On Tuesday, I decided to play an early morning round. It made sense to stay close to home in OC, as well as keep it affordable. As I looked at options on Tuesday night, Meadowlark GC in Huntington Beach seemed like the best deal. It was also another one to cross of my “replay” list since I hadn’t reviewed it on this site previously.
It was at least 10 years ago the only other time I played here. I don’t remember it being anything that interesting and the course gets routinely panned on Greenskeeper.org for mediocre conditions and really slow play. This is the case at most of Orange County’s lower-end courses. Still, I figured I’d finally give it another fresh look for myself. I booked a 6:31 tee time at a $25 rate (cart included), so I thought that was a reasonable enough deal for a morning round.
When I checked in, the pro shop guy asked if I wanted to walk or ride. I mentioned the online time I booked had the cart included, but he said I still had the option to walk at a $17 rate. I decided to save a few bucks and hoof it, which is always enjoyable for a dawn patrol round.
I figured I’d be first off by myself when I headed over to the first tee around 6:20, but there were actually a few older guys playing with glow balls ahead of me. Fortunately, they let me play through after a few holes and the front nine went quickly. When I made the turn, I ran into many back nine players and there was nowhere to go. It slowed down significantly, though I still finished all 18 by 9:00.
Slow play was not an issue for me, but super early is probably the only time to avoid a really lengthy round. By the time I left, the course was packed and that’s generally the case from what I know about Meadowlark.
Meadowlark is a very short course and barely a notch above an “executive” layout from Billy Bell. It is a par-70 layout with just two short par-5s and a maximum total yardage of 5,568 from the blue tees. Five of the par-4s are under 300 yards. There is one really long par-4 (the 3rd hole at 435 yards) and all the par-3s are in the 160-170 yard range from the blues, but otherwise the course plays really short.
Some of the shorter holes like the 2nd, 8th and 15th are a bit tricky, offering some fun risk/reward options for longer hitters. In general, the layout is fairly forgiving from tee to green. You can be aggressive on most holes. Overall, it is definitely a confidence building course because a great score is easily had.
I came in with low expectations, but was very pleasantly surprised by the conditions yesterday. I can’t imagine the course being in much better shape than it is right now. The tee boxes were generally fine, with some of the par-3s being a little chewed up. The fairways were great overall, with lush green coverage throughout the course. There were some weak spots here and there and a lot of divots in popular lay-up areas on the short par-4s, but I always had perfect lies. The primary areas of rough were also pretty nice, getting a little weaker the further you stray from the fairways or near any water hazards where the birds have done their damage.
They did just put really nice new sand in the bunkers. It is perhaps too soft right now and unfortunately even the best sand is useless if nobody rakes after themselves. I was in only one bunker and smack dab in the middle of a giant footprint! Lastly, the greens were good overall, soft and rolling pretty well at medium/slow speeds. They aerated early in March, so they are pretty much healed up by now with just a few bumpy spots to be found.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience at Meadowlark. The layout is a bit too short for some players to take seriously and I do know the conditions can vary wildly throughout the year. And of course, big crowds and many drivable holes lead to a lot of slow play. That said, good deals are very easy to find here and it has a friendly local vibe around the course and clubhouse. I won’t be rushing back to play here, but it’s a good option for what it is.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually became a bit of a fan of Meadowlark yesterday. Based on this experience, I would pick it over some similarly short, overcrowded and inexpensive OC courses. In that kind of category, I would put it right behind Costa Mesa’s Mesa Linda course.
Some pictures from Meadowlark Golf Club (3/29/16):