On Monday, I had the opportunity to play this great course with another SCGA member outing. The price was $80 (which included a pretty decent BBQ spread at the turn) and the weather was absolutely gorgeous on a crisp fall morning in South Orange County.
Dove Canyon is a nice high-end community right next to Coto de Caza in the Rancho Santa Margarita area. It features this beautiful Jack Nicklaus signature course and a pretty fancy clubhouse with top-notch member amenities.
I’ve been on an odd run of Nicklaus Design courses lately, including the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course and Aliso Viejo CC. In fact, as you are reading this I am out in the Las Vegas area, where I have two more Nicklaus courses lined up for the weekend. It’s really just an odd coincidence, but it’s been fun to check out a variety of Golden Bear options.
As I mentioned, the weather was just perfect when my group teed off around 8:00. Sometimes these SCGA events can drag on, but the pace Saturday was good and we finished in just over four hours. It was ideal. I was paired up with two of the guys I played with last week at Aliso Viejo, and it’s safe to say all of us were much more impressed with Dove Canyon. I liked both, but Dove is more memorable and dramatic.
The course winds through a canyon. Much of the front nine is bordered by houses, but they aren’t right on top of the course and don’t detract too much from the scenery. The back nine has fewer houses around it as parts of the course run along the edge of some National Forest land that is obviously safe from development.
Throughout the course, there are plenty of elevation changes and a lot of difficult holes. It always seemed the 400+ yard holes were playing slightly uphill and often into the wind, and there are only a couple shorter par-4s. We played the blue tees that are just under 6,500 yards, but it sure seemed to play longer than that.
The most memorable holes at Dove Canyon are the par-3s. Nicklaus definitely seems to have an eye for good par-3s that are equally beautiful and intimidating, and there are five nice ones here. The 4th is a great one that’s all carry over a small canyon. The 7th requires another forced carry and had one of the toughest pin placements we saw all day.
The 10th is a good downhill par-3 and the 13th is the shortest, tucked back in a small corner of the property and also requiring a forced carry over an environmental hazard. The 17th, however, is one that really stands out with a massive drop-off from tee to green and an unusual green complex with two small shelves running off the front right and back left corners. I’ll always remember this one because I was a foot away from a hole-in-one and it was a very dramatic shot watching it unfold as my ball slowly made its way over the shelf and toward the hole in back.
The course was in very good overall condition. The tee boxes were excellent with just a few that were maybe a little crowned in the middle. The fairways feature bermuda grass, so they were a little dappled in color this time of year and not necessarily pretty looking, but the lies were always excellent and we got good roll-out on our drives. The rough was deep, thick and nasty. Some parts were freshly mown and others were not yet, but all of it was pretty penal. In some cases all you could do was just hack it back out to the fairway and take your medicine. The greens were exceptional—receptive on approaches, rolling smooth and quite fast. Just perfect. Some bunkers were better than others, but mostly good overall.
I was really impressed with the course on all levels. It is challenging, scenic and fun. I’m not the private club kind of guy (nor am I in the income bracket for this place), but I sure could get used to playing at Dove Canyon.
Some pictures from Dove Canyon Golf Club (11/3/14):