On Thursday, I took a most excellent adventure up to San Dimas (yes, the hometown of Bill & Ted) to play San Dimas Canyon Golf Course. This is a course I’ve always had a fondness for, though it has been several years since I last played there. As a LA County course, deals aren’t always that easy to come by and it is well-known for very slow play. It is very popular and almost always very crowded, which is enough to keep me away more often than not.
That said, I’ve been looking for an excuse to play it again, especially since I’ve never reviewed it. I have a list of SoCal courses that I haven’t played since starting this blog. Some like San Dimas Canyon are more desirable than others, but I hope to eventually revisit them all at some point. The key is usually to find a convenient time to play and a really good deal.
Thursday worked out well as they had a 12:22 hot deal time on GolfNow for $23. That’s a pretty solid deal here. Like most of the county and city courses around here, they get so much play no matter what they charge, they don’t have a need to give out many discount times. It was busy out there as always, but when I checked in the pro shop guy offered to get me out early. I checked with the starter and he kept me hanging around for an earlier opening. Ultimately, I got paired with another single and a twosome and we teed off a little before noon.
Another single caught up to us on the second tee and we played the rest of the round as a fivesome. There was no rush as there was nowhere to go. Groups were stacked throughout the course and we had no problem keeping pace. When the dust settled, it was a 5-hour round. Sadly, that’s not all that bad here based on some of the horror stories I’ve heard and some earlier experiences I’ve had. I couldn’t help but laugh when we had just finished the 4th hole an hour and 20 minutes after we started (that’s basically a 6-hour pace). I looked at the GPS in the cart and it said we were 17 minutes ahead of desired pace! That just goes to show you the expectation here, though thankfully the pace picked up more as we went along.
I will say I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty nice GPS system in the carts, which is not something you typically get with an American Golf county course. It definitely comes in handy with this tricky layout.
San Dimas Canyon is not long by today’s standards, topping out at 6,400 from the blue tees and playing around 6,000 from the whites. It is definitely more of a target course, especially on the back nine. The front nine is a bit more open and the terrain is flatter throughout much of it. The front nine feels like it plays longer, but it’s actually a tiny bit shorter than the back in terms of total yardage.
The 1st hole is not open, though. It is a fun, yet fairly intimidating opening tee shot. The hole plays straight downhill with a slight dogleg left and a very narrow fairway lined by trees. There’s a creek bed on the far left and a pump house on the left side, as well. These both kind of get in your head. It’s a short hole and it plays even shorter with the downhill slope, so most players will take an iron or hybrid. Big hitters can even go for the green.
The 9th is kind of a wacky hole that I don’t particularly care for, especially as a fade hitter. It is a very short par-5 at 472 yards, but it’s probably only 330 as the crow flies from tee to green because of a sharp dogleg left. There are nets along the tee boxes preventing you from cutting the corner, though, because it is lined with houses. Unless you can hit a massive right-to-left shot, the only real option is to lay up way out to the corner along the right. Then, there are some trees in the middle of the fairway to mess with your mind on the second shot, followed by another set of trees in front of the green. It requires a lot of strategy and accuracy, which I like, but it also just doesn’t look or feel quite right as you stand over each shot.
The back nine tightens up more and is also hillier. Even though a few holes here could also be considered “funky,” I just find it to be a whole lot of fun for some reason. To me, the highlight holes on the back are the two par-3s. The 10th is a fun downhill hole with the most interesting green and bunker complex on the course, in my opinion. The 16th is the signature hole playing downhill over water with a nice rock wall lining the edge.
San Dimas Canyon benefits from a nice overall setting up in the foothills and only a few places where houses and/or roads line the course.
The course was in less-than-ideal winter shape from tee to green, but playable enough. The tee boxes were mostly good. A few could use some leveling out and a couple of the par-3s were quite chewed up. The fairways and rough were thin and patchy. They provided a lot of extra roll-out, which is often more harmful than helpful on this particular course. The two bunkers I was in had excellent sand, but nobody seems to rake here. The greens were also exceptional. They were rolling true at medium-quick speeds. I did fix my fair share of unrepaired ball marks, but those and the abundant sand trap footprints are more of a reflection on the inconsiderate players here and not the maintenance. It’s a shame because the putting surfaces were otherwise maintained beautifully.
I don’t know if I loved the course as much as I remember loving it in the past, but it will always be a sentimental favorite and one of my top picks among the LA County and city courses. It is a fun and more-challenging-than-expect layout, but you can still put together a really good score here if you execute your shots. The greens can also be quite deceptive here, so that can also make or break your score. I found that out firsthand on Thursday!
Some pictures from San Dimas Canyon Golf Course (2/4/16):
Nearby Course Reviews: