On Thursday, I had a chance to play the historic Red Hill Country Club in Rancho Cucamonga. I signed up for an SCGA member outing and the rate of $60 was definitely reasonable, since most of those outings are rather expensive to play these private clubs.
I was booked into the last group of the day, set to go off at 11:50. Things were actually running ahead of schedule, which is rare, so we teed off a few minutes early. Unfortunately, the group directly ahead of us was one of the slowest foursomes in the bunch, so they were at least a hole behind most of the round. The five-hour round on a very hot day was a bit brutal, but I still enjoyed the course a heck of a lot.
Red Hill Country Club was established in 1921 and the course was designed by both George C. Thomas, who shaped some of Los Angeles’ most revered courses like The Riviera CC and Bel Air CC, and William P. Bell, who is responsible for many great older courses throughout Southern California. You can definitely sense a classic feel and old school vibe around this timeless track. It isn’t anything flashy, but just a nice design all the way through.
Like any old course, it does have some quirks. However, Red Hill never felt too funky. Probably the first hole is the oddest, as it is a short par-4 at 267 yards from the tips. It doglegs right and the green is protected by a small pond to give people second thoughts about going for it on the first tee shot of the day. Long is also dead, so you really have to feel good before taking an aggressive swing. Since it is the first hole, most people will choose a simple lay-up of about 180 yards and then it’s a really easy shot from there. I’m not against the hole, but it would be more fun later once you are warmed up, kind of like the 10th at Riviera.
A few holes have big trees guarding the greens pretty fiercely, so that’s kind of a design look you don’t find on many newer courses. Considering how much these trees have probably grown over the years, I’m sure they’ve taken on a life of their own and members have their “favorite” ones that they love to hate.
One other interesting feature is the 10th hole, which is a relatively short downhill par-3 that actually plays directly over part of the driving range. I’m guessing the driving range wasn’t originally there, so they shoehorned it into the property at some point. There wasn’t anyone on the range when we played it, but I’m sure it creates a few awkward moments and scary errant shots.
The quirks at Red Hill seemed more endearing than annoying to me because the rest of the course has such a nice look and feel. There are plenty of doglegs in both directions, forcing both draw and fade ball flights in order to really score well. Tons of big, mature trees line the fairways and present a wide variety of arboreal looks, from crusty old oaks to tall, majestic pines to fragrant eucalyptus. The overall contour of the layout and use of the naturally rolling terrain is great.
Also throughout the course, you are treated to nice mountain views in the distance and it’s a great backdrop to enjoy on a clear day like we had on Thursday.
Overall, the course was in excellent condition. However, they are in the process of their “turf reduction,” so there were a ton of workers around and a lot of torn-up non-essential areas being worked on. There were a couple of temporary tees, but otherwise the tee boxes were great. The fairways were fantastic. The rough was very lush, green and just deep enough to offer some punishment. I was in one bunker and it was great. The greens were also very nice. They were receptive on approaches and smooth on putts, rolling at medium-fast speeds. Downhillers were hard to stop and uphillers were hard to get there.
This was my first time playing the course and hopefully not my last. Fortunately, the SCGA usually does at least a couple outings here each year and the prices are always reasonable. I look forward to returning sometime in the future once all the turf reduction work is complete and there’s not so much construction going on throughout the course. Some sections were already completed with the beauty bark patches and some young trees/bushes being planted. It will be a nice way of conserving water like all California courses are having to do while not hurting the aesthetics or playability of the course itself.
Some pictures from Red Hill Country Club (8/27/15):