While I was in Phoenix last weekend, an invite materialized for me at Sun Lakes Country Club in Banning on Monday morning. So rather than drive all the way home and back in the morning, I kind of extended my vacation and stayed the night along the way.
Sun Lakes is one of the tougher private clubs to access. It is part of a 55+ community. They don’t allow any outside play unless accompanied by a member. They don’t host many outside tournaments or offer any “member for a day” deals. Thankfully, I know someone who was considering moving to the community and was able to line up a discovery round here. They were nice enough to let me join as a guest.
We played on the regulation Championship Course (they also have an Executive Course) along with two member hosts. We had a very nice time, and even though the course was quite busy that morning, we still finished in just over three hours. That is certainly one nice benefit of a private club setting.
I’ve always been curious about this course because I’ve driven by it so many times on the way to and from the Coachella Valley. You can catch glimpses of the Executive Course from the freeway.
The Championship Course was designed by David Rainville, and it turned out to be a more interesting layout than I expected. It offers a reasonable challenge without beating you up too much, so it’s a good course for a retirement community that you wouldn’t mind playing several times a week. The setting is nice and sometimes scenic as you work your way around the community and back by an environmental conservation area bordering the back edge of the property. There are plenty of mature trees lining the fairways and it’s a pleasant overall feel.
The signature hole at Sun Lakes is undoubtedly the par-3 17th, which you see as you drive into the community from the main road. It features a large water hazard with a waterfall up by the green. The green is slightly elevated with a nice rock wall lining the edge. It is a good hole to enjoy near the end of the round. The 18th is a strong par-5 finisher, as well. It is a big dogleg left with another nice green complex guarded by some water.
The conditions at Sun Lakes were very nice, highlighted by some of the best greens I’ve seen. They were maybe the best greens I’ve played on all year. They were soft and receptive with some morning moisture. However, you never really made huge ball marks and that kept the surfaces extremely pure. They were smooth and lightning quick on putts, and they only got faster as the round went on.
Otherwise, the tee boxes were good and the fairways were mostly great. There were some soft/mushy spots in the morning, but overall the turf was very nicely maintained. The rough had some spotty areas, but again was generally in good shape. The bunkers were also quite good.
Sun Lakes isn’t a “must play” by SoCal country club standards as the course won’t wow you too much other than the amazing greens, but it is a very solid track that’s well worth checking out if you ever get an invite. Opportunities for outside players are very few and far between, so you might as well take advantage if you can. I’m sure glad I did!
Some pictures from Sun Lakes Country Club (Championship) (8/29/16):