Course Review: Rolling Hills Country Club

Note: This course has been completely renovated and redesigned by David McLay Kidd. This review is of the original layout that is basically no longer there. I haven’t yet played the new course, but I hope to someday. Any invites are appreciated. : )

In my never-ending quest to play new courses, my sights have turned mostly to private clubs. The opportunities are few and far between because most SCGA outings, “member for a day” deals and charity tournaments aren’t on the weekends when I play most. Still, I manage to take advantage of a few.

I signed up for the SCGA outing at Rolling Hills Country Club. This is the first year they’ve done one here, so it seemed like a prime opportunity to visit the course. Also, it seems the course will be undergoing a major renovation soon at the hands of David McLay Kidd (Bandon Dunes), so it may have a drastically different look in another year or two. Of course, then I’ll want to come back and play it again to see the changes that were made!

As it is now, Rolling Hills is a great old course. It’s a Ted Robinson, Sr. design from the era where he did a number of Southern California courses with a similar look and feel. Many other old school Los Angeles area private clubs come to mind as very comparable tracks, but I found Rolling Hills to be the best in this bunch I’ve played so far (by a mile, I might add).

Like those others, this is a tight, hilly course where accuracy is at a premium and local knowledge is very helpful. A good score can be had if you play smart and execute strategic shot placement, but bad scores can quickly add up with a misstep or two. The layout has some quirky routing compacted into a pretty small property winding through the hills and homes—most of which are hillside ranches that are home to either horses or peacocks (or both).

The 1st and 2nd holes are one one side of the street along with the clubhouse, pro shop and minimal practice area (the range is only 130 yards deep, so short irons/wedges only). Then the 3rd and 18th holes are in another section across the street. Across another street is the rest of the course heading out and then back again.

There are very few flat lies on the course with most holes playing uphill, downhill or along the side of the hills. The greens are relatively small and some angles are narrow, but it definitely felt more “fair” and open from the tees than Sunset Hills did last week.

Overall, Rolling Hills has a very “pretty” look with a lot of great natural contour in the fairways, a ton of trees and some other nice landscape features. The look is definitely enhanced by the exceptional quality of the conditioning. The overnight rains definitely softened up the course and left some soggy spots, but it was lush, green and beautiful throughout with well-kept kikuyu turf.

There are a number of memorable hills here. The 10th and 11th present a nice start on the back nine. Then there’s a couple of really fun downhill par-3s (the 6th and 13th) balanced by the unique uphill par-3 4th over the edge of a rugged hillside.

The 5th is a great par-5, but the one that really stands out is the 14th, which is a double-dogleg roller coaster ride where positioning is crucial on each shot. The other par-5 (the 16th) offers a sweeping view of Los Angeles and the downtown skyline.

The 17th is easily the signature par-4 with a severely elevated tee box and a pond/waterfall guarding the green. At just over 300 yards, big hitters may be tempted to go for it, but it’s an all-or-nothing kind of shot compared to a simple, conservative lay-up to the wide part of the fairway below.

I had a couple of friends in my group who share my compulsion for playing as many courses as possible and I met a new friend who is just as obsessed. We did some basic math and between the foursome, we had played over 3,000 courses. Obviously, that’s a total of our individual course counts and there’s plenty of overlap. However, Rolling Hills was a new one for each of us, which is cool.

We were in the third group off at 8:16 and finished in just under four hours. That’s great for an SCGA outing/event. I think the group behind us finished at least a half-hour later, so luckily we got out ahead of them.

If you ever get the chance, Rolling Hills Country Club is definitely worth checking out. Not everyone will enjoy the tight target layout, but I know I did. I’ll be curious to see what they do with the renovation. Hopefully they don’t mess it up too much. I’ve loved both Kidd courses I’ve played (Bandon Dunes and Tetherow), but I don’t know how his Scottish links style will mesh with the terrain of Rolling Hills Estates.

Some pictures from Rolling Hills Country Club:

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