Yesterday, I got back on my trend of playing courses that I haven’t reviewed yet on this site. Indian Hills Golf Club in Riverside was next on the list. I’ve been looking at their midweek deal times for awhile, so I finally went for it by booking a 9:53 tee time for only $15 through GolfNow.
It’s been many years since I visited Indian Hills. I played here a number of times in the past, though. I’ve actually always liked this course, but in recent years it seems to have been struggling a lot. Between the economy and the drought, this course fell from a solid mid-level option in the Inland Empire to one that people seemed to avoid like the plague. The reviews on Greenskeeper.org kept going from bad to worse and I chose to avoid it because it felt sad to see a decent track fall so hard.
Still, I was going to go out there and see it for myself. With the great weather we’ve been having in Southern California, our lower-end courses with kikuyu grass as the primary turf are getting to be as nice as they will be all year. It seemed like a good time to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
I was paired up with another single and we teed off around 11:45 behind a steady flow of morning member groups. Another twosome caught up to us on the 3rd hole and joined us for the rest of the round as things were stop and go all day in front of us. Sometimes, we had to wait a long time to hit shots and other times the entire hole was wide open when we got to the tee. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the flow, but it was what it was and it resulted in a total pace of 4.5 hours.
Indian Hills is set in a community on a hillside overlooking Jurupa Valley. There are homes that line most holes of the course and there is a lot of OB in play, so it really is a target design. From the blue tees, it tops out at 6,104 yards and is a par-70 with just two par-5s in the routing. There are a few really short holes and then a couple beefy ones mixed in.
Both par-3s on the front are relatively lengthy. The 3rd measures 199 yards and plays uphill. The 5th is 217 yards, but has an elevated tee box. Then, there’s the 451-yard par-4 9th, which is another tough one. Beyond these few longer holes, Indian Hills is about accuracy more than distance as it goes up, down, along and around the hills.
Easily the signature hole at Indian Hills is the par-4 16th. It features a very elevated tee that overlooks the entire valley. The hole itself is quite straightforward (though you do want to be aware of the water right of the green), but that view is excellent. It was a bit hazy yesterday, but it was still a nice view.
With so many bad reviews in recent years and a $15 price tag, I set my expectations pretty low in terms of conditions. I was pleasantly surprised to find the course looking rather green and playing well. The tee boxes could use some leveling out, but the grass coverage was nice. The fairways were mostly quite good. There were some ugly spots here and there, but I almost always had perfectly fluffy lies to hit from. The rough was more hit and miss with a little bit of everything in play, but still pretty lush in the areas that mattered most (just off fairways and especially around greens). The greens were soft and rolling at medium speeds. I fixed my share of stray ball marks, but overall they had pretty smooth surfaces. The bunkers were the one real issue. I was in a couple and they were absolutely terrible. They were just rock-hard with no sand to work with at all.
Beyond the bunkers, I have to imagine Indian Hills is in about as good a shape as it has been in some time. That’s great to see. The course still looks a little rough around the edges, the facilities feel somewhat run down and the layout isn’t for everybody. So, you still want to temper your expectations a little when coming here. For the price I paid, though, it was well worth it and I hope to keep seeing promising reviews of the course conditions on GK.
Some pictures from Indian Hills Golf Club (3/3/2016):