Course Review: The Santaluz Club

On Monday, I had a chance to play The Santaluz Club down in San Diego as part of an SCGA member outing. It was a pretty small group this time, so it worked out nicely. I guess there was some major traffic on one of the routes in (thankfully not mine), so people were running a little late. It was a nice relaxed start for my group, as we teed off around 9:30 with nobody in front of us for a couple holes.

The group behind never pushed us much at all, so we had a true country club kind of experience with a solid 3:45 pace. It was overcast in the morning, but the sun came out on the back nine and really lit the course up as you’ll see in the pictures.

The Santaluz Club sits in a very posh community just east of Rancho Santa Fe, so it has some similar qualities to the great clubs around there. It was designed by Rees Jones, who I am generally a fan of, so I was looking forward to checking out the course.

If I hadn’t known the designer going in, I might have guessed it was actually a Tom Fazio course, because it reminded me at times of Pelican Hill North and The Grand. Those are the best two comparable courses that came to my mind.

The front nine is mostly pretty straightforward in design, with the exception of the very interesting 2nd hole, which is a par-4 that offers all sorts of risk/reward options with a split fairway and a very well-protected green. The back nine is more of a Southern California canyon style design playing along some ridges, across ravines and through the rugged hillsides. There are many memorable holes on the back nine.

The signature hole is undoubtedly the par-3 14th, which features one of only two water hazards on the course (the other one being on the 1st hole). It is a very pretty design with an elevated tee and a tricky green complex that doesn’t leave a lot of room for error.

For the most part, I’d say Santaluz is a relatively forgiving layout with mostly wide fairway landing areas and greens that offer some bail-out options and run-up areas. There are some big bunkers throughout the course that you’ll definitely want to avoid and the hilly terrain also offers an element of challenge as you’re often faced with unlevel stances and approach distances that can be hard to judge.

The community is beautiful, quiet and secluded with some gorgeous homes around the course and some new construction going on, as well. It seems the architectural style here is more of what I’d call a Tuscan-inspired look that is very nice.

The course was in excellent condition all around. The tee boxes and fairways were well-manicured bermuda and the rough was cut low, but still enough to make you work a little as the ball loves to settle down a bit. The greens were firm, but receptive. They looked a little beat up with a lot of old healing ball marks, but still rolled very smooth and true on putts. They were not as fast as they looked, so medium speeds. I was only in one fairway bunker and it had good sand. The rest looked very well maintained.

Is Santaluz a must-play private club option in San Diego? Probably not, but I think it holds its own against most other high-end private courses in this area, based on my experiences. I would certainly recommend playing it if you get a chance to. It’s a great overall experience with excellent facilities, a nice staff and a very enjoyable course design.

Some pictures from The Santaluz Club (8/10/15):

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