Course Review: Black Gold Golf Club

Yesterday, I stayed close to home for an afternoon round at Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda. It’s a course I’ve been wanting to revisit and get a fresh experience. The only other time I played here was many years ago. I remember liking the course somewhat, but I didn’t love it. And, like so many of Orange County’s courses, the regular prices are inflated and good deals can be hard to find. That kept me from coming back all these years.

Though there were better deals available to me mid-week, I opted to finally give Black Gold another shot. It was an easy drive for me and the price was about as good as I’ve seen here. I saw the GolfNow hot deal for $44.50 at 12:38 and decided to snatch it up.

I got there early and it wasn’t too busy out. I kind of caught the lull between the morning groups and the afternoon twilight crowd. I ended up teeing off by myself a little before noon. The front nine went quickly, but then I hit the proverbial wall at the turn. Groups were stacked up ahead and there was no getting through. Fortunately, there was a threesome waiting on the 10th tee and they let me join them. It ended up working out well as they were great guys to play with and it made the slower back nine more enjoyable. Still, I finished all 18 in around 3.5 hours, which was fantastic.

Black Gold was designed by Arthur Hills and built during the golf boom around the turn of the millennium. It is set up in the hills of Yorba Linda, playing through a canyon and offering some great views.  It was really clear yesterday, so I was able to see all the way out to Catalina Island from some parts of the course.

The course is relatively fun, challenging and interesting, offering some similar design ideas found throughout many of Southern California’s canyon course designs. It is hilly. Most greens are elevated and well protected. The fairways go from narrow to open, but for the most part accuracy is definitely at a premium here. In addition, there are many awkward sight lines from the tees and a few blind shots, too.

Fortunately, the carts here are equipped with a nice GPS system. That said, there were several shots that I hit where I thought they were perfect. However, they ended up in bad spots or sometimes even out of play. The fairways have all sorts of slopes, humps and bumps and the tight turf offers plenty of roll-out on drives. Sometimes you catch the right part of the fairway and benefit from a lot of extra yardage. Sometimes you hit the wrong slope and there’s nothing that stops your ball from heading toward trouble. This is definitely a course where previous experience is helpful on quite a few of the holes. If I were to go back and play it tomorrow, there are different strategies I would take on a number of holes.

The greens aren’t as big as you’ll find on some of the area’s other canyon courses, but they do provide some tricky undulation. Keeping the ball below the hole at Black Gold is vital to a good score because the greens are known for being relatively fast.

There are some holes that I don’t particularly love, but there are a few I really like. The 2nd is a very fun short par-4 that plays uphill and offers all sorts of risk/reward options off the tee. The 10th is a nice par-3 with water short and right and the native hillside to the left. The 18th is a solid finisher with a great-looking approach. Water guards the front of the green and you have a waterfall and the clubhouse providing aesthetic appeal.

A few years ago, Black Gold went through a major turf renovation project because they could never keep the grass consistent before. It seems to be paying off now that the new turf is maturing. It is a kikuyu mix in the fairways and rough. Some areas are better than others, especially this time of year, but overall I was pleasantly surprised by the conditions. With so many courses using the drought as an excuse to be dormant and “winterized” in recent years (as in hardly anyone overseeds anymore), I’ve come to lower my expectations during the winter season.

Black Gold was in solid shape and more green than brown, which was nice to see. The tee boxes were in very good shape. The fairways were cut tight and there were some really thin/sandy spots scattered around, but they were appropriately painted off as GUR. I had mostly great lies, though. The rough was semi-dormant and not too much of a factor unless you caught some of the thicker areas up by the greens. The bunkers were excellent.

The greens were easily the highlight of the course. After the last review on Greenskeeper.org talked about how firm and fast they were (as well as the starter telling me the same thing before I teed off), I was expecting tabletop surfaces. They were somewhat firm, but soft enough to be plenty receptive to well-struck shots. The surfaces rolled super smooth and true at quick speeds. The speeds here are so relative to where you are. Anything above the hole is hard to stop. Anything below is hard to get there. There was the occasional unrepaired mark, which is unfortunate and inconsiderate of the golfers playing here. Otherwise, the putting surfaces were maintained beautifully!

I have to say I liked Black Gold more this time around and it won me over on several levels. At the same time, I still can’t say I “love” it as much as some people I know. It’s a fine course and enjoyable layout. The setting is nice, as well. And, the conditions are encouraging when so many other SoCal courses are getting worse and worse. For the price I paid, I would recommend Black Gold in a heartbeat. With the exorbitant rack rates they charge, though, I can’t imagine spending that much to play here. I put it right in with all the other OC (as in “Overpriced Courses”) tracks that charge top-shelf prices for a mid-level experience. I am certainly not the regular target audience for these courses, though, but I will gladly play them when deals come up.

Some pictures from Black Gold Golf Club (2/3/16):

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