holes, though “interesting” is a relative word.

Cottonwood is a pretty basic beginner/practice course, so I won’t criticize the layout too much. Like a lot of these short courses I’ve been playing, it serves its purpose fine enough.

It was in okay shape. The greens were decent enough and the tee boxes were a bit chewed up, but I always tee it up, so that wasn’t an issue. Otherwise, the areas in between are a mixed bag of grass quality, so you get what you get if you miss a green. Some patches are good, others are pretty terrible, so you just have to make it work.

Some pictures from Cottonwood Golf Center (10/11/14):

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I was hoping I might squeeze in one more nine after we finished at Glen Ivy, but that did not happen thanks to one of the slowest and most exhausting rounds I’ve ever had to play…

Glen Ivy Golf Club • Glen Ivy, CA • 10/11/14

We had an 11:20 tee time that we booked through TeeOff.com. My friend used a 30% off promo code, so it ended up being around $35 each and that’s a great deal for this course on a weekend. It was packed when I arrived and we learned they were running quite a bit behind.

Things were a bit disorganized and chaotic with everyone waiting for the starter to get them out. With the putting green and driving range located nowhere near the starter booth, everyone just kind of hung around that area impatiently. The communication was lacking all around, so we were afraid to stray too far away. Finally, a little before noon we got the call and headed to the first tee.

So, we were 35 minutes late to start and then the on-course pace didn’t get any better with two tournament groups having gone out in the morning ahead of us. We waited on every shot and it was pretty brutal, finishing well over 5.5 hours after we started. So, counting the delay to even get started, I consider that more than a six hour round! That is unacceptable at a course like this. We were just glad we didn’t pay the full weekend rate here, which is usually twice as much as what we did pay.

This was just one of those crazy days where everything seemed extra haywire. We were paired with two obnoxious guys who didn’t understand the concept of “ready golf.” I’m all for ready golf to keep things moving, but these guys were always hitting out of turn unnecessarily and sometimes simultaneously as one of us. They both had the slowest set up routines and addresses, which was excruciating to watch. Frankly, they were just unpleasant all around and that didn’t help the experience being stuck with them for such a long round.

Let’s see, what else? Tom’s Farms next door had their annual Civil War reenactment going on, so there was gunfire and really loud cannon booms going off as we tried to play. When we finished, we almost decimated two different wedding parties who were blocking the cart paths between the 18th green and the clubhouse.

It was indeed a nutty day out there.

The course didn’t look its prettiest with a lot of brown spots. However, the playability was mostly very good. The tight bermuda fairways were a little dappled in color and provided plenty of roll-out, but my lies were always perfect and great to hit from. The rough was pretty cut down and dormant in some spots. Other spots were a bit patchy and clumpy with different grasses growing in. Overall, I thought the back nine seemed a little greener and nicer than the front, but that may just be because I played better after the turn.

The bunkers were decent, but there were some unraked footprints in a few of them. I thought the greens were great. They were very receptive on approaches and rolling pretty well at good speeds. They got a little bumpy as the day went on, but were good overall.

One other thing we found annoying was that they were working on the back two sets of tees on every hole, so the blacks, blues and whites were all grouped together on the forward box. So, basically everyone plays the whites right now.

On a positive note, I do enjoy the Glen Ivy layout. It’s not overly difficult (especially from the whites), but it offers enough challenge and diversity to keep things interesting. The layout and scenery aren’t quite as dramatic as Eagle Glen or Champions Club up the road, yet it is still a very nice setting for golf.

Glen Ivy does finish on a very strong note. I think holes 14-18 are a great stretch to end on. The 14th is a good, long par-3 over water. The 15th is a short, but fun par-4 with probably the most difficult green on the course. The 16th is a great downhill par-4 that doglegs right. Unfortunately, the big water hazard next to the green is completely drained and ugly. With water there, it’s a very nice-looking approach.

The 17th is a nice par-3 set back in the hills. And then the 18th is Glen Ivy’s claim to fame with a severely elevated tee and a massive 250-foot drop to the wide fairway below. Then the approach is over water to a pretty well-protected green. It is definitely a fun way to finish the round.

I’d generally recommend Glen Ivy if you get the right price. I do feel Saturday’s craziness was a bit of an anomaly with so many random things adding up to a poor experience, but it will make me a bit more gun shy next time I am considering booking a Saturday tee time there.

Some pictures from Glen Ivy Golf Club (10/11/14):

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