A friend of mine had lined up a round here at Calabasas Country Club, and was nice enough to invite me to join him. We had a 12:40 tee time. It was reasonably busy out there on a Sunday afternoon, but we teed off on time and enjoyed a decent pace. Our foursome played behind several other groups and finished in a little over four hours.
Though the tee colors were listed as blue, white and gold on the scorecard, the first thing I noticed was that all the tee markers were bright orange balls. However, when I looked closer I saw they were actually in the shape of pumpkins and just the stems were painted blue, white or gold.
Apparently, pumpkins are a big deal in Calabasas and I learned why. The town’s name is derived from the Spanish word for pumpkin: “calabaza.” That was my little bit of local knowledge for the day.
The club opened in 1968 and the golf course was co-designed by the father/son team of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. With that kind of pedigree and a picturesque setting, I was expecting to like the course. I definitely enjoyed the layout and the scenery quite a bit.
Calabasas is not a long course, topping out at 6,344 yards. However, it is definitely a “target” style course where accuracy is much more important than length on most holes. There are some awkward tee angles and sloped fairways that provide some intimidation. There are also some semi-blind shots throughout the course as you go up, down and around hills. There are plenty of old oaks, eucalyptus and other mature trees in play, as well. The layout and setting definitely reminded me of nearby Sherwood and North Ranch, but Calabasas is not nearly as demanding as either of those courses.
If you keep the ball in play here, a good score can be had because the greens are receptive and not at all tricked out. There are some subtle slopes that can be difficult to read, but still nothing too crazy like Sherwood’s Nicklaus green complexes.
The signature holes here are definitely the finishers on each nine. The 9th is a quirky little par-4 that requires a lay-up for most off the tee. You place your ball out there to the right on the fairway and then the hole takes a 90-degree turn left to the green situated behind a big water hazard. It’s a great strategic hole and possibly drivable for some big hitters who might decide to cut the corner and take on the water.
The 18th is a great finishing hole. It is a very short par-5 at just 435 yards from the blue tees. The green is kind of a peninsula that is well protected on the front and both sides. It will require two very good shots to reach the green under regulation, but the risk can be greatly rewarded if you pull it off. The wind was blowing pretty hard in our faces by the time we got to this hole, so it played much longer than the yardage on the card.
The course was in decent shape. The highlights were the greens and the bunkers. The greens were excellent. They were soft and receptive, but rolling smooth on putts at medium speeds. They were deceptively fast at times because of the subtle natural slopes. The two bunkers I played from had great soft sand. The tee boxes were good. The fairways had some issues, but the playability was generally fine. There were a lot of new sod patches laid down. They were marked off as GUR and everything should look and play nicer once the turf matures. Then there were other thin spots scattered throughout that still need some definite TLC. It appears they are systematically working their way around to fix up poor sections, so it’s a work in progress. The rough was patchy, but still fairly good where it mattered. It was cut short and pretty easy to hit from. It got a little less consistent the further you strayed from fairways.
Overall, Calabasas Country Club was a good experience. It is not a super high-end club, so if you do get on you will find more affordable guest rates and a friendly club atmosphere. Our group definitely felt welcomed as members for a day. The practice facilities are nice and it’s worth a visit if you get a chance. Just don’t expect pristine conditions these days. Set your expectations accordingly and you will certainly have a fun time here.
Some pictures from Calabasas Country Club (8/14/16):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)