A friend turned me on to a “member for a day” deal this club was offering through May 10. The prices are $40 for weekday, $50 for weekend. With weekend availability, of course I jumped on the chance to play a new course at a reasonable guest rate. I even gathered up a group of friends met through Greenskeeper.org and SCGA outings who I knew would also be eager to check out this usually private course.
We ended up with two full foursomes, so it was fun being out there with a big group. We teed up around 12:30 and the whole front nine was wide open in front of us until we reached the 9th hole. After that, the entire back nine was slow-going, but we finished all 18 in about 4.5 hours. One of my friends and I stuck around to play a few bonus holes (replaying 10-16) before having to turn the cart back in by 7:00. We definitely got our money’s worth.
I had seen bits and pieces of this course when driving out to Marshall Canyon, which is just up the street. With Sierra La Verne being geographically sandwiched between that course and San Dimas Canyon, I knew what to expect of the setting in the foothills. Otherwise, I didn’t know too much about the course itself.
The front nine is pretty standard fare and reminiscent of many old courses throughout the area, winding back and forth through the property with tree-lined fairways. The standout hole on the front is unfortunately the funkiest. The 6th features a 90-degree dogleg left and will be a lay-up for most off the tee. There is no shortcut to take, but someone that can hit a giant hook might be able to bite off a bigger chunk even though it probably wouldn’t be that advantageous.
The 9th is a decent finisher on the front nine with water in play, though it is well short of the green and doesn’t provide a huge amount of protection for approach shots. Longer hitters will have to factor it more on their tee shots as it is very reachable.
Overall, the front nine is solid and enjoyable enough, but nothing too distinctive. However, the back nine definitely perks up and gets a lot more interesting. In the end, it kind of won me over, though it is the type of layout you have to play a few times to really figure out some of the nuances and strategies. We did find more success the second time through on holes 11-16, which really make up the signature stretch, but still make you work even when you know what you are supposed to do.
The 11th comes at you unexpectedly as you cross the street and enter an entirely different environment than the first half of the course. This area is more secluded and built in a little canyon, so the slopes and hazards are much more severe. The 11th features a forced carry to a fairway that is obscured from the tee and slopes dramatically to the right. Then, you are faced with a blind second shot to probably the toughest green on the course, which slopes significantly from the front to the back (where the pin was on Saturday).
The 12th is a tough par-3 that also features a somewhat obscured tee shot from the blue tees. Once you are up around the green, it seems more benign, but the tee shot is definitely intimidating as there is trouble left and right.
The 13th is a good, reachable par-5 for longer hitters. This fairway also slopes a lot from left to right and that factors in on all shots.
The 14th is a true risk/reward par-4 with two trees right in the middle of the fairway of this short dogleg left hole. Long hitters might try and go for it. Otherwise, the trees will come into play and any lay-up has to be placed carefully for a reasonable approach view. This is one that I’d like to play many more times to figure out where it’s best to place my tee shot.
The 15th is a signature par-3 and it is a beautiful beast. From the blue tees, it plays at 195 yards and is all carry over a water hazard. There is OB on the right and then some tall old trees on the left side protecting what little bail-out area there is on that side. It is pretty much an all-or-nothing shot and a fade hitter’s worst nightmare. I ended up using driver here so that I could tee it high and play a big soft fade over the trees. Both times through, I somehow pulled off the perfect shot and felt very fortunate, even though I missed both birdie putts.
The 16th is a long and picturesque par-4 with trouble in play all along the left side and behind the green. The unique feature of this hole is that there is an upper and lower tee box for the blues and the way the markers were set out implied to us that you could play whichever one you wanted. The lower left one clearly favored a draw hitter while straight and fade hitters will prefer the upper right option.
The 18th is also a nice and fairly demanding finisher to round out a very interesting back nine that some people might not enjoy because it demands a lot of strategy and execution. However, we found it to be a lot of fun, even though it ate us alive!
The course was in pretty good shape throughout. The only significant weaknesses were the tee boxes and greens. The tee boxes were a bit unlevel and had lots of divot damage on some holes. They told me the greens were punched about a month ago, but remnants of the aeration/sanding still remain and seem more recent, so they were fairly bumpy. Uphill putts were really slow and we left a lot short. However, downhill putts were very slick and hard to stop.
The fairways were in nice shape and we almost always had great lies. The rough was also pretty good throughout. I was in one bunker and it didn’t seem all that well maintained on top, but the sand was fine for my shot.
I should note that the yardages are sparsely marked and fairway plates are well-camouflaged. So if you are anal about having exact yardages, you will want to bring a scope or GPS.
Though not a “must play” level course, Sierra La Verne was more interesting than I expected and the conditions were solid. At the reasonable rates they are charging for this member for a day deal, it’s worth checking out if you haven’t had the chance to play it before.
Some pictures from Sierra La Verne Country Club (5/2/15):