Course Review: Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course

The mediocrity continues…

On Tuesday, I headed down the street in Irvine to one of my local courses. I will say the convenience of Rancho San Joaquin has given it a little extra appeal for me personally. Still, I probably only play here every 3-5 years.

In my experience, the prices always seem a bit high for what you get here. The layout is okay, but nothing special. The conditions are generally pretty weak (with the exception of the greens, which are usually nice). The pace of play is known to be brutal. Basically, it’s like almost every other muni course in Southern California, yet somehow less desirable than most for me.

Still, it was a course I needed to eventually review here. Staying really close to home sounded good for a Tuesday round. I saw a GolfNow hot deal in the afternoon and thought about that, but then decided I’d rather play early and walk. It is a great walking course and an early round meant I’d likely avoid the typical 5+ hour rounds Rancho San Joaquin is known for. It was only a few bucks more to walk in the morning compared to the hot deal, so it was worth it to me.

It’s $32 to walk here on a weekday morning. Unfortunately, there is no resident discount here. I showed up dark and early. There were a few other guys checking in, but the starter said I could go out to the first tee ahead of them. I teed off by myself around 6:15, with just barely enough light to see anything. The starter actually loaned me a glow ball in case I needed it that early, which I thought was a nice gesture. I didn’t use it and was able to birdie the first hole!

I thought I was the first one out, but I noticed there were two twosomes ahead of me. There were two walkers who were well ahead and a twosome in a cart just in front of me. I had to wait on them a couple times, but they played quickly and moved along well in their cart compared to my walking. I never bothered to push much. 

One worry about playing here early is that the course does get some early back nine players. I noticed a few, but they didn’t slow anybody down. I finished in under three hours myself, which was perfect.

As for the course, it’s Rancho San Joaquin. I know to never set my sights too high here. It’s actually a fine layout. For the most part, it’s pretty open and forgiving from tee to green. There are a handful of water hazards to contend with, but not much trouble to get into otherwise.

I’d say the majority of holes here are pretty blah. However, there are enough interesting ones to mix it up and keep it from being too boring. 5-8 is a pretty good stretch with water in play on each hole. And then 12-14 is the best part of the back nine in my opinion. 

The greens here are usually the best aspect of the course. They are generally well conditioned and they offer up some added challenge because they are quite big and feature plenty of undulation. The last couple times I was here, they were rolling lightning fast, too. This time, they were slower and more manageable, but still tough to tame. They did pick up speed as my round went on and the turf started to dry out.

Course conditions were okay and probably above average by RSJ standards. The greens were great, as I mentioned There were a number of unprepared ball marks, and that’s a reflection on the players here. The tee boxes were generally fine. A few could use some leveling out, though. The fairways featured a mix of grasses. I would actually say more good than bad (60/40) in the primary landing areas, but the bad spots on this course are always pretty terrible—just a bunch of dead/muddy/hardpan patches everywhere. The rough was not much of a factor and about the same mix of good/bad grass coverage as fairways. I was in one bunker and it was wet and hard-packed in the morning, so it was hard to tell how it is later in the day once dry.

I’ll never be a big fan of Rancho San Joaquin, but I don’t hate it as much as a lot of people I know. The conditions are often suspect relative to the rates they charge. The layout isn’t too bad, but it is nothing that will excite you too much either. It’s a fine muni course that gets too much play, which leads to slow pace of play and weakened conditions. None of these deterrents seem to bother the regulars here, so they can get away with charging whatever people are willing to pay for a convenient round of golf in the middle of Irvine. 

Some pictures from Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course (4/5/16):

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