On Tuesday, I went down to Escondido in the afternoon. I finally decided it was time to go check out the recently renovated and reopened Boulder Oaks Golf Club. It used to be called Meadow Lake. You can click here to read my previous review if you want to compare pictures.
When I first saw the name change, I thought the “renovations” were pretty minor (basically just turf reduction) and the name was just changed for whatever reason. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized that the layout and routing were altered quite a bit.
I saw a 1:15 hot deal time on GolfNow for just $10, so that was cheap enough for me to make a trip down there in the afternoon. It was not very busy out there, so I played by myself and finished quickly. I played through a couple groups along the way, but otherwise it was easy going.
I noticed they had made some renovations to the clubhouse building, but it didn’t seem vastly different than the last time I was here a couple years ago. The golf carts and all the signage outside still have the Meadow Lake logo and the course is located within the Hidden Meadows community. Only the scorecards and a handful of shirts inside the pro shop reflected the name change. That may cause confusion for people booking online that think this is a new course and/or aren’t aware of the course’s name change. Perhaps they saw my last review when deciding to change the name. Boulder Oaks is definitely more appropriate since there are a lot more boulders and oaks on the course than meadows or lakes!
The first thing I noticed about the course is that the par-3 (formerly #10) to the left of the clubhouse was completely bulldozed and removed. I wasn’t sure about the next two holes (formerly 11 and 12) that were located across the street. I assumed they were gone, as well, and I was right.
I did also notice that the course was looking quite green, so that was a pleasant sight to see since that was not the case in my previous visits. In addition, I saw plenty of turf reduction had taken place, with most areas of rough being completely replaced with sand or beauty bark. In the middle of some big stretches of the bark, I saw some bright white sand bunkers that were added in for visual appeal. I’m not sure how much they really come into play, but they do add something a little extra to help the aesthetics.
Once I headed to the first tee by driving past the old first tee, I knew I was in for some other changes in terms of the layout and routing. The new first tee is located in the area that used to be the driving range. The first hole is now an awkward severe dogleg left where you basically have to hit your tee shot over a row of tall trees or lay up way right and leave a long shot in.
I had brought an old yardage book with me, so I could keep track of the changes. The approach area and green on the new first hole are that of the old 13th hole. Then, holes 2-5 now are what used to be holes 14-17 with no significant design alterations. What used to be the 18th hole (a par-5) has now been split into two short par-4s. The old hole 1 (par-5) was split to make up new holes 8 (par-4) and 9 (par-3).
You still with me? For the new back nine, the old hole 2 (par-4) was split to make new holes 10 (shorter par-4) and 11 (par-3). What are now holes 12-18 are more or less what used to be holes 3-9 before.
At least, that’s how I pieced it all back together from memory and comparing the old and new scorecards.
So essentially, they removed three holes entirely and then chopped up a few others to squeeze in three more. The result is an even shorter course. Meadow Lake was already a relatively short par-72 layout that most would describe as “funky” or “quirky.” It is now an even shorter and quirkier par-70 that is barely more than an executive at this point.
If you play the blue (4,943 total yards) or white (4,377) tees, you are basically playing an executive because the holes are so short and the par-5s should not qualify as such. In fact, three of the four par-5s are under 385 yards from the white tees!
I opted to tip it out from the black tees, which are 5,726 total yards and definitely make certain holes play a lot longer. On some holes, they really awkwardly crammed in the black tees. The tee angles are very strange and several shots are completely blind. They did add some much-needed challenge and intrigue, but just felt quite out of place.
Serious golfers will still contend that, even from the tips, the course is too short and funky to enjoy. I think they should just get rid of the black tees and accept that it’s a par-66 or 67 executive layout from the blues/whites. Just admit it’s a no longer a regulation course and it will be more fun and fair for people to play up.
Thankfully, they didn’t alter some of the better par-3s like the 14th (now the 2nd) and especially the really fun downhill 4th (now the 13th).
Conditions were interesting because it still felt very much like a work in progress. The tee boxes were generally pretty good, but a few are still being worked on. The fairways and minimal sections of rough looked nice and green from a distance. There was plenty of new grass growing in, which was good to see. However, the ground underneath is still lumpy, bumpy and inconsistent. The grass was very shaggy and scraggly and some sections are still being worked on with lots of fertilizer laid down. The new turf was coming along, but definitely looked better afar than how it played up close. I was in one greenside bunker. The new sand was decent, but there were a ton of footprints and no signs of any smoothing out/fluffing up from maintenance. The older greens still in use (which are most of them) were generally good. They were soft and rolling well at medium speeds. Then there are a few new greens because of the reworked layout, and they were very firm and fast.
I’m always happy to see a course stay open and a renovation taking place to try and improve conditions moving forward. However, anybody who didn’t like Meadow Lake before will probably like Boulder Oaks even less now. Some improvements are clear while some layout alterations are questionable. It has a nice scenic setting and it’s a fun enough course for a really cheap rate, but don’t go in expecting too much.
Some pictures from Boulder Oaks Golf Club (6/7/16):