Course Review: The Crosby at Rancho Santa Fe

Did I mention I’d be busy this week? Well, I was back at it again today at another local private club. This time I was down in beautiful Rancho Santa Fe, which is such a hotbed of amazing golf. There are only private clubs in this town, so I have been working hard to access them all. In the past year-plus, I have been chipping away at this list, including Fairbanks Ranch, The Farms, The Bridges, Morgan Run, The Santaluz Club and Rancho Santa Fe GC. After The Crosby today and Del Mar CC, which I have tentatively slated for next week, I will have completed the RSF circuit quicker than I would have ever thought possible! 

Today was an SCGA outing at The Crosby. SCGA member outings have accounted for several of the clubs on the list above, and those have led to relationships that have enabled me to access others, so I am grateful to Brenda Kemball and her team for setting up such great outings at these hard-to-access clubs. 

It was a 9:00 shotgun start and a pretty full group, but I don’t think there was more than one foursome on any hole. Our group started on the 15th. It was funny because everything I had read about this course spoke of the major changes in elevation that were incorporated by co-designers, Fred Couples and the Schmidt-Curley firm, to create a dramatic layout.

The first few holes we played were very pretty and challenging, but there wasn’t anything too significant in terms of elevation. Then a few holes into the front nine, things start to ramp up. After that, it becomes a pretty fun roller coaster ride through the canyons. There are some really big drop-offs and some tough uphill holes, as well. It was cool and windy today, so the wind especially made these hilly holes even tougher to navigate. Though I really liked the finishing stretch of 16-18 where we got started, I found myself enjoying the course more and more as we went through our modified routing. 

Holes 5, 7 and 9 were among my favorites on the front nine, mainly because all three featured elevated tees and fantastic views. On the back nine, I was particularly fond of the three par-3s. The 11th is the shortest one on the course at 154 yards from the blue tees, but there’s not much room for error around the green. Short and long are both major trouble and it was a tricky one playing slightly downhill and straight downwind.

The 13th is a beast. It features a huge drop-off from tee to green. From the tips, it is 240 yards, and from the blues where we played it is a measly 220. Though the change in elevation is huge, it was straight into the wind for us and played pretty true to that yardage.

Lastly, the 17th has no change in elevation from tee to green, but it has a demanding shot over the lake. Today’s event was sponsored by Acura, so any aces on this hole would win a 3-year lease. They had the pin tucked all the way back and to the left, just a few paces from the water’s edge, to basically ensure that prize was not going to be given out on this day!

The Crosby plays to a par of 70 with three par-5s and five par-3s in the routing. So think about it carefully before picking your tees. They have many options, including combo sets between all the regular tees. I went along with my group from the blues at 6,298 yards. That is normally in my comfort zone, but with the lower par, that total yardage is skewed quite a bit. That also doesn’t account for all the hills or the prevailing winds, so I probably would have been better off playing the Bing combo blue/white tees. Oh well, I still had fun even though I had played terribly.

Speaking of Bing, if you haven’t figured out by now, the club is named for Bing Crosby. Obviously, he was a pretty big celebrity figure in golf, especially in Rancho Santa Fe, where the Crosby Clambake tournament got its start at nearby Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. The logo at The Crosby features a silhouette of the late, great golfer/crooner, and even the tee box markers are music notes in his honor.

The course conditions were good. I wouldn’t say anywhere near pristine, but very good by today’s SoCal standards with ideal playability. The tee boxes were generally excellent. The fairways had some small bad spots that were marked off as GUR, but generally the lies were perfect on nice fluffy bermuda turf. The rough was well-kept, but cut short and not much of a factor as the ball always sat up nicely on top. I was in a couple greenside bunkers, both of which had huge faces to clear. One was way too firm underneath to pull off the delicate shot I had to, but the other one was ideal and I put it close. 

The greens were very nice. I could see some evidence of repaired sections on a few greens, but overall the surfaces were fantastic. They were very receptive and rolling true at medium/fast speeds. The slope and grain have such major effects on putts here. Anything above the hole was hard to stop. Anything below it had to be hit real firm to hold the line. Once your ball ran out of steam, putts would curl off at the last second, so anything not center-cut with some speed was not likely to go in. We were perplexed all day as we burned edge after edge.

Overall, The Crosby fits in perfectly with the pantheon of luxurious and beautiful Rancho Santa Fe courses. I would compare it most to The Santaluz Club or The Farms, which are both courses I loved. All are worth playing if you get a chance.

Some pictures from The Crosby at Rancho Santa Fe (5/24/16):

I must admit I am getting tired of this gloomy weather we’ve had all May in Southern California. It sure is taking its toll on my picture quality during a time when I am getting to play so many great private clubs. I’m not looking for summer heat yet, but a little spring sunshine would be nice.

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