On Thursday, I attended the SCGA member outing at Andalusia Country Club. It is also known as Andalusia at Coral Mountain, which is the name of the high-end residential community in which the course/club is situated. This was the first stop on the SCGA’s annual Bob Hope Trail, though it was the only round I signed up for personally.
We were actually supposed to play Andalusia last year, but they decided to start their planned renovation of the greens early and cancelled the outing. It ended up working out fine for me, as we played Rancho La Quinta instead and I actually got to play both courses over there. Then, the Andalusia outing was rescheduled for this year as expected.
It was an 8:00 shotgun start and I was joined by three other course collecting friends. We opened our round on the intimidating, but beautiful, par-3 12th hole. It wasn’t a full field, so the pace of play was good and we finished in about 4 hours, 20 minutes.
Ever since the originally scheduled outing last year, I’ve really been looking forward to playing Andalusia. It’s not a club you ever hear about in the stacked Coachella Valley golf scene. However, it always looked intriguing to me because it was tucked so deep into La Quinta and it was designed by Rees Jones. Not everyone is a fan of his, but I have really liked every one of his courses I’ve played. Some, like Lake of Isles (North) or Cascata, are among my all-time favorites.
With the desert setting, mountain background and Rees Jones pedigree, I had dreams of Cascata or even Rio Secco (which I played last week) up in the Las Vegas area. The entrance gate to the community is very grand and the clubhouse is gorgeous, so that continued to set the bar high. By the time we teed off, I had built up Andalusia quite a bit in my own head and it’s just not quite the masterpiece I had envisioned. There aren’t really any changes in elevation. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a really good course with a lot of elements to like, but it didn’t blow me away like I hoped it would.
The setting is nice with the Santa Rosa mountains in the backdrop, but it’s not as dramatic as I imagined. The layout is interesting and challenging with plenty of water hazards in play, a lot of big, crazy bunkers and very large, undulated greens. It’s fairly forgiving off the tee, but after that it gets tough with the greens being rather well protected. Overall, however, it didn’t feel that distinctive compared to so many other “great” courses in this area.
Times like these are when I start to feel a little spoiled having played so many excellent courses in the Coachella Valley. It’s one of those instances where if this were the first course you had ever played out here, you’d probably awe-inspired. From my perspective at this point, it’s like “it’s really good, but I’ve seen better.” That said, I would easily recommend Andalusia to anyone in a heartbeat. It’s just not as amazing as I hoped it might be.
Anyway, enough of the wishy washy back-handed comments. Let’s focus on the positives for a minute. Andalusia does have a lot of good qualities and a handful of memorable holes.
I mentioned the 12th hole and it’s one of four quality par-3 designs, all but one of which prominently feature water in play. The 7th and 12th were the favorites of the bunch, with the 7th offering one of a few mildly elevated points on the course as you hit down to a green guarded by water short/right and a big bunker left.
The 17th and 18th holes create a strong finishing stretch at Andalusia. The 17th is a par-4 with water running up the entire left side and a nice-looking rock wall elevating the green above the water’s edge. The 18th is a fun par-5 that doglegs left around a creek/water hazard. Water is also long behind the green, so it’s a hole that requires three solid shots (or two really, really great shots) to put you in position for a birdie (eagle).
The more I look at my pictures, the more I need to highlight the bunkering of this course, which is probably the calling card of the design. Definitely some #bonkersbunkers in the hashtag words of my friend @itslikeimsayin on Instagram. If you want to dig deep, this may be the distinctive element to look for. There are a lot of C-shaped and J-shaped bunkers here of all sizes and designs. By C/J-shape, I mean that the sand traps will wrap around mounded areas of grass, essentially creating two different sand traps that are connected.
It is interesting because it really matters which half you land in. If you are in the front portion by a green, your shot is usually pretty simple. There aren’t big lips to contend with and the bunkers aren’t super deep. Some you may even be able to putt out of if you feel so inclined. However, if you find yourself in the back portion, you are in for a world of hurt. You will have a longer bunker shot, carrying the front part of the bunker and with less green to work with (often with water staring you down on the opposite side of the green). There are many funky bunkers like these (C/J-shaped or wraparound, however you want to classify them) throughout this course and I want to make sure they are highlighted. I don’t know if I particularly liked them, but they were interesting to see this often on one course.
I should also note that this is a long course. Topping out at 7,521 yards from the black tees, it can be a beast. I played two sets up (Copper tees) at 6,552 and it was much more than I could handle, especially with the soft fairways that provided no roll-out on drives.
The course was in decent shape, though definitely beginning its summer transition. The tee boxes mostly great. The fairways were very soft/wet in the morning (zero roll-out on drives, making the course play very long), but they dried out a lot by the time we finished. There were numerous thin/brown spots scattered throughout, as well. Most fairways had been recently aerated, too. The rough was kind of semi-dormant in some areas and lush in others. However, it was nicely kept and lies were probably more consistent than those in the fairways. The bunkers had good sand that was kind of compacted down, which I preferred over something too soft.
The greens were on the firm side and rolling at medium speeds. They showed signs of a small punch, but nothing that affected putts. Things rolled pretty well on the surfaces, just a little slower than they looked. I mentioned that they completely renovated the green surfaces this time last year, so they probably still have some maturing to do.
Overall, it was an enjoyable experience at Andalusia, even if it didn’t quite live up to my very lofty expectations.
Some pictures from Andalusia Country Club (5/31/18):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)