On Saturday, I made my way out to Canyon Lake (just east of Lake Elsinore) to check out Canyon Lake Country Club. I heard recently that this once private residential club was now open to the public on certain days and times.
I gave them a call to gather more information and they let me know it was on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays after 11:00. Being a Saturday afternoon with nothing better to do, I hopped in the car for a late twilight round. The rates are reasonable, so it was just $29 (cart included) after 4:00.
The place was pretty empty on a 100+ degree day with heavy afternoon winds, so I teed it up quickly and only had to play through a couple groups along the way. Obviously, the secret isn’t out yet, so it was like having the place to myself and getting a private club experience.
The facilities are modest, but I got a nice welcome from the staff and it felt like a nice club within the Canyon Lake community. Most, if not all, members are residents, so I am not sure they’ll be too happy if there’s an influx in outside play. However, this is still a somewhat out-of-the-way course without too much notoriety, so I doubt it will ever get crazy busy there.
The layout is a fun one, but I know plenty of people who would deem it too “funky” as it is target golf to the extreme. The course tops out at 6,000 yards from the back tees, but does play a little longer. It is a par-71 and it is very hilly, so the slopes do come into play a lot. The fairways are very narrow, there are some tricky doglegs, trees are well placed and there are numerous blind shots. You don’t need to hit it long here, but you do need to keep it straight.
As a first-time player at Canyon Lake, I had some struggles trying to figure out what to do on certain holes. It’s definitely the type of course you need to play many times to really understand the strategies. Case in point is the par-5 16th. Some people will look at the scorecard and salivate at the 460 total yards, but man is this a tricky hole. The tee shot offers an awkward angle and then the hole ultimately makes a huge turn left and up a steep hill to the green. At the corner, the fairway is impossibly narrow. People going for it in two will need to be very precise on both shots. Just playing it as a three-shot hole was no picnic, especially for a short fade hitter like me.
There are two holes I would consider signature designs. One is the 13th, which is a nice par-4 with a semi-blind tee shot over a hill and then a great approach view with a peninsula green and the clubhouse in the background. The other hole that most will remember well is the par-3 17th. It features a massive drop from tee to green (you can barely see the green from the back tees) and the green itself is tucked back into a little canyon. It’s a really fun one that you could spend all day trying to figure out the right distance and trajectory.
The course was in very good shape overall. A couple of the back tee boxes were a bit chewed up, but most were great. The fairways were mostly excellent. They were left a bit longer to combat the heat, so there was not much roll-out on drives, but nice fluffy lies to hit from. The rough was not much of a factor as it was cut down in most places, but there was fairly good coverage throughout. I was in a couple bunkers and they had good sand. It was not super soft, but enough to work with, which is how I like it. The greens were receptive and getting a little bumpy as poa will do late in the day. However, they were still very nice surfaces rolling at medium speeds.
The Canyon Lake layout is probably not for everyone, but it is something different worth checking out in the Inland Empire. The pro shop guy told me that they will have these public openings available for the foreseeable future, and who knows, someday it might go fully public like some other private clubs have in recent years. I wish them well in generating some extra business and I wouldn’t mind having a rematch myself now that I know how to play some of the trickier holes!
Some pictures from Canyon Lake Country Club (8/29/15):