Course Update: The Links Championship at Summerly

I wanted to post a new review about this course that is in the process of being resurrected. After struggling for several years, the course did shut down last year. However, new owners came in, spent some money and reopened it earlier in 2016.

I had the chance to play there yesterday along with the LA Golf Group I belong to through meetup.com. I was curious to see how the course was looking and playing, though I knew to lower my expectations based on the reviews I have seen so far on greenskeeper.org.

My previous review of this course featured some unflattering photos because I played it on a very poor weather day. Unfortunately, that was the same case yesterday. When combined with the current “work in progress” course conditions, I feel bad posting some of these. However, I just want to show how the course is coming along.

I’ve always been a fan of this course and I am rooting for it to succeed. I think it’s one of the more unique layouts in Southern California (especially the Inland Empire) because of it’s links approach. The Carnoustie-inspired burns (actually it’s just one continuous drainage ditch that is several miles in length) running throughout the course are something you won’t find anywhere else around here. The sight lines are tricky and the layout is a lot of fun, but also can be frustrating because it doesn’t take much for a big score to add up on any given hole.

The Links at Summerly came along toward the end of the golf and real estate development boom and it was probably too late to the party. Once the economy crashed, I don’t think the course ever quite got to the point it was intended to get to. They also had some flooding issues because of questionable proximity (both geographically and in terms of relative elevation). Conditions continued to deteriorate until they finally had to pull the plug.

Going back there now, it’s good to see more development happening in the Summerly community as more new homes seem to be going up. Work was done to the course to get it to a point where they could reopen it for play, but it seems there is a long-term plan to continue renovating and improving it. For some reason, they slightly altered the name to The Links Championship at Summerly. I can’t say I’m a fan of that more cumbersome name, but it is what it is.

When I say “work in progress,” that’s putting it as gently as I can. Let’s just say things are still very rough out there and it has a long, long way to go. It’s actually kind of tough to review the conditions right now. On the positive side, I will say the greens were rather good. They were much softer and more receptive than expected, and they were rolling pretty good on putts at medium speeds. The grass areas directly around the greens were generally pretty solid, as well. The tee boxes were also fine, though not all the regular tee boxes were open and the markers were moved around on many holes. Whatever tees you play, expect to get something shorter overall than what’s listed on the old scorecards they are still using.

On the negative side, the rest of the course is not looking so good. Some fairways are better than others, but even the best ones still have a lot of dead spots, weed patches and other inconsistencies. It looks like a lot of work right now is being focused on the 15th fairway, so it is currently playing as a par-3 instead of a par-4. As you get off the “fairways” then you never know what you will find. It’s all pretty nasty with very little grass to be found. The bunkers tended to be thin with plenty of rocks in them.

They do encourage players to go by “ground under repair” rules as they see fit, even though none of the bad spots are marked as such. There are just too many bad spots to mark everything. Our group played more of a lift, clean and place rule on balls in the fairway only, which I thought was fair. It sucks to hit a ball right down the middle and find yourself in a patch of hardpan sand and/or weeds. When we were off the fairway, though, we got whatever was there and it was generally quite rough in every sense of the word.

The conditions make the already tricky sight lines throughout the course even more deceptive. There are many tees where you look out and can’t see anything resembling a fairway. The angles of this course, like on many true links courses, were designed to throw off players visually. However, when you can’t see anything green at all, it’s really difficult to take a confident swing. The approach shots are much more welcoming because the greens are clear to see. They have also lined the burns with yellow stakes so they are more clear. Since there is no longer GPS in the carts, this is somewhat helpful.

They did also give each of our carts a yardage book, which was very nice and necessary. Again, this was the old yardage book. The hole designs haven’t changed at all (other than the temporary par-3 15th from the original layout). However, as I mentioned, some of the tee boxes were moved around, so you have to pay attention to which tee box you were hitting from.

The staff was very friendly and the starter was great. You could tell he was proud the course was back open, yet he was very honest in prepping us for the course being very rough around the edges in its current state. The people working in the bar/grille were nice and we saw the cart girl a few times during our round. 

One last positive is that they are offering a lot of deals right now just to get people out on the course. We used certificates downloaded from GreensKeeper that made it only $30 a player for Saturday mid-morning tee times. With reduced pricing, it helps balance out with a lesser on-course experience.

I can’t really recommend The Links Championship at Summerly as it is now. It’s not a fair representation of what should be a really great course layout. That said, I am very happy to see it open once again and slowly but surely making positive strides in its renovation. If they can get good turf throughout this course, it will be one of the better layouts around and something very different to enjoy as a change of pace. 

Until then, it is a very affordable option and enjoyable as long as you really temper your expectations. 

Some pictures from The Links Championship at Summerly (5/7/16):

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