On Sunday, I made my way back down to Rancho Santa Fe to check another private club off the list. Technically, Morgan Run is also a resort, too, so you can play it if you are willing to pay up with a stay and play package. Though I’ve always known it was accessible in this way, I also knew it was somewhat overpriced and the course itself isn’t known as anything too amazing. In other words, I’ve never been in any huge hurry, but knew I would have to get there eventually.
A fellow course collector friend sparked the idea, so I decided to join along and make it happen. He actually did the stay and play along with another friend, so I was able to join up with them on Sunday morning as a guest. The rate was a bit excessive as feared ($120 for 18 holes plus another $68 for unlimited replays). The two-person stay and play package was actually a little less per person, but this made the most sense for three players and we all split the costs equally to make it work for everyone.
Anyway, we were there and planning to make the most of it with the unlimited deal. I ended up playing 72 holes to help justify the cost! There are 27 holes at Morgan Run, so I looped around all day and it worked out pretty well. Our threesome started off by playing North-East-South in the morning. One of the guys left after that. We enjoyed a slow, but tasty burger lunch in the grille and then headed back out. We played another quick 18 (South-East) as a twosome, but I was on my own after that. I rounded out the day playing North-East-South again.
The course was pretty much what I expected. It’s a solid design and fine course I suppose, but there just isn’t anything overly distinctive or exciting about it. Elevation changes are minimal and sight lines aren’t always well defined. It feels more open than it actually is. Of the three nines, South was easily my favorite. It has the most challenging layout and it was also best conditioned. The North would definitely be second as it does have a few nice holes and the 7th-8th is probably the best two-hole combo at the facility. The East feels a bit like the red-headed stepchild at Morgan Run. It was a notch down on all levels, including conditions, though I did like its set of three pretty good par-3s.
In the past, I’m quite certain it used to be considered two separate courses. There was the normal 18, which I presume is the North-South combo, and then there was the “Links” course, which I would guess is now the East. I could be wrong about those presumptions, but that would be my thinking. These days, it’s just one 27-hole facility with a rotation of the three nines.
I mentioned the 7th and 8th holes of the North course as being some of the few highlight holes here. The 7th is a tough, long par-4 with an elevated green and water running along the right edge of your approach shot. The 8th is a nice par-3 over the water to another elevated green. My other favorite hole at the complex was the 8th hole of the East course, which is a fun little par-3 over a marshy wash that has a nice look.
On the South, the best hole is the difficult par-4 3rd. It plays longer than the listed yardage because of the prevailing winds right in your face. Water cuts across the fairway. Long hitters may have to scale back their tee shots a bit, but otherwise there is more room out there than you expect. The approach is then tricky as you hit over the water to a well-protected green.
There isn’t anything particularly bad about the design. It just won’t blow you away. Where I was impressed with Morgan Run, though, was the conditioning. Overall, the place was in very nice shape. I did mention the East course was a bit of a step down and it had a few more bare spots than the other nines. However, it was still pretty good throughout. The tee boxes and fairways were lush and excellent. The greens were receptive and rolling smooth on putts at relatively quick speeds. The bunkers were fantastic.
The real story at Morgan Run (at least on Sunday) is the rough. With most courses cutting back on their rough maintenance right now, they seem to be watering it plenty here. It is thick, deep and nasty throughout the course. What’s odd is that you’ll find difference grasses in different areas. There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to it, but it works. More often than not, the rough will be kikuyu, which is extra brutal to play from. However, sometimes you’ll find large sections of rye or bermuda. No matter what, you can expect it to swallow up your ball and present a very tough recovery shot. Whatever grass is there is consistently maintained and well presented. It’s just odd that the types of grass vary so much from hole to hole.
I did mention earlier that the layout looks more open than it actually is. That’s where this nasty rough comes into play. From the tee, it’s not always clear where the fairway ends and rough begins. Once you are out there, the lines are tight and well-defined, but the tee angles can be deceptive. It helped being able to replay each nine multiple times so that I knew where to hit and where to avoid.
I’m glad to have finally checked out Morgan Run and we had a lot of fun trying to play as many holes as possible there to get our money’s worth. My friends told me the lodging was pretty basic and the “resort” amenities were nothing too amazing. I don’t know how much appeal the resort stay and play option has, but it is one way to access the course. Unless you are bound and determined to play everything like us, though, it’s probably not worth the effort. That said, if you get invited out to play Morgan Run at a reasonable guest rate, then it’s worth the visit. The conditioning was great and the course is fine enough depending on your preferences.
Some pictures from Morgan Run Club & Resort (9/13/15):