Continuing my four-day jaunt around Los Angeles’ many short courses, I kept working my way northward on Friday and Saturday…
Rancho Park 3-Par Course • Los Angeles, CA • 1/2/15
I reviewed Penmar in Part 1. That was my first round on Friday before making my way over to Rancho Park. The main course here is a well-regarded municipal with a lot of history. I played it many years ago and have really been dying to check it out again. However, it is known for being quite crowded most of the time and it just hasn’t been a convenient option. I do hope to get out there sometime this year, though.
Anyway, I headed past the main course clubhouse, which didn’t appear too busy from what I could see in the parking lot. It was kind of a tease being here and just driving past the course. However, I wasn’t to be deterred on my short course mission, so I went to the far end of the parking lot where the tiny building sits as a separate check-in for the par-3 course (or 3-Par Course as they call it in a more old school fashion).
I could see the course was wide open when I arrived around 8:30. I paid my $7.50 and was teeing off a few minutes later. I did catch one other single a few holes in and we played the rest out together.
Like Alondra the day before, I’m sure there are plenty of Rancho regulars who’ve probably never set foot on the short course. But it’s there as a fun and easy warm-up or practice option if you don’t have time for a full 18 on the other course. Unlike Alondra, Rancho features just a 9-hole par-3 layout.
The shortest hole here is 82 yards and the longest is 145. The greens are relatively small and feature some mildly interesting shapes and slopes, but for the most part what you see is what you get. The only challenge on a few holes (especially number 8) is the tall trees can come into play and determine the type of shot you need to hit for a better result.
As far as conditions go, the greens were exceptional. They were soft, but smooth and pure on top. If the greens on the main course are this nice right now, it’s time to go play it! The tee boxes have mats and those were in fine enough shape. Everywhere else was mostly pretty green and lush, but there were plenty of thin/muddy spots throughout, as well. Those areas really won’t come into play much, though, unless you really hit a poor tee shot.
Some pictures from Rancho Park 3-Par Course (1/2/15):
The next course was a very short drive north and it was one I was intrigued by…
Holmby Park Golf Course • Los Angeles, CA • 1/2/15
This course is known by a couple different names, including Armand Hammer and the Holmby Park Pony Course, but I believe it is officially just Holmby Park Golf Course nowadays. If you look it up on the map, you’ll see a big golf complex right next door. It’s just a little place called Los Angeles Country Club, one of the most exclusive private courses (actually two courses) in the country!
You’re basically on the outskirts of Beverly Hills. Some crazy big homes are right there and the Playboy Mansion is not far up the street. So Holmby Park is in a really interesting location right in the middle of all this luxury. There were a ton of pedestrians out walking around the edges of the park, but I didn’t pick out any celebrities.
The location is about as interesting as this place gets. That’s because as a golf course, it barely counts. Technically it’s listed as an 18-hole par-3 layout, but it’s really just an open piece of parkland with some tiny shaved-down circles of grass and holes/flags in place.
When I arrived, nobody was out there but a father and son playing around on the practice green. I did see a worker out on the “course” watering some greens and then he eventually came over to the starter shack to take my money around 10:00. The price for play was listed at $3.50 on weekdays and $4 on weekends, but he only charged me $3.
I grabbed the appropriately basic scorecard (I wasn’t even sure if they’d have one), which thankfully had a crude routing map. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of greens/holes in the middle of a park. Most holes do have a subtle runway of shorter cut grass leading up to the greens, so that is one clue to follow at times. However, there are no designated tee boxes, so you kind of just make up your own or seek out a spot where you can see previous divots.
Another couple guys did come out and were just making up their own holes, playing to whichever green struck their fancy. I’m sure most people just approach it this way to knock the ball around for fun, but that was annoying to me as someone attempting to play the “official” routing of the course. We got in each other’s ways a few times, but mostly went about our own business.
Though the map showed 18 holes, a few of the greens were more or less decimated and unplayable, so there are probably only 14-15 of them that are truly available. I made the best of it and tried to have fun with the experience, as silly as it was.
On the scorecard, the longest hole at Holmby Park is listed at 68 yards. The shortest is listed at 28! Most are about a 30- or 40-yard pitch shot and the greens are hard to hit/hold because they are so tiny. The grass here is all kikuyu, so anything short really won’t run up and anything that lands on the green will likely bounce off. So even as a practice pitch and putt course, it really doesn’t simulate anything you’ll find on a normal course.
In the end, Holmby Park lived up to what I expected and what I had heard from others who have played it. It’s not much of a course, but the location is cool, and that’s all there is to say about it.
Some pictures from Holmby Park Golf Course (1/2/15):
I headed due west from Holmby Park for my next equally obscure course. I got completely lost looking for it, though…
Heroes Golf Course • Los Angeles, CA • 1/2/15
I usually depend on the Google navigation on my phone, but it does lead me astray from time to time. This time, it took me to an edge of the course, but it was a dead-end street with no access. I then looked at the satellite view and saw what I thought was the parking area. I had to drive in a big circle around everything and it took awhile, but that spot turned out to be wrong, as well.
I looked at the satellite view again and saw another dirt parking lot on the complete other side and that was my last option. I mapped my way to an adjacent building in order to find it. Once I circled around and came into the massive Veterans Administration complex, it dawned on me. I knew already this was a veteran-friendly golf course with reduced rates for military people, so I probably could have figured out it was attached to the VA facilities. In my defense, I had no idea this big VA center was here until I drove into it. Oh well.
Anyway, I finally got to the course and it looked pretty open, so that was at least some good news. The price was $13, but I believe all proceeds go to veterans’ programs, so that was okay with me.
Heroes Golf Course is a 9-hole par-3 course. The shortest hole is 78 yards and the longest is 178, so it’s definitely more than just a “pitch and putt.” It plays along a little hillside, so most holes are either slightly uphill or downhill. Otherwise, it’s a very straightforward design.
The greens are medium in size and have some slope to them because of the hillside, but they are pretty simple and easy to figure out. The grass on the greens was a little browned out and fairly bumpy, but the surfaces were surprisingly quick. They were pretty firm, as well. Everywhere else had decent grass coverage, with a mix of light brown and green coloration this time of year. They use mats for the tees here, as well, but they were fine to hit from.
I’m not sure what else to say about Heroes. It’s there and veterans can get a discounted rate, but it’s not a course of interest for most of us.
Some pictures from Heroes Golf Course (1/2/15):
I was back at it again dark and early on Saturday morning, but finally the cold winter mornings caught up with me…
Van Nuys Golf Course • Van Nuys, CA • 1/3/15
I had attempted to book at 6:45 tee time on the Executive Course here the night before, but it wouldn’t go through on their website. So, I just decided to show up early and take my chances. There are two courses here, a 9-hole executive and an 18-hole par-3, so I planned to play both and was hoping to get an early start before any Saturday morning crowds showed up.
It was still dark out when I arrived, but I could see the lights on the Executive Course, so I figured they were open for business. Unfortunately, when I went inside the guy let me know they had a frost delay and didn’t have a clue how long it would be. I went away and grabbed some breakfast a few miles down the road and came back. Mine was still the only car in the parking lot other than the one that belonged to the pro shop guy.
By this time, it was light out and a little after 7:00. I checked in with him and we talked for a little bit. I asked him which course generally gets the most play and he told me the Executive is generally busier on most days. I decided that was the course to play first once they would allow. After a few minutes, he let me head out. I pre-paid for a replay round on the par-3 course and he gave me a nice deal. I think it was $27 total for both rounds.
The course was still very frosted over, but most of the greens were thawing nicely. Only a couple greens early on were frozen when I played them. I zipped around the Executive Course and then got around quickly on the par-3 course immediately afterward. In fact, I was the first one out on both courses! Any worries I had about fighting Saturday morning crowds were washed away by the bitter cold. That said, by the time I left the driving range was very busy and there were folks out on both courses.
The guy inside mentioned that they actually used to have a miniature golf course right in between the range and the par-3 course, but it was really dilapidated and they ultimately tore it down to put in a short game practice area. He did let me know they have one of the best public ranges in the valley because it does have more grass than the rest and the balls don’t get as beat up as they do at the other nearby courses (Balboa/Encino and Woodley Lakes).
Both courses were in pretty nice condition underneath the frost. The greens were very nice and everything else was pretty solid, especially for winter. Both courses use mats for tees and a few of them were completely frozen that early in the morning, but I made due.
This is a very straightforward layout that pays to a par of 30. It starts with four par-3 holes, then three par-4s and lastly two par-3s. The longest par-4 (the 7th) is 305 yards and the longest par-3 is 145.
Some pictures from Van Nuys Golf Course (Executive Course) (1/3/15):
North Par 3 Course
This is a full 18-hole course that is all par-3s. The shortest is 88 yards and the longest is 133, so some guys may not need more than a wedge and a putter. There are some narrow holes on this course compared to the more wide open executive. Trees come into play to force a couple of uncomfortable tee shots, but the greens are simple and easy to figure out. With nice green surfaces, this is a very good short game practice course.
Some pictures from Van Nuys Golf Course (North Par 3 Course) (1/3/15):
I got a little later start at Van Nuys than I wanted, but I finished very quickly and was soon on my way to the next course on the list…
Mission Hills Little League Golf Course • North Hills, CA • 1/3/15
Van Nuys Golf Course is located just south of the Van Nuys airport and Mission Hills is just north of it, so it was a convenient one to play next. I really didn’t research this one much, but in my head it was very different than what I actually got.
With “Little League” in the name, I envisioned a big community park with a lot of sports fields and a small golf course in the midst of it (something like South Gate maybe). Instead, what I got was the sequel to Heroes Golf Course from the day before. This course is also located alongside a big VA facility. You have to drive around a complicated parking lot through the VA hospital and administrative buildings to get to the course. There is a little baseball field next to the course, but it looked pretty run-down. It was far from the community park setting I imagined, but at least it was easier to find than Heroes!
I saw a number of guys gathering up around the first tee and was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out or around quickly. The guys working inside (one nice young guy and one grumpy old guy) were arguing amongst themselves about letting me out ahead of the groups about to tee off or to send me over to the 3rd tee instead (as long as I didn’t dare get in front of Dan, which would apparently spur the golf apocalypse).
Finally, they decided to have me start on the 3rd hole and that was fine with me. The price was $9. When I went back in to grab a scorecard and confirm which one was the 3rd hole, the old guy snapped at me: “What? Have you never played golf before?” When I replied that I’d never played at this course before, he still seemed unusually grumpy when he confirmed which was the 3rd tee. Such a nice customer service experience!
Anyway, once I got on the course it was smooth sailing. I did catch up to the aforementioned Dan a few holes in, but he was moving along at a really good pace and I rarely had to wait at all. Fortunately, when I got back around to the 1st and 2nd holes, they were wide open and I was able to finish the whole course without any hassle. Then, I was happily on my way, never to cross paths with that grumpy old man again.
Admittedly, the check-in was easily the most exciting part of my Mission Hills Little League experience. The course itself is okay, but pretty basic, with nine par-3 holes. It does feature a few longer holes, though. Two are 190 yards from the blues. There are others at 165 and 160, as well. The shortest hole here is 114 yards, so it is a lot longer than your typical par-3 course at 1,418 yards total.
The course was in okay shape. It was pretty dried out and brown for winter, but the grass coverage was decent enough throughout. They do not have mats here, which was refreshing, and the tee boxes were solid. The greens weren’t too great. They were pretty dry, firm and bumpy, so it was hard to keep putts online.
I knew this course would be a “one and done” for me no matter what. I suppose it’s an okay option for locals since it is a little longer and the price is reasonable. Still, I think Van Nuys offers a better overall experience a few miles away.
Some pictures from Mission Hills Little League Golf Course (1/3/15):
Finally, we come to the end of my four-day journey through a bunch of Los Angeles area short courses. Oddly enough, for this last round I actually ventured into Ventura County and a different valley…
Sinaloa Golf Course • Simi Valley, CA • 1/3/15
I had this one grouped with Van Nuys and Mission Hills because otherwise it was out of the way and completely on its own as far as short courses go. It took about a half-hour to get up to Sinaloa from where I was, but it worked out well as it was still pretty early in the day. A good friend of mine is a longtime Simi Valley resident and has a soft spot for this course, just as I do for the little course I grew up playing. So I got in touch with him and he met me for the round at Sinaloa.
The price was $12 on a weekend, and we were able to head right out to the first tee. There were plenty of people out there, so we waited on every hole, but the pace moved along just fine and we had fun as a twosome.
My friend let me know they completely renovated this course some time ago, so a lot has changed over the years. I don’t know any specifics. What I encountered was a decent little course. It’s a 9-hole par-3 layout. The longest hole is 165 from the blue tees and the shortest is 87. Many of the blue tees were moved up on Saturday to play with the whites, though, so it played shorter overall.
On the scorecard, all the holes have oddly specific names, but I couldn’t quite figure out the relevance. For instance, one is called “12th at Augusta.” Other names include “10th at Riviera” and “10th at Winged Foot.” This is not a tribute course and, as far as I could tell, these holes bared no significant resemblance to their namesakes.
The course was in okay winter shape, especially knowing how cold it can get up in Simi Valley. My friend let me know that when it rains, large sections of the course will flood. For the most part, right now, everything is pretty browned out. However, the grass coverage seemed decent, so I’m sure it looks and plays nicer during other parts of the year. The greens were in good shape, though, so that’s what matters most. They also don’t use mats here, so it is nice to be able to tee up a ball normally.
Some pictures from Sinaloa Golf Course (1/3/15):