After a barrage of Short Course Blitzes recently, I’m getting pretty far down the list and need to start taking care of some of the harder-to-reach options in the more outlying areas of Southern California. I had taken the day off on Monday for another reason initially, but decided to utilize that day instead for a round at the newly reopened Rams Hill in Borrego Springs.
That made for a perfect excuse to revisit the short courses throughout the more remote parts of Southeastern California. Like I did on my only other visit to Borrego Springs, I paired it with rounds in Imperial County. I got started out that way early this morning…
Rio Bend RV Resort (Lakeview Golf Course) • El Centro, CA • 1/11/15
I can’t say I was looking forward to driving all the way out to Imperial County again. My last visit to play the two regulation courses (Del Rio CC and Barbara Worth Resort) was less than exciting, so coming back just to play the two short courses was not terribly appealing. But I’m a trooper and I’m on a mission, so I’ll do what I have to do.
I got here early, knowing they start play around 6:30 after calling ahead to scope things out. I arrived a few minutes before that and was teeing off a few minutes later once there was just enough light to see. Going off first by myself, the pace was nice and quick. The price seemed pretty steep for just nine holes at $25 to walk.
I had only ever heard of this course as Rio Bend in the past, but saw the Lakeview name on their website and it’s what’s listed on the scorecard. It sits along the edge of the New River and there is a small “lake” that sits in the middle of the course, so I guess both names are fitting.
This executive course plays to a par of 33. There are four short par-4s and one really short par-5, along with four par-3s. There are two sets of tees for front and back nine play to mix things up a little bit for an 18-hole round.
There are a few slightly hilly parts, but the highlight is probably when you are standing on the 2nd tee and are greeted with a nice view along the river and out into the expansive valley. Unfortunately, it was still relatively dark then and my pictures really didn’t capture the view. There are a handful of interesting and unique holes that require some local knowledge/strategy, but there isn’t anything overly difficult about the layout.
The course was in pretty mediocre shape for winter. I will say it played better than it looked, though. The tee boxes were decent enough. The fairways were a ugly mix of yellow and green grass with plenty of weak spots, but I mostly had decent lies. Same with the rough. The greens were a bit bumpy and pretty slow. I was in one bunker and it had pretty good sand, but was not well maintained (footprints, etc.).
In an area where golf options are extremely limited (there are only four courses in Imperial County), I guess you could do worse than this course. You’ll see what I mean in a little bit. Otherwise, it won’t hold much appeal to anyone not living locally or staying at the RV park.
Some pictures from Rio Bend RV Resort (Lakeview Golf Course) (1/11/15):
I saw this banner out front and stopped to take a picture on the way out. It made me highly judgmental before I even played the course. Seriously? “#1 Golf Resort in CA?” I don’t know where they got that measurement, but it’s a ridiculously bold claim. I’m sure Pebble Beach, CordeValle, La Quinta/PGA West and many, many others would tend to disagree with this dubious statement. Honestly, it’s seriously false advertising!
It was just a short drive to my next course, so I kept the golf shoes on, hopped in the car and worked my way a little further east on the I-8…
Desert Trails RV Park & Golf Course • El Centro, CA • 1/11/15
On a gloomy Sunday morning in January, I was hoping this course wouldn’t be too crowded, but when I got there it was busier than I expected. Still, I had no problem checking right in and getting out to the first tee immediately. The price was $16 to walk nine holes, which felt a bit more reasonable.
I played through a twosome early on, but then ran into a bunch of groups of regular old guys, so there was nowhere to go. That twosome ended up catching up to me again and joined me for the final few holes. There was a lot of waiting, but the pace still went along well enough.
Desert Trails is a pretty basic par-30 executive with three really short par-4s and a decent mix of par-3s. I found it odd that the par-3 7th was playing 210 yards and the par-4 9th was only 200 yards. However, the 7th was straight and wide open compared to the awkward dogleg left of the 9th with the parking lot on one side, the clubhouse on the other and various hazards along the way. It’s definitely one that makes you think twice about going for it.
Beyond that, there’s nothing too exciting about the Desert Trails layout. It’s fairly simple and straightforward. It won’t excite anyone too much. I will admit, however, that some of the greens were pretty interesting with some tricky undulations.
The conditions were pretty weak from tee to green. The tee boxes were okay, but the fairways and rough were pretty ugly. Sometimes you had a fluffy lie and other times it was bare dirt/sand. The greens were decent. They were a bit too firm for my tastes, rolling at medium/slow speeds and often bumpy. I wasn’t in a bunker, but they looked pretty nasty.
The good news is that Desert Trails is easily the 4th best course in Imperial County. The bad news is there are only four courses, as I’ve noted already! I will say the people there were super nice and friendly. Between the workers and all the regular players, I felt welcome as a one-time visitor.
Some pictures from Desert Trails RV Park & Golf Course (1/11/15):
Okay, so now I am officially DONE with Imperial County, so that feels good. I didn’t stick around long, though. After a quick Burger King breakfast, I was on my way northwest to Borrego Springs. The drive seemed surprisingly quick, but I was not complaining…
Roadrunner Club • Borrego Springs, CA • 1/11/15
There are three short courses in Borrego to go along with three full-length ones. I ended up having time to play all three today, starting at Roadrunner Club. I pulled into the community and totally drove right past the little pro shop shack, but eventually I circled back and found it. It was occupied by a nice old lady who gladly took my money on an obviously slow day. It was pretty gloomy here with a few brief sprinkles of rain every so often. Not enough to slow me down, though.
The price for walking 18 holes was $30. Again, steep for what you get here. There was really nobody on the course but me and a couple of maintenance workers on the back nine. I did see a few more people go out behind me, but it was a very slow day.
Roadrunner Club is nestled in a small retirement community and features a pretty straightforward 18-hole par-3 layout. There is decent diversity in terms of hole lengths, ranging from 103 yards up to 183.
That’s about where the diversity ends. The course zig zags tightly back and forth in four distinct sections in between quadrants of homes. Almost every hole looks similar and it all blends together after awhile. If this were just a 9-hole course, it wouldn’t have bothered me, but playing all 18 felt repetitive. There is one hole (the 5th) that plays over a small water hazard, and that’s about as exciting as it gets. It’s a fine little course that serves its purpose well within a senior community, but it doesn’t offer much more.
The course was in pretty nice overall shape, so I’ll give them credit for that. It was fairly green and lush throughout and the tee boxes were nicely kept. The greens were receptive and rolling smooth at medium speeds. There were a few on the back that had some big thin/muddy sections, but they were mostly pretty good. There aren’t very many sand traps here and I never found one, so no comments there.
In a lot of ways, Roadrunner Club reminded me of de Anza Country Club. It’s a shorter, more basic par-3 version, but it has a similar look and feel throughout.
Some pictures from Roadrunner Club (1/11/15):
My next course was on the list, so I had to play it…
Club Circle Golf Course • Borrego Springs, CA • 1/11/15
Note: This course has been closed for the past couple seasons.
I knew where the course was located just across the street from Borrego Springs Resort, but when I drove into the small community I couldn’t figure out where to go. After going around in circles, I finally noticed where the first tee was right by the entrance. Up by it, I saw a metal box and a sign that said “All Golfers Please Check In.” I realized this was one of those drop-your-money-in-a-box kind of places.
I checked it out and saw the fee of $15 for nine holes ($20 if you want to play 18). Fortunately, I had exact change, though I wish after the round I could go back and remove all but $5 of it because that’s all this place is worth (if that). Oh well, I did what I needed and teed off. I caught up to an older couple a few holes in and they let me through. Otherwise, the place was a ghost town.
Club Circle is a 9-hole par-3 course. There are separate tees for front and back play and some of them are separated quite a bit to mix things up. I just played the front (red) tees, which range from 101 yards up to 159.
The first hole here is probably the most interesting with a water hazard in play. Otherwise, what you see is what you get as you wind your way (in a circle, of course) around the small community. You do get some nice unobstructed views of the mountains to the west and to south, especially on the latter half of the course.
The conditions here were pretty weak. The greens were okay, except most of them had quite a bit of goose poop on them. Otherwise, most everything else is pretty browned out right now and there are a lot of big areas that are just hardpan dirt. I was in one bunker and it was pretty firm and compact.
Club Circle was purely a checklist course for me. I guess it’s better than nothing, but it’s by far the worst option in town.
Some pictures from Club Circle Golf Course (1/11/15):
I wasn’t planning on playing this next course until tomorrow, but I still had a ton of daylight (well, afternoon gloom) so I went ahead and knocked it out today…
The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course • Borrego Springs, CA • 1/11/15
If I would have known I was going to play this today, I would have played it right after finishing at Roadrunner Club because they are right next door to one another. Oh well, Borrego is very easy to get around and it was no big deal jumping back and forth. Ultimately, the timing probably helped.
I got there around 1:30 and was able to tee off soon after that. The price caught me with some sticker shock at $30 to walk or $35 with a cart for just nine holes. I went ahead and got the cart for $5 more at the end of a long day. I caught up to a slower threesome right away, but they let me through after a couple holes and then it was smooth sailing after that. I never ran into anyone else. I got out of there just in time because it started raining for real while I was on the 9th hole. Still, that shower didn’t last super long either.
The price tag bothered me, but the course helped make up for it somewhat. I was pleasantly surprised with the layout and especially impressed by the conditions. The greens were not great, though.They were firm and fast, but the turf was pretty thin and bumpy at times. Otherwise, everything else here was lush, green and beautiful throughout. There were some soft spots here and there on a drizzly day, but for the most part things were fantastic. I was in several bunkers and I think the sand was replaced recently. It was almost too soft and thick on the top layer, but I’d rather have too much than not enough.
The Springs at Borrego is a regulation-length 9-hole course at a standard par of 36. From the blue tees, it measures out to 3,059 total yards, so it’s pretty legit. Both the par-3s are fairly beefy and the par-4s offer a good range of distances. The par-5s, however are both on the short side at 487 and 453 respectively.
Other than the parts that run by the RV camping section, this is a pretty nice-looking course. The layout has good contour and visual framing. Most holes are edged by desert waste areas and you get many stunning views of the mountains to the west. There are a couple water hazards in play and some interesting hole designs. There’s a lot to like about it.
The Springs at Borrego still feels a bit overpriced and I do wish they had another full nine holes to make it a true championship layout. I wouldn’t rank it ahead of Borrego Springs Resort, de Anza or Rams Hill (assuming I am going to love it tomorrow), but it’s definitely a solid option while in this neck of the woods.
Some pictures from The Springs at Borrego (1/11/15):
For dinner, I ate at a Mexican Restaurant in town called Pablito’s. I saw some photos and reviews on Yelp that sold me, but the actual food didn’t quite live up to the expectations. Not bad, but not as great as I was hoping.