Short Course Blitz #16: Obscure Desert Tracks and New Beginnings

It’s been awhile since I did a Short Course Blitz, mainly because I am almost out of short public courses to play in Southern California. I did have one little grouping left in the desert, but I was waiting on Hawk’s Landing to open up in order to make a full day of it. Well, they had their grand opening on Saturday and I was on my way out to the desert!

I spent the morning in Desert Hot Springs, where there are actually a handful of short courses that are mainly geared toward the many senior residents of this town. These go along with the two great full-size courses (Mission Lakes and Desert Dunes). One of them is considered “private” (Caliente Springs is only open to residents and guests of its 55+ community), but getting on the other three was no problem at all.

Desert Crest Country Club • Desert Hot Springs, CA • 3/14/15

This one is listed online as “semi-private,” but when I called during the week they told me it was open to the public. The fact I reached someone on the phone didn’t lead me to believe that this was just one of those little “put your money in a box” kind of courses, but it is.

I saw the non-resident price of $15 for nine holes and $20 for 18. I only planned to play nine and, in looking at the course, really didn’t want to pay extra. Unfortunately, I only had a $20 bill in my wallet. Luckily, a greenskeeper was there and was able to give me change. $15 was still too much, but I paid and I was on my way.

This is a pretty simple pitch and putt course with the holes ranging from 80 yards up to 131. Most people won’t need more than a couple clubs. The greens are simple and small with no bunkers to contend with. A couple holes run along some mobile homes and there are a couple of water hazards, so there is a little trouble to get into if you hit the ball really poorly.

Otherwise, there isn’t too much to note about Desert Crest. Condition-wise, it was in nice overall shape. The tee boxes were a bit too shaggy, especially when playing wedges and short irons. Everywhere else was pretty lush and green. The greens were really shaggy and slow, but I’ll admit they did roll smoother and slightly quicker than they looked.

Some pictures from Desert Crest Country Club (3/14/15):

image
image
image
image
image
image

I was able to get around Desert Crest pretty quickly, so I made my way right over to my next little course…

Hidden Springs Country Club • Desert Hot Springs, CA • 3/14/15

Hidden Springs is in another 55+ mobile home community, but the golf course is open to the public. I had called ahead and made a 9:10 tee time. It wasn’t too busy out when I arrived, so I checked in and paid my $15 rate (which seemed more “worth it” here). I went out behind another twosome, but they let me through on the second hole.

It was pretty warm out Saturday morning and this course, though short, is pretty spread out in the overall community. I was actually pretty beat by the time I finished the nine holes in about an hour.

Hidden Springs is a par-31 executive course. There are two sets of tees for front and back nine play. The whites are the front and the blues are the back, and on every hole, the blues play a little longer. So, I guess if you are just going to play nine you can play the longer set, but I just stuck with the whites as my nine even though they are quite short. I wanted to have fun with it.

Of the four par-4s on the course, just two of them (the 8th and 9th) go over 200 yards—and they are only 235 and 215 respectively! The other two are only 190 yards, so basically par-3s on normal courses.

In the course’s defense, these par-4s are tucked very tightly between rows of homes, so I was pretty apprehensive about taking aggressive shots to drive the greens. There are a couple water hazards on the course, but like Desert Crest, no sand traps. Really, hitting into the houses is the only significant concern.

Hidden Springs is a fun little course that’s more interesting than Desert Crest and is a better deal at the same price point, but still a pretty basic senior-friendly design. It was in nice overall shape. Very lush and green throughout and the greens were rolling smooth at medium speeds.

Some pictures from Hidden Springs Country Club (3/14/15):

image
image
image
image
image
image
image

I went just down the street a bit further (pretty much right next door) for round three of this blitz…

Sands RV & Golf Resort • Desert Hot Springs, CA • 3/14/15

After seeing hardly anyone on the other two courses and the temperature continuing to rise in the desert, I figured I was in for another quick round at Sands. When I arrived, though, the place was packed.

I checked in to get on the waiting list and the guy in the pro shop was nice about it. I paid the $19 walking rate and waited for the call. Fortunately, a twosome didn’t show up and he was able to pair me up with another twosome around 10:30. We waited on every shot, but things moved along okay enough and we finished the nine holes in about two hours.

Sands is another executive track that plays to a par of 32. However, it is a more “real” layout than the other two I played Saturday morning. The par-4s are still relatively short, but several are at least over 300 yards and the longest is 363. The par-3s are a decent mix of lengths, as well.

The layout is pretty straightforward without too much trouble to get into. Interesting enough, there are no sand traps on this course either. Still, it’s probably the best layout of the three public short courses in town, even though it may be the most forgiving one, too. That’s not saying much, but I can understand why there were more people playing here than the others on a Saturday morning.

Sands was also in pretty good shape overall. The greens were very nice and rolling smoothly at medium speeds—a tad quicker and better overall than Hidden Springs.

Now, unless you are on a “play everything” kind of quest like me, you don’t need to bother with any of these Desert Hot Springs short courses. But for the local residents and active seniors who call this town home, they have some decent offerings for a relaxed and inexpensive round of golf.

Some pictures from Sands RV & Golf Resort (3/14/15):

image
image
image
image
image
image
image

After finishing at Sands, I grabbed a quick bite to eat in town and then headed north toward Yucca Valley for my primary round of the day…

Hawk’s Landing Golf Club at Blue Skies • Yucca Valley, CA • 3/14/15

I was aware of this course being renovated and reopened in the past year or so. I even went by there late last year when on the way up to Twentynine Palms just to check out the progress. I knew this was no Rams Hill kind of resurrection, but in this day and age when many courses are closing, any “new” course is exciting news.

Hawk’s Landing sits on the same property that used to be Blue Skies Country Club—the only course in Yucca Valley. From what I know, that course closed many years ago after several years of being in disrepair. New owners bought up the property and decided to build a new course over the top of the original shell. They moved some things around and redesigned all the holes to bring Hawk’s Landing to life. Traces of the old course apparently still remain, but it was a pretty major overhaul by most accounts.

One of the biggest changes is that the course is now just a 12-hole layout. It’s still a “regulation” length, but they are touting it as some grand idea to have two six-hole loops and giving people the option of playing 6, 9, 12 or 18 holes. To play a full 18, you would come around play the front six twice. Personally, I think they just didn’t have enough original property or budget to work with and they made the best of it by bringing 12 good holes to life. However, rumor has it they may have already purchased some additional property to expand to a full 18 at some point. We’ll see.

Anyway, Saturday was the grand opening celebration at Hawk’s Landing. I thought it would be fun to check it out on its first official day of business. I knew the late morning was reserved for opening ceremonies and some VIP groups to tee off first. Public tee times started at 1:30. They wouldn’t make me a tee time as a single, so I just had to try my luck as a walk on.

Things timed out nicely and I arrived around 1:15. The place was definitely busy with activity, which was nice to see. There was quite a long line in the pro shop and things were pretty chaotic as expected. I guess the opening ceremonies ran a little long and the tee times were way behind. They were also trying to work out the glitches in the new computer system. Ultimately, though, they got me checked in and paired with a threesome. They were originally the 1:00 tee time, but we didn’t tee off until about 1:40.

The price seemed a bit steep for a 12-hole round. It was $40 and then I paid an extra $10 for a cart. This would be an easy course to walk (depending on the heat), but I was pretty worn out after walking 27 in the morning. If you want to play 18, I do think it’s only a few bucks more to play six additional holes. I decided to wait and see what it looked like after 12. Things had definitely calmed down, but I could still see enough people out on the front six and didn’t feel like going around again unless it was completely empty.

Unfortunately, that’s one issue with a 12-hole course on such a busy day. When you have groups waiting to tee off on the 1st along with groups looping around for their 13th hole, it may cause some awkward delays and confusion.

We finished our 12 holes in about 3.5 hours, which wasn’t too bad considering how backed up things were on opening day.

The new clubhouse it modest, but very nice inside. They also have a big driving range and some short game practice areas, so it’s a pretty solid overall facility and definitely a good outlet for Yucca Valley locals to come out and play or just practice.

As for the course itself, Hawk’s Landing is a solid overall layout. It reminded me at times of other high desert offerings with some joshua trees and a pretty rugged hillside landscape along the northwestern edge of the course.

Overall, the layout is relatively forgiving with pretty open fairways and large greens. There are plenty of sand traps that come into play. They add some nice contour to the look of the course, but none seemed overly punishing or deep. There aren’t too many trees on the course, but the ones that are there definitely will come into play. The 7th and 12th are definitely the most narrow holes with quite a few trees lining the fairways and forcing accurate shots from tee to green.

Two of the par-3s stand out to me as the “signature” holes here. The 2nd is a pretty tough one, especially when the wind is blowing right into your face (such was the case on Saturday). It plays 190 over a water hazard. The 11th also plays over a pond and has a nice overall look to it. Once things green up some more here, this will be a pretty sharp-looking hole.

As for conditions, I thought things were pretty good overall for opening day. The turf throughout has got a lot of maturing and “filling in” to do, but the key areas were mostly in decent shape. The tee boxes were very firm (hard to get tee into ground sometimes), but level and had great grass coverage. The fairways were pretty lush and green with some scattered thin/bare spots here and there along with other inconsistencies with the new turf. They just need some more time to mature.

The rough areas were dormant and not that well filled in, so there were lots of bare dirt spots. The bunkers have brand new sand that is almost too soft right now, so that will ultimately settle in. The greens were fantastic. I noticed a few weak sections here and there, but they were firm and fast bentgrass that held shots reasonably well and should only get better as long as the super (and the players) take care of them.

I’ll be curious to see if the course gets even better with some time. Things will definitely green up when the rough comes out of dormancy, but it will still be pretty spotty coverage in some areas. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of some nice things to come at Hawk’s Landing. Or, this was the best it will ever get. Let’s hope not.

Even at its best, Hawk’s Landing won’t compete for much business with the Coachella Valley courses. It’s too far out of the way geographically and it’s just not on the same level. However, for people who live in Yucca Valley, Desert Hot Springs and Twentynine Palms, it’s a good option to add to the mix. Some people may embrace the 12-hole concept and others may scoff at the idea, so only time will tell. As it is now, I have to consider it a “short course,” which it is why it’s part of this blitz review.

Some pictures from Hawk’s Landing Golf Club at Blue Skies (3/14/15):

image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image

I actually returned out to Desert Hot Springs a week later. A friend had worked out a way to play this next course. It was a bit complicated, but we made it happen and I figured it made sense to just add it to this blitz review…

Caliente Springs Resort Golf Course • Desert Hot Springs, CA • 3/22/15

Caliente Springs is another 55+ community in this part of the desert, but also serves as an RV park. The course is open to residents and guests. I won’t go into all the details, but we were able to reserve an RV spot for a small fee, which gained us access to the course for a quick round on Sunday morning.

It wasn’t too busy out there, so we pretty much had the course to ourselves as a foursome. The price for nine holes of golf was $12, which is reasonable enough.

This is a seemingly simple little course when you look at the scorecard, which lists the longest hole at 117 yards and the shortest holes in the 60-yard range. However, there’s more bite to this track than expected. It is very narrowly squeezed in between the streets and homes of this community and there’s not much room for error around most greens. Between some well-placed water hazards and OB areas (which are basically the mobile homes themselves), there is plenty of trouble in play. Sometimes you miss a green by a few yards and you are on someone’s front porch, making for some very uncomfortable tee shots at awkward “in between” yardages.

Adding to the fun was the fact the greens were very firm, so they were hard to hold and many shots ended up long. Otherwise, the course was in pretty good overall shape. It was pretty green throughout. The greens were very firm, but the putting surfaces were quite slow.

Though kind of fun in its own way, the Caliente Springs course was definitely not worth the trouble to access. You’d think they’d just be open to the public like all the other short courses around Desert Hot Springs. I’m sure any money is helpful for the community and it’s not a place that would ever be in high enough demand where public golfers would disturb the residents much.

Oh well, it’s another one off the list and officially completes the Desert Hot Springs circuit for me and my other “course collector” friends who played with me!

Some pictures from Caliente Springs Resort Golf Course (3/22/15):

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: