I took the day off from work on Tuesday to meet up for 36 holes with a new friend at his home club in South Orange County. This is one of those times where meeting my playing partner probably overshadowed the courses themselves.
I made contact with my playing partner through the great golf social network on Greenskeeper.org (it’s much more than just a maintenance alert site if you haven’t realized by now). He recently completed a personal goal and played his 10,000th round of golf. Seriously. He plays pretty much every day of the year and has been doing so for many years.
He’s been a member at Coto de Caza for 25 years and has played those two courses more than anyone else by far—with over 2,900 rounds logged on the older North Course and over 2,400 on the South. But like me, he’s not just content playing those same courses every day of the week, so he plays all around SoCal and has played some amazing courses all throughout the country.
Normally, he’s a hardcore “dawn patrol” player, but he was nice enough to invite me out and break from his normal routine to start a little later and play all 36 holes at this complex. I was there early and we could have gotten started sooner, but based on the course schedules, it made the most sense to wait until just before 8:00 to tee off on the South course first. Also, it allowed for a little extra time to let the heavy morning fog lift. It was still pretty gloomy throughout much of the first round as you’ll see in my pictures, but the day eventually cleared up nicely.
We went off first on the South and finished in just 2.5 hours. We went right back out on the North. Though it was much busier and we were stuck behind other groups, it was still only a 3.5-hour round.
As for the courses at Coto de Caza, I did enjoy them both. As my playing partner told me upfront, though North is the original course here, most members prefer playing the South course for a variety of reasons. After playing both, I would probably lean that way myself, too.
All in all, I thought the South was a little prettier course. It’s an easier layout that’s not quite as lengthy and has pretty simple greens and bunkers. There is probably more trouble in play on the South with a lot of trees and environmental hazard areas lining the fairways, but as long as you keep your ball in play, a good score can easily be had. Overall, it suited my eye—and my game—a bit more.
The North is longer and has a few different looks to it. There are some parts that have more of a pastoral links kind of feel and other parts similar to the South. Overall, it features much more undulation throughout the fairways, so there aren’t too many flat lies on the course despite there not being any major changes in elevation. The bunkers are deeper and much more intimidating and the greens feature some more significant sloping and undulation.
Better players with some length will likely prefer the North as a more stern test. More casual players will prefer the South. In my eyes, the ideal course might be a combination of South’s look and layout with some of the North‘s more interesting contour and greens/bunkers.
Both were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. The North was the original course in this community, but as the residential area of Coto de Caza grew, the plans evolved for the second South course. My playing partner remarked at how much the area, the courses and the facilities have changed over the past two-and-a-half decades since he’s been a member.
The North has undergone some renovations in recent years. Last year, they replaced the sod on all the fairways and altered a handful of holes. Most notably is the par-3 15th. Apparently they lost some old oak trees that really framed the original hole nicely. As a result, they moved the green further back and stretched out the hole some 30-40 yards. By all accounts, it’s not as popular a hole as it once was as the final par-3 on the course.
Overall, the South was in better shape than the North and it primarily comes down to those resodded fairways, which haven’t quite matured yet and may still take another year or two to completely “take.” The turf is thinner and firmer underneath and the grass on top is very thatchy, grabbing your club even more than typical bermuda.
With the bermuda fairways on both courses still coming out of winter dormancy, there’s still a brownish tint to it right now, but otherwise, I thought the courses were in nice overall shape with good playability. The greens were receptive and rolling smooth at medium speeds. The bunkers were excellent. The tee boxes were always good. The rough differs some between the two courses. On the South, the coverage was pretty consistent and lush. The grass was cut down, so it wasn’t penal at all. On the North, there were some thinner spots around the edges and a bit less consistency overall. There are also some really deep patches around some parts of the North, which add to that linksy/Savannah kind of feel.
I can’t say I was blown away by either course at Coto de Caza, but both are solid and between the two, there’s a nice variety of holes. Each course offers something a little different, so it’s nice to have that option for members to enjoy. The setting is nice and peaceful running down through the middle of a canyon area with homes atop the hillsides. None of the houses ever feel “too close” to the courses, so things feel pretty secluded and peaceful throughout. There are a ton of old oak trees throughout the property, which add a lot of character.
The facilities at Coto de Caza are also nice, with a big clubhouse and ample practice areas to complement the two courses.
I definitely enjoyed my day at Coto de Caza and the opportunity to play alongside my new friend who is even more of a golf nut than I am and had so many great stories to share from playing over 10,000 rounds. It was a great day!
Some pictures from Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club (3/31/15):