I was able to join up for another SCGA member outing today at Friendly Hills Country Club in Whittier. It was a shotgun event, starting at 10:00. My group started on the 7th hole and the total pace was rather slow at over five hours. I think most groups finished closer to 4: 30, but ours was a bit behind all day. The outing did include a nice barbecue at the turn with dogs and burgers ready to pick up. As always, it was a fun casual outing.
I didn’t know a ton about Friendly Hills coming into the round. I played nearby Hacienda Golf Club last year and really loved it, so I expected something somewhat similar. It doesn’t really compare to that course too much, but does fit in with a lot of older Southern California tracks in that it has some quirky aspects. Friendly Hills opened in 1968 and the course was designed by Jimmy Hines. You can definitely tell the cart paths and I’m guessing the back blue tees were added in later than the original course set-up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the routing has been altered over the years, as well, because it has a lot of intertwined areas.
I’ve heard some people refer to it as “Unfriendly Hills” based on the challenging layout and tricky design. It’s not a long course, topping out at 6,408 yards, but it is definitely a target layout. Many angles are narrow, there are plenty of blind shots and awkward sight lines are everywhere. It is very hilly and most holes tend to play straight uphill or downhill. There aren’t many flat lies and distances can be very tough to judge. Quite a few fairways also tend to slant one way or the other, too, so that can make holding those target lines difficult at times.
There are only two par-5s on the course (both of which are rather demanding), making it a par-70 layout. From the blues, it is a 71.6/136 slope and rating, which should give you a hint at the challenge you can expect. All the par-3s are relatively long, as well.
This all said, I don’t know if it was as challenging as I made it with some poor shots today. I played the white tees and should have posted a better score than I did, considering target golf usually fits my style of play.
The conditions today left something to be desired. It was okay and above average by today’s drought standards, but it didn’t quite feel like a private club experience. The turf here is kikuyu. The fairways were kind of thin and the ground underneath was pretty soft, which resulted in a lot of “fat” shots from my group. When I did find the rough, I actually preferred hitting from it instead of the fairways. It was cut low and the ball tended to sit up nicely.
The bunkers were in very good shape. However, the greens were inconsistent. Some were soft and relatively slow while others were thin and sandy on top. They all seemed to be in various stages of maintenance. They weren’t horrible, but again not what you’d expect at a private club. The greens here, like the rest of the course, have a lot of steep slopes. Regardless of how well they rolled, it was often tough to stop anything going downhill and then difficult to get it to the hole when putting uphill.
The mediocre conditions, the slow pace and my poor start wore me out rather quickly, so it was hard to fully enjoy the course. Normally, I am the one defending extreme target golf courses, but Friendly Hills was winning its battle against me. However, the more I settled into my game, I was able to enjoy the course more and it kind of grew on me. In the end, it didn’t totally win me over, but there are a number of aspects I liked about it. And when I look back, I will definitely remember a handful of very distinctive holes.
The par-5 1st hole is interesting with its island tee box and straight uphill marathon to the elevated green that never seems to be in reach. The par-4 4th is a beast at 458 yards from the blues and 448 from the whites. It is downhill, but it was also straight into the wind for us and still played long. It does offer a spectacular view. On a clear day like today, we were able to see Catalina Island in the distance. That’s not a view you expect to see while standing on a golf course in Whittier!
The 8th is a very fun downhill par-3, and the 18th is a very memorable finishing hole. It is one you’ll either love or hate. It plays straight downhill, but about halfway between the fairway landing area and the green is a tall tree that can cause you fits. There is another tree on the left that sits in front of a big water hazard, so you really have to position your tee shot just right to have a good angle into the green. To me, it puts the “fun” in funky! Of course, it was one of the few holes I played properly today and I was able to walk away with a par.
Friendly Hills is not a course I’ll be rushing back to play again, even though I ended up having fun and I know it’s one you need to play several times to appreciate or understand specific hole strategies. It’s not a course I would necessarily recommend to anyone either. Like most target courses, it’s polarizing, and this one will be more polarizing than most in my opinion.
Some pictures from Friendly Hills Country Club (11/23/15):