Course Review: MountainGate Country Club

I still have a ton of SoCal private clubs to try and play, but I was recently able to check one more off the list. MountainGate is always a course I’ve been intrigued by. You see it perched atop the hillside along the I-405 near the Getty Center. You can tell it’s a very hilly course, and to me it always looked like fun.

As home to many wealthy members and plenty of celebrities, from what I hear, it’s often a go-to course for use in movies, shows and commercials. At the same time, it’s not really considered one of the super high-end clubs in Los Angeles. However, a friend of mine asked about membership dues and let’s just say I won’t be in a position to join the club anytime soon!

Anyway, the SCGA was having a member outing here and I was eager to sign up. Being a course managed by American Golf, they do have some guest opportunities from time to time, but this outing ended up working out well for me. I was in the 9:27 group. We actually teed off early, which is rare for any SCGA event, but on course things slowed down as expected and it was about a 4:45 pace.

There are three nines at MountainGate (North, South and Lake). We played the Lake/North combo, which are the holes that you can see most from the freeway when driving south. Lake is the one closest to the freeway. That said, other than a few holes overlooking it, the rest of the course actually feels pretty secluded up on the hillside and running along the edge of a picturesque canyon. At times, it reminded me of Malibu Golf Club.

The layout itself is pretty reminiscent of some other old LA tracks. That makes sense as it is a Ted Robinson course.

The course is short by today’s standards, but falls under that “target golf” category where it pays to keep the ball in play and positioning off the tee is often crucial for a good score. There are a few narrow tee shots, but the fairways are mostly relatively forgiving compared to some similar courses I’ve played around LA.

MountainGate is trickiest around the greens. Most are elevated and well-protected by some tough bunkers. In true Robinson style, the greens feature some shelves and undulation to contend with. Good approach shots are rewarded and bad shots are definitely punished. I think it’s a pretty fair overall design. Early on, several holes definitely favored a right-to-left shot shape, but then later that trend changed. Being able to shape the ball both ways would definitely be an advantage here, but it doesn’t favor one shot shape.

As expected, the terrain is very hilly. There are a number of great elevated tee views and, like I said, most greens are also elevated. Looking back from behind the hole generally offers a pretty scene as you’ll see in the pictures. Overall, I thought the look and landscaping throughout the course was visually pleasing and complementary to the canyon hillside setting.

Though I’m sure it’s seen better days, I felt the course was in very good shape overall. The tee boxes were nice for the most part. The fairways were mostly great and I always had good lies. The 5th hole on the Lake course was roped of as cart-path-only. That fairway was noticeably worse than any other, but clearly they are working to repair it and that’s good to see. The rough was a bit more inconsistent, but was mostly lush and green throughout. It was cut relatively low and not really that penal. The sand traps had excellent soft sand. The greens were good and rolling at medium/quick speeds. Downhill putts were very slippery here while you could be aggressive on uphill ones.

All in all, I really enjoyed my round at MountainGate. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, but that’s a good thing in this case. I was hoping I’d be able to go back out and play the South nine after finishing the main round, but it was closed off for the day because of another event going on. Oh well, it’ll just be a good excuse to come back and play again next time I have the chance!

Some pictures from MountainGate Country Club (4/13/15):

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