On Monday, I stayed closed to home in Orange County. Some friends and I had signed up for a charity golf tournament at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel. The event was raising money for a great charity called Kids Konnected.
It was an 11:00 shotgun start and a scramble playing format. We had a lot of fun, and as usual with these big charity tournaments, there was a lot to enjoy. We got various free trinkets and goodies throughout the course, and plenty of snacks, drinks and meals were provided throughout the day. There was a helicopter ball drop, silent auctions and raffle prizes. I even took home a pretty cool framed “golfing greats” piece with pictures and autographs of Arnie, Jack and Tiger.
The pace on course was relatively slow (around five hours), but that’s to be expected with such a big tournament group and the scramble format. We also got unlucky and started on the par-3 5th hole, which is the furthest point away from the clubhouse on the front nine.
The course itself is nice overall, providing a fairly interesting layout and ample challenge. We had all fade hitters in our group, so that made the course play a little tougher because most holes are set up to favor a right-to-left ball flight. Our last few holes (1-4) were actually fairly fade-friendly, and so was the 6th. So if you play the normal routing you’ll find the first third of the course to be good for that left-to-right shot off the tee, while the rest is better suited to the draw swing.
Each half of the course runs out and back. The front nine has a creek running down the middle in between the holes and the back nine also has its low spot in between. This means almost every fairway slopes slightly off to the right and away from the doglegs on the majority of the holes.
It’s not as tough or unfair as I’m making it sound, but it is worth noting because you want to aim to the higher sides of each fairway.
I thought all the par-3 holes were nice, except for maybe the 5th hole where we started. That one is kind of basic. Otherwise, the 8th and 17th are both good holes playing over water. Then, the 14th is a fun downhill par-3.
The nicest part of the course is where the 15th and 16th holes are. Both of those holes provide slightly elevated tee shots and that stretch of the course just has a pretty look. My favorite hole was probably the 10th, though. The tee shot is pretty straightforward, but then the second shot is intimidating with water cutting in front of the green from the right. The green itself is kind of a “biarritz” style with a dip in the middle. We had the pin tucked all the way to the back right on Monday, which made it even more difficult and interesting.
El Niguel reminded me a lot of the La Costa Champions/North course, especially on the back nine. It has a similar feel with nice homes up on the hillsides around the course. And it has a similar good, but not anything that amazing kind of layout.
The course was in good condition overall. It was not showing as pretty as it probably can, especially on a cloudy day, but the playability was very good. The tee boxes were great. The fairways were excellent. The rough was inconsistent with kind of a patchy look because of multiple grasses growing in. It didn’t affect play much, but it did hurt the aesthetics of the course presentation.
We had to play from one greenside bunker and it was nice. The greens were exceptional—receptive to approach shots and rolling quick and smooth on putts. Most putts here played a lot straighter than they looked, so we were overplaying the breaks all day.
El Niguel is a nice club with a good course, but I won’t be in any rush to return. Part of that is my nature to play these private clubs once (if I can get on them) and then move onto the next opportunity. Even so, this course is nothing so special that I’ll feel the desire to replay it any time soon. That said, the charity tournament was for a good cause, so I am glad I participated and something like that may be enough to bring me back again.
Some pictures from El Niguel Country Club (3/21/16):