Course Review: Vista Valley Country Club

Today, I played in another SCGA event. This one was at Vista Valley Country Club, which most people don’t know much about. It’s kind of obscurely located geographically and it’s not one of the big name clubs in San Diego County, but I sure enjoyed the experience there.

The price was a reasonable $60 for this outing. My group teed off around noon and the pace was decent at around 4:20. The weather was excellent and there are some great vista points on this course, which features some cool changes in elevation.

Vista Valley was designed by Ted Robinson, Sr., and as an older course that has undoubtedly been modified and modernized over the years, it does have some quirks. It’s definitely one of those courses you need to play a number of times to really figure out certain holes. As a group of first-time players, it was an adventure at times.

Vista Valley is kind of a tale of two nines. Both sides of the course are demanding and fun, but there is definitely a different vibe from one nine to the next. The front nine is tighter through a more wooded area down in a canyon. The back nine is more of a “canyon” style course playing along the hillsides and atop some of the ridges, while also dipping down into the valley a few times, too. Both nines are pretty hilly, flat lies are very rare and just about every hole makes you work for a good score.

Overall, the setting is very pretty and secluded. A big hillside protects the south side of the property while any of the homes in this community are bunched on the north side of the course and really don’t come into play much at all. There are a couple holes on the back nine that run close to the main road through that area (Gopher Canyon Road), so that’s just a minor nuisance.

The most unusual part of the course comes on holes 13 and 14, which may be too quirky for some. The 13th is a crazy par-4 with a pretty blind tee shot down a hill. There are a couple of fairway shelves as you work your way to the bottom, where a tall tree sits in the middle of the fairway. Water is on the right making for an even less comfortable tee shot. Once at the bottom, the hole doglegs up and to the left with a pretty severe uphill approach.

The 14th is interesting in that, when playing either the blue or white tees, it can be played as either a long par-3 or a short par-4. Water guards the green front and right while tall trees and a hillside keep you from bailing out to the left. Ultimately, I think it’s much better suited as a par-3, which apparently is how it was originally designed by Robinson. I am not sure why or when they added the upper tees to make it an optional par-4. As the player, you decide which you want to play. The upper tees do provide some great views. We ultimately decided to play the par-4 version, only because the par-3 from the blues is a beastly 235 yards with all those hazards I mentioned in play. As a par-4, though, it just doesn’t feel like a good hole design.

The conditions overall were very good. The tee boxes were definitely the weakest part of the course. We played the combo set. The blues tended to be shaggy and a little disheveled as they are still recovering from some overseeding. The whites were more dried out and chewed up, but it was easier to find a good spot to tee it up. The fairways and rough were quite lush and nice throughout. The bunkers were good. The greens were almost totally healed from aeration at the beginning of this month. They were rolling much slower than they looked and still bumpy in places, but mostly good and should only improve in the coming weeks.

Other than a few quirks that you’ll either find interesting or annoying (or maybe a bit of both), Vista Valley is a really fun and challenging course that I would easily recommend. That’s especially true with a reasonable rate like we had today with the SCGA. I can definitely say you won’t walk away from the course feeling bored. You may feel a bit beat up, though!

Some pictures from Vista Valley Country Club (10/22/15):

The 14th as a long par-3:

The 14th as a short par-4:

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