2018 Christmas Trip, Part 2: Cave Junction, What’s Your Function?

For my fellow children of the 80s, that song should probably be stuck in your head already.

Even though I got some nice weather days, I only ended up playing one round while I was visiting with family in Crescent City. The timing and opportunities just didn’t work out. Unfortunately, Del Norte GC is currently closed and seeking new ownership—perhaps gone forever. My beloved childhood course, Kings Valley, was closed for some winter maintenance. I usually end up playing a round at Salmon Run, but it doesn’t handle the rain too well and I decided not to go up there this time.

On the clear days, it would have been awesome to go up to Bandon Dunes to replay a couple of those amazing courses with affordable winter rates and rare blue skies. Unfortunately, those best-weather days didn’t time out well (one was Christmas day) with my visit. Bandon is an all-day commitment, as well, so I just couldn’t find a chance to break away that long.

However, my brother wanted to play and we opted for something different…

Illinois Valley Golf Club • Cave Junction, OR • 12/22/18

This was the nearest course to my hometown that I hadn’t played yet. It’s about an hour drive away along the narrow and winding Highway 199 toward Grants Pass. The little town of Cave Junction is just on the Oregon side of the border. The area is home to Oregon Caves National Monument (hence the name) and it’s a pretty neat and massive natural cave system if you ever happen to take the tour. This highway is often a very sketchy drive in the winter months with icy roads, but this year has been relatively mild so far. I was encouraged to play a new course and my brother was game to play anywhere, so we made the trek on Saturday morning.

They had a special going at $18 for 18 holes, plus we paid an addition $11 each for a cart. Though the course was very wet, there were no cart path restrictions. We were basically the only ones on the course when we teed off a little before 10:00. The skies were gray and the air was a frigid 33 degrees. It never really warmed up more than a few degrees, though a few other players did eventually show up.

Illinois Valley is a 9-hole regulation-length layout. We looped around twice playing the blue tees on the front and the white tees on the back as intended for an 18-hole round. Many of the holes play pretty similarly, but several offer different tee angles and lengths. For instance, the 6th hole plays as a par-4 on the front nine and then as a par-5 the second time around. To balance this out, the dogleg right par-4 6th plays as a par-3 on the back nine, with the tee boxes located at the corner of the dogleg. In total, the layout plays as a par-72 topping out at 6,004 yards.

It’s not super long by today’s standards, but there are several tight doglegs and narrow angles of attack that add challenge and force some strategic decisions. There are little creeks/ditches that cut across multiple fairways and come into play often. Also, because things were so wet, there was not much roll-out on any shots.

The hole that I will remember most is the par-4 3rd/12th. It’s a fairly short one, but it has a pretty narrow fairway and an uncomfortable tee shot. Fade hitters will definitely prefer the angle from the white (back nine) tees. The hole turns a little right and opens up some before narrowing back up and doglegging left before the green. The green is tucked back and well-protected by plenty of trees, so you really have to position your tee shot well to have a clean approach. This hole is also probably the prettiest part of the property with the most trees around it.

Conditions were pretty bleak, and honestly I wouldn’t expect much from an inexpensive small town course. It was wet and sloppy. The grass was inconsistent and mushy, and they probably don’t mow it often this time of year. I don’t believe there are any sand traps on this entire course. I don’t recall seeing any. The greens were pretty rough, as well. They had some dead spots and were pretty inconsistent all the way through.

Illinois Valley is surely not a course to pay much mind to. It suits the town of Cave Junction just fine. It’s just a quirky old locals’ course and conditions are probably never too inspiring. The people working there were very friendly and seemed rather excited to have some new out-of-town players stop by. I don’t know how I’ve avoided it all these years because it is close to home, so I was just glad to finally check it out. It’ll definitely be a “one and done” stop for me, though.

Some pictures from Illinois Valley Golf Course (12/22/18):

(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)



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