Short Course Blitz #3: The Port is Calling

On Sunday, I embarked on another of my Short Course Blitzes, with a few rounds in the Long Beach/Peninsula/Port of Los Angeles region. Not really sure how else to categorize it geographically.

After a long day of golf and driving in the desert Saturday, I enjoyed sleeping in Sunday morning. I got a later start than normal, but still made the most of the afternoon…

Harbor Park Golf Course • Wilmington, CA • 10/19/14

I booked a 12:24 tee time here, which was a GolfNow “hot deal” for $17. I think the normal weekend 9-hole walking rate at Harbor Park is $18.50, so this price was a little cheaper than that and also included a cart.

I showed up early in the hopes they might be able to squeeze me out sooner as a single. When I arrived, there was a threesome teeing off and then a long gap before anyone else went off. The next group was a twosome and I asked the starter if I could play with them because I could see a lot of other people milling around the first tee waiting for their time to go. Alas, the guy told me his supervisor would not allow it and I must play with the GolfNow group at 12:24.

It was a little painful waiting as after that twosome, several groups of senior fivesomes went off. Ultimately, the starter did let me go out one group ahead of my scheduled time, as part of a threesome behind those big groups. Gee, thanks!

I don’t want to complain too much because I booked a specific pre-paid tee time and they didn’t have to let me off early. However, when there are plenty of openings, I don’t see the harm in it. I get away with this approach all the time as a single booking pre-paid deal times, so every once in awhile it backfires!

Oh well. Though we waited on all our shots, the actual pace wasn’t all that bad at 2 hours, 15 minutes. Not too bad for a Sunday afternoon here. I can tell this place gets a lot of play like most LA muni courses.

Harbor Park is a 9-hole course, but regulation in length with a traditional set of two par-3s and two par-5s. From the blue tees, it plays to a moderate 3,155 yards total.

The course starts off with a few really boring holes and kind of sets the tone for a pretty basic, no frills round of golf. However, the 4th hole is a pretty fun one as a short risk/reward dogleg left. Then the 5th is a nice par-5 with a good-looking downhill approach. The 6th is an interesting par-3 with a semi-blind tee shot over some brush to an elevated green. And then the 7th is another nice par-4 that features one of the more narrow fairways on the course.

That stretch keeps the course from being a total snooze fest. I don’t want to pump it up too much because it’s still not that enthralling, but it was more interesting than I expected after the first few holes.

Harbor Park was in decent overall shape. The greens are all but healed from the recent aeration. I could see temporary greens cut on most holes, too, so I’m not sure if they were using those in the midst of maintenance. The actual greens were soft, slow and a bit bumpy at times, but not too bad and there were not nearly as many unrepaired ball marks as I would have expected at a muni course like this.

The tee boxes fine and the fairways were mostly pretty lush and green. There were some mushy spots throughout and some thin sections here and there, but overall as good as I’d hope for here. The rough was more hit and miss with some really thick patches and some bare spots, too. I wasn’t in a bunker, so no comments there.

Harbor Park was a little better than I hoped, but still not interesting enough to make it more than just a “one and done” for me. It’s just far enough away and the crowds are definitely a deterrent for just a 9-hole course.

Some pictures from Harbor Park Golf Course (10/19/14):

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While out on the Peninsula, I took advantage of the opportunity to play the next little course. And I do mean “little”…

Sea-Aire Golf Course • Torrance, CA • 10/19/14

I really knew very little about this course, but was under the impression is was a pretty small “pitch and putt.” Well, there are pitch and putt courses and then there’s Sea-Aire! You might even categorize this as a “chip and putt” it feels so tiny.

It’s the kind of course you wouldn’t even know was there even if you lived a few blocks away from it. The parking lot on top of the hill is small and cramped. There is a little park/playground there and then the 9-hole course is tightly packed into a very small property on a little hillside. It’s all very “cute.”

The nine par-3 holes play to a whopping total yardage of 510 yards. The longest hole is 84 yards, but it does play uphill, so it’s the only one that makes you work a little. Otherwise, it’s just abbreviated swings with a sand wedge.

You hit from some pretty beat up old mats and then the “greens” are just tiny circles of shaved-down grass. It’s as bare bones as you can get, but it’s there to offer a little bit of fun and/or practice for novice players. I saw a few folks out there and they were having a good time.

The price seemed a little steep at $11. I’m not really sure if that was for just nine holes or for unlimited play. That might change my perception of the value, but I just played nine and was on my way. In fact, I think the whole round only took about 20 minutes!

Some pictures from Sea-Aire Golf Course (10/19/14):

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Last but certainly not least was probably the most entertaining course I played all weekend…

Bixby Village Golf Course • Long Beach, CA • 10/19/14

To me, Bixby Village represents everything that a short course should be. It is pure fun. In some ways it’s pretty easy. It’s not long, so if you play it smart and hit good shots, you can go really low. In other ways it can be a little challenging, because bad shots are often punished and a big score can creep up on you quickly.

I got there around 4:00 and was teeing off a few minutes later alongside another single. The price was $10.50 to walk nine holes, but they do have carts for rent at $10 if you prefer. I didn’t see anyone on the course using a cart as it’s a good walkable layout. I played with the single for the first three holes on one side of the street and then he stopped after that.

I crossed the street and met up with another twosome on the 4th tee. Things had backed up by that point, so it helped playing with a couple other guys the rest of the way. The total pace was about 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Bixby Village is a par-29 executive layout with three short par-4s that all offer some risk/reward options and then a good mix of par-3s that range anywhere from 105 yards up to 189.

The course has a nice overall “look” to it, which was aided by the beautiful “magic hour” lighting late in the day that definitely masked some of the conditioning flaws. There is a lot of mounding throughout the course to provide some contour and breaks that can be helpful or hurtful depending on which side you land on. There are some big, intricate bunkers, as well.

The story of Bixby Village, though, can really be told in the greens. They have some funky shapes and all sorts of slope and undulation to make them really fun and interesting.

One of the standout holes is the par-3 2nd, which is a short Pete Dye-inspired hole with a peanut-shaped green guarded by water and railroad ties in front. It’s a great-looking hole and a tough little tee shot.

The signature hole at Bixby is probably the par-3 6th. This is a short one at 105 yards, but it features one of the most interesting green complexes you’ll ever see. I’ve encountered a green with a sand trap located in the middle at The Golf Club of California in Fallbrook and of course the most famous one like this is at Riviera Country Club.

The one at Bixby Village caught me by surprise. From the tee, it just looked like a basic green because I was focusing on the flag location. As we walked up, I noticed there was a whole lot more to it. It’s basically a big donut shape and then in the middle is a pretty significant volcano-esque bunker. It’s pure wackiness, but such a great design feature on a course that is clearly meant to be all about having a fun experience.

The par-4 8th hole is a tricky one that’s a severe dogleg right and I would like to play it several more times to figure out how I need to approach it. I thought I hit a perfect fade here, but ended up in some deep rough with an obscured angle to the green over some trees.

The course was in decent overall shape. A little rough around the edges, but mostly good enough playability. The tee boxes were fine, the fairways were decent and the rough was hit or miss. The greens were a bit bumpy and a little slow, but not too bad. The bunkers were a tad thin, but manageable. Overall, it probably looked better from a distance than up close and personal, but I was having fun and didn’t care too much.

I don’t plan to revisit too many of these short courses a second time once I check them off the list, but I would be surprised if I didn’t make it a point to come back to Bixby Village again. This is a cool short course with reasonable rates and plenty of good people working and playing there. It’s worth checking out. Just set your expectations accordingly and enjoy the ride.

Some pictures from Bixby Village Golf Course (10/19/14):

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