My main rounds of this trip took place on Saturday at San Juan Oaks and Eagle Ridge, but I wanted to make the most of my two days out of town and add a few more courses to the list. When it came to booking my golf on Sunday, I opted for affordability and convenience. I found some pleasant surprises and some things that were exactly as expected.
I got started as early as possible to get the most out of the day as I ultimately worked my way back home that night…
Summitpointe Golf Club • Milpitas, CA • 5/24/15
With some last-minute trip planning and a busy holiday weekend throughout California, my lodging options were limited on Saturday night, but I ended up staying further north than I wanted in South San Jose. The good news is that it gave me a lot of new course options to consider for Sunday morning because I haven’t really explored this area before.
Ultimately, Summitpointe looked to be the best deal and close to where I was staying, so I booked a 5:52 tee time for a very reasonable $34.99. It was pretty quiet out there that early in the morning, so it was just me and a few other dawn patrollers looking to head out at first light. I ended up third behind a twosome and another single, but they all moved quickly and the front nine went by fast.
However, they let out a lot of back nine players here in the morning and the back nine is the much more appealing side of the course (more on that in a bit), so things were backed up by the time I made the turn. I played through a couple groups, but ultimately joined the single ahead of me for the last six holes. Overall, the pace was still nice at around three hours.
As I mentioned, Summitpointe is definitely a tale of two nines. The entire course would easily be categorized as a target layout, as it’s not too long and accuracy is vital to a good score. The front nine is built on a steep hillside with some very extreme uphill, downhill and side-hill shots to contend with and a few really funky hole designs. The conditions on this side seemed more firm and thin, so the ball would easily roll down the hills and potentially into trouble. There were several times I had to land my drive at high up on a hill only to see it trundle all the way across the fairway and into the rough on the lower side. It was pretty silly and probably the most severe side-hills I’ve ever seen.
On a positive note, the most elevated points on this side of the course do offer some nice views of the South Bay waterfront and Silicon Valley, which illuminated nicely in the early morning light.
The back nine is perhaps just as tricky and the landing areas feel even more tight. There are only a couple of holes with the extreme side-hill shots, though. Most of this nine runs through a little narrow canyon with lots of trees in play and a great deal of accuracy required on every shot. That all said, the back nine is much more visually striking with nice aesthetics, interesting hole designs and great scenery. The water hazard between 10 and 18 needs to be cleaned up a lot and those holes can use some beautification. I liked the design of both holes, but they present a little uglier (like the front nine) compared to holes 11-17.
The entire layout at Summitpointe is not for the faint of heart and big bombers will feel very constrained on most holes. Really accurate hitters can pick this place apart, though, with strategic shots. The course would be better off if some of the super-sloped hillsides were softened more so that these fairways are possible to hold.
Condition-wise, I think both sides were pretty equal, but the back nine just looked nicer and the fairways were easier to hold, so it seemed to play much better. The greens were great on both sides, rolling smooth at medium speeds. I was in one bunker and it had good sand. The tee boxes could use some more work, but they were fine enough throughout.
I probably wouldn’t recommend Summitpointe to most because many aspects are just too “funky” for the masses to enjoy, but I think it is a course you need to play a few times to find your groove. The regulars here didn’t seem to bothered by anything, and the price was very good for a Sunday morning round, which is got to be worth something in an area where golf tends to be rather expensive.
Some pictures from Summitpointe Golf Club (5/24/15):
I looked into many options closer to San Jose for my second round, but ultimately I decided to work my way further back home and knock out a course I knew I would need to play someday. As the southernmost public regulation 18-hole course along the 101 I had yet to play and the last one remaining in Monterey County, it’s part of my systematic plan to eventually play as many as I can in California…
Salinas Fairways Golf Course • Salinas, CA • 5/24/15
I had booked an 11:37 “hot deal” time through GolfNow at a rate of $34. When I checked in, they also gave me a $25 replay coupon to come back and play any time. I thought that was a great gesture for a first-time player, though I knew I’d never be back and I gave it to one of my playing partners later. Hopefully he’ll be able to use it.
I was hoping I might get out a little early, but it turned out they were having a huge tournament with groups having gone off both nines in the morning and clogging up the entire course. The pro shop guy was super nice and worked to get me out earlier, so he paired me with a twosome of older fellows (Ed and Earl) to start on the back nine around 11:20. The pace was slow behind the tournament groups and then I was bummed when I made the turn and saw how backed up the first tee was. Ed and Earl were only playing nine, so I was back on my own.
They grouped me with another threesome and I was pleasantly surprised by the pace on the front nine. Though the whole round felt slow because it was so busy and I wanted to get back on the road, it really wasn’t bad at all. What felt like a 6-hour round was in reality only a 4-hour pace, so I cannot complain too much!
I knew basically what to expect from Salinas Fairways. When I was up this way last year and played Crazy Horse Ranch across town, I did a quick drive-by of this course to see how it looked. I could tell it was kept in decent shape and the layout looked like a pretty standard muni “parkland” kind of track. Nothing amazing, but worth checking out eventually.
This course also features two pretty different nines. Ultimately, I was glad to play to back nine first because I found it to be very boring. It’s one of the most flat and wide open tracks I’ve ever seen. It seems they want to evoke somewhat of a links style here and this property right next to the small Salinas Airport seems like a good fit for that design look. It also helped that it was very windy and chilly while playing this side, which is the type of weather you expect on a links course. However, very little (if any) earth was moved in the construction of this nine. What you see is what you get.
The front nine is a more traditional parkland layout with plenty of trees in play and gentle contours shaping the holes. It reminded me of some older LA County/muni courses like Los Amigos or Balboa/Encino. A solid and enjoyable layout overall, but nothing too unique or interesting.
Salinas Fairways was in decent shape. This course is also a tale of two nines. The back nine felt a little more lush and green because of its layout, but both sides were pretty equally kept. The tee boxes were fine, the fairways mostly pretty good and the rough was reasonably lush. The rough was definitely deeper and thicker on the front nine. The greens were a bit on the firm side, but rolling smooth and at medium speeds. I was in a couple bunkers and they had good sand.
Probably the most interesting design element at Salinas Fairways is the occasional use of grass bunkers (elevated mound rather then sunken bunkers, though). They were on some holes and offered something a little different as protection around the greens. The rough in these was deep and thick, so it definitely made you work for a good recovery.
Salinas Fairways is certainly not a destination course and it was never meant to be. It is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the greatness that is Monterey County golf. Of course, it’s fairly affordable and locals seem to like playing there, so it works just fine on that level.
Some pictures from Salinas Fairways Golf Course (5/24/15):
Last but not least, I had a little bit of unfinished business to clean up and I’m glad I was able to squeeze in this last course as quickly as possible…
River Oaks Golf Course • Paso Robles, CA • 5/24/15
If you’ve been following my blog in the past year, you’ll know that I had been going on some crazy “Short Course Blitzes” to knock out all the smaller public courses throughout Southern California that I didn’t play when I went through my first list of the regulation 18-hole tracks.
Well San Luis Obispo County was always part of that list (though some would argue it’s NorCal because the courses are rated by the NCGA). Either way, River Oaks was on my to-do list for short courses, but it was off on its own and I couldn’t ever group it with any of the other blitz plans.
The good news is that now I’ve played River Oaks, I only have one more SoCal public short course on my list and then I will be done with that second stage of my “local” quest. Unfortunately, I have to wait until summer for Bear Mountain Golf Course to open up for the season, and then I’ll go up there to check it out and officially complete my list.
Anyway, River Oaks is very unique in that it’s only a 6-hole course. It features five par-3s and a short par-4. When I first read about this course, they made it sound more interesting than it is. It seemed they had significantly different sets of tees so that you could play 6, 12 or 18 holes. However, there wasn’t a significant difference between any of the tee boxes, so I just paid my $10 and played six.
They do have different rates (including unlimited) so you can get as much play as you want here. Two of the par-3s are short at around 100 yards and then others stretch out to almost 150. The par-4 is uphill and is around 290 yards.
There really isn’t too much else to note about the layout. The hole designs are decent enough and offer a solid variety for a 6-hole course to make it more than just a basic “pitch and putt.”
The conditions unfortunately left a lot to be desired. I don’t know if they are planning on redoing some of the sod around the course or if they are just letting the grass die off to save water in the areas between tees and greens. The tees were okay enough. The greens weren’t too great. They were very sandy and bumpy.
With just six holes to play, it was rather nice to get in and out of there in about a half-hour. There were other folks out there who seemed to be enjoying the day, likely on unlimited play deals. If I lived in Paso Robles, I would consider heading out to River Oaks after work in the summertime to hit the ball around and get in some short game practice.
Some pictures from River Oaks Golf Course (5/24/15):