I played out here on Saturday in an SCGA member outing. It’s rare they hold these on weekends, but they are becoming a little more frequent and I’m always happy to sign up when it’s a course I haven’t played.
It was a 1:30 shotgun start, but the traffic on the I-5 was brutal and a handful of people coming from the north were late. I was lucky I left extra early. What would normally be a 45-minute drive for me turned out to be two hours, so I had just enough time to get there, roll a few putts and wolf down a hot dog for lunch!
We had a to wait on a member of our foursome who was stuck in that traffic. We were supposed to be the “A” group on the first tee, but we let the B group play first and then we had nobody pushing from behind us. A few members came out to play and ultimately caught up, but we enjoyed a nice relaxed pace behind the rest of the SCGA group.
Bernardo Heights is yet another Ted Robinson course from the early 80s and, though a solid track on all levels, never really felt like anything too different or special. It reminded me of Rancho Bernardo Inn ( which is right down the street), The Legends and Eastlake at times. What’s funny is that I really didn’t research the course at all before playing it, but I knew within a few holes it was a Robinson course. The greens weren’t totally tricked out like some of his layouts, but the distinctive shelves and funky shapes were obvious and the traditional water features were there as expected on a few of the “signature” holes.
As the Bernardo Heights name would suggest, this is a hilly course and the elevation changes definitely add some fun to the layout. There are a number of semi-blind shots up and over hills and around corners. As first-time players without a yardage book or GPS, it was a guessing game at times. Fortunately, the layout was rather forgiving all around, so we managed our way through and all played pretty well.
As is typical on Robinson courses, there are a couple signature par-3s at Bernardo Heights. The 9th is a pretty fun one with water left and short of the green. The 12th is probably the star as a relatively long one over water with a nice rock wall in front of the green and a good overall look. The only detraction of this hole is that it’s very close to the busy I-15 freeway.
There are a couple of fun par-5s here that bring water into play like the 2nd and the 17th, which both play similarly with water guarding the greens to provide some risk/reward decisions for longer hitters.
The conditions at Bernardo Heights did not inspire us too much as a private club. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were mostly good. They seemed pretty dried out, which provided a lot of extra roll and most lies were fine. The rough was much more spotty around the edges, but cut down and not too much of a factor. The bunkers were nice and the greens were also very good. They were a little slower than they looked, but the surfaces were smooth and receptive on approaches.
One story at Bernardo Heights is a reflection on the state of golf in California in general because of the drought. They are in the process of removing the grass in “non-essential” areas around tee boxes and the outer edges of the course. Currently, the front nine is a bit torn up in these areas as the sod has already been cut out. On the back, flags and paint lines denote where the cuts will take place. We saw some big piles of wood chips, so that looks like what they’ll be replacing those areas with for water conservation. I’m sure it will look better when complete and it’s a sign of things to come at a lot of California courses.
Overall, it was an enjoyable day on the course. Though Bernardo Heights is definitely a “one and done” experience for me and my memories of the course won’t stick with me too much (good thing I have this blog), I guess it’s worth checking out if you have a chance to play it and get a reasonable rate. For the $70 we paid, it seemed overpriced as it looks and plays more like a $40-50 standard San Diego kind of track.
Some pictures from Bernardo Heights Country Club (5/30/15):