This morning, I took advantage of an opportunity to play one of my local courses. Though I live in Irvine, I rarely golf in Orange County because most courses are vastly overpriced, overrated and/or overcrowded. Such is the case with Strawberry Farms Golf Club.
Strawberry Farms has built up a little bit of good karma in recent months as part of the Forelinx course rotation. As part of that membership, it’s a good deal to play this normally expensive course. However, even when playing here on the cheap, it’s still hard to not feel sorry for the people who are paying higher rates. I have to factor in what the course “normally” charges people as part of my review process. Knowing this course, especially in its current state, is charging people well over $100 makes me feel kind of sick to my stomach.
I say “its current state” because that has to be part of the story. These days, you definitely have to lower your expectations when playing anywhere in Southern California (outside of Coachella Valley) because of the major impact the drought has had. I’ve learned to cut courses some slack. Also, it is wintertime and that makes a difference, too, especially on courses that don’t overseed the fairways. All of these factors are clearly in effect at Strawberry Farms right now. I wouldn’t go into a round here in mid-December expecting pristine conditions, but I would expect something a little nicer considering what they typically charge for a round of golf.
Oh well, fortunately I was taking advantage of a very good deal. That did help me relax and enjoy it more. I played along with a couple friends and we were in the fourth group out at 7:23. The overall pace was good at just under four hours total.
This was my second time playing Strawberry Farms. The first was several years ago right after I started my blog, but wasn’t reviewing every course I played yet. So, this visit was a good excuse to review it here for the first time. I had positive memories of the layout, especially the back nine, and had it ranked rather high on my OC regional rankings page. I hate to say it will likely go down a few notches now.
That is not to say I don’t still like the course. I enjoy it more than some people I know. The front nine isn’t overly exciting, but the back nine is really fun. It’s definitely a target layout as it circles around the reservoir and offers a nice overall setting with plenty of trouble in play on both sides of each hole. The 18th is a tricky finisher with a creek cutting across in front of the green, a canyon left and then some snazzy waterfalls to the right to dress it up.
The 10th is easily the best-looking hole at Strawberry Farms playing along the edge of the water and the 16th is a memorable short par-5 with some risk/reward options to consider. There are five par-3s here and I think all of them are pretty decent holes.
As I not-so-subtly hinted at earlier, the course is in winter/drought shape. The greens were by far the nicest part, as they were soft and rolling smooth at medium speeds. They were great, so I will give them credit for that. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were pretty much dormant and it’s kind of thatchy/puffy grass. It seems that to maintain them, it’s less about mowing the grass than matting it down. Sometimes you get a bit of a chunky lie against the grain. If a really good fairway is comparable to someone with a really tight flat top haircut, these fairways were more akin to the Trump combover in many places!
The rough was also basically dormant and a little longer. The ball sat down just enough to make you work for a recovery. About 50 yards from each green and in, things are kept somewhat greener and nicer, but grass coverage was still somewhat spotty. I was in a couple of greenside bunkers on the back nine and they were nice. My friends were in a few early and complained that they were very firm and thin.
In summary, it’s cool to have Strawberry Farms as part of the Forelinx package and I love that it’s so close to home. I enjoy the layout overall, though it’s nothing that will blow you away. It would be a pretty good course if maintained at the level you might expect given the rack rate pricing. Unfortunately, this is not the best time of year to play this course, so it is what it is. Unless you are a Forelinx member or have enough money that you don’t care about the rates, wait until spring and summer. Even then, you’ll probably want to lower your expectations a bit. It’s definitely another example of vastly overpriced OC golf!
Some pictures from Strawberry Farms Golf Club (12/12/15):