Short Course Blitz: Silicon Valley

I just got back from another 3-day trip up to Northern California. Normally, I bounce around a lot between the different regions up there, but this time the whole trip was centered around the South Bay/San Jose/Silicon Valley/Santa Clara County area (or whatever you prefer to call it).

Let’s start the reviews off with a good old-fashioned Short Course Blitz. Over the course of this trip, I ended up visiting three different short courses in this neck of the woods. Technically, they were the last three public 9-holers on my list in Santa Clara County after playing some others on previous trips.

I started off the trip by playing Shoreline Golf Links at Mountain View on Friday morning. I will review that in the next post. After that round, I went down to Sunnyvale for my first short course stop…

Sunken Gardens Golf Course • Sunnyvale, CA • 1/25/19

I didn’t know much about this course coming in. That’s pretty true of all the short courses in this article. It was just another on my to-do list and the closest one to play after finishing at Shoreline.

It didn’t look too busy out there when I arrived around 2:00, but there were some people steadily going off the first tee. I paid $18 to walk the nine holes. It is a walking-only course, as is also the case with the other two reviewed here. Knowing there was a little back-up on the first tee, I took the time to grab a tasty hot dog at the grille and it hit the spot since I hadn’t really eaten anything yet that day.

I ended up joining two other singles and it was pretty slow going walking behind a slower twosome in front of us. Ultimately, it took about 1.5 hours to complete the round.

Sunken Gardens is a fun par-29 layout. Both par-4s top out at 267 yards and then the par-3s range from 106 yards up to 162. It provides a pretty good variety of distances and some fairly narrow angles with lots of trees lining each hole. The course is all tightly compacted in one corner of the property with a large driving range on the other side of the parking lot. Definitely a nice practice facility.

Conditions were very lush and green. However, it was also extremely soft and mushy throughout the course. The grass was pretty shaggy and there were lots of muddy sections that were tough to walk through and play from. Overall, though, it wasn’t too bad for a course of this caliber in the middle of a wet winter. It looked pretty from afar, as you’ll see in the pictures. Compared to everything else, the greens were actually kind of firm and they were rolling at medium speeds.

As I often say about short courses, Sunken Gardens is what it is and that’s fine with me. I have a soft spot for places like this and it’s a good course for beginners, seniors, locals and players of any level to hang out and enjoy the game.

Some pictures from Sunken Gardens Golf Course (1/25/19):

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

Saturday found me playing two regulation courses, with my morning round at Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club and my afternoon round on the private Stanford Golf Course. I had a very special round lined up for Sunday afternoon, as well, so that left Sunday morning to squeeze in a couple more shorties…

Pruneridge Golf Club • Santa Clara, CA • 1/17/19

I booked a 6:30 tee time the night before just to be safe, even though I knew it didn’t get light until almost 7:00 this time of year. I wanted to make sure I was the first one off. The pro shop didn’t open until about 6:40 and I was the only one there that early. The guy inside looked at me as if I was a little bit nuts to be there waiting in the dark. There are definitely a lot fewer crazy early birds in Northern California compared to what we’re used to at muni courses in SoCal!

Either way, I paid my $21 to walk the nine holes. The pro shop guy pointed out there were some leftover range balls sitting in one of the bays if I wanted to hit a few. They have a nice big double-decker driving range here that probably gets a lot more action than the course itself. I did hit a few range balls as I waited for enough light to play. I ultimately teed off just before 7:00. I did have to play behind the guy mowing the greens for several holes, but he eventually let me through and I finished the whole round in about 45 minutes.

Topping out at a massive 1770 yards, Pruneridge was easily the longest of the short courses I played on this trip. That’s not saying much, though. It plays to a total par of 30 and features three par-4s (352, 292 and 301 yards from the black tees) to go along with six par-3s ranging from 111 yards up to 168. Again, it offers a pretty good mix of distances.

Like Sunken Gardens, Pruneridge also has some pretty narrow shots. There are some tall trees here, but also houses, roads, fences and the driving range nets all very much in play. For a novice-level course, it definitely feels a bit cramped at times.

And also like Sunken Gardens, it was pretty wet, soft and scruffy here. It was pretty lush and green, as well. The main difference would be that the greens at Pruneridge were much softer and a bit slower. However, they were nicely maintained and rolled pretty smooth.

I probably like the layout and setting of Sunken Gardens more, but Pruneridge offers much of the same appeal as a good local practice facility with a solid little 9-hole course.

Some pictures from Pruneridge Golf Club (1/27/19):

After Pruneridge, I raced over to the next short course on my list…

Rancho del Pueblo Golf Course • San Jose, CA • 1/27/19

It didn’t seem too crowded here, but I kind of caught the tail end of a mini weekend morning rush and it was another somewhat slow round like Sunken Gardens. I teed off around 8:10 by myself and paid the $17 to walk nine holes. I joined up with two other singles on the second tee and we finished in a little over 1.5 hours behind some slower groups.

Rancho del Pueblo is pretty similar to the other two in this article in that it has a pretty good practice facility and a simple little 9-hole golf course. It is home to the local First Tee program. They also have foot golf here. I noticed foot golf holes at Sunken Gardens, as well, but no flags were out there as it is probably too wet/sloppy in the winter for that.

Rancho del Pueblo is a par-28 layout with just one short par-4 (284 yards) in the mix. It is a shorter overall design with the par-3s ranging from 86 yards up to 174. Still, it gives you a pretty decent mix of shots.

The greens stood out to me the most here because they are small and have a lot of slope. It struck me as an older course where natural erosion has led to many of the greens falling off on the sides. There were a few brutal pin placements yesterday, too, so some downhill putts were hard to even keep on the green if you missed. The greens were actually rolling pretty quickly, so the tricky slopes added some adventure on an otherwise simple course design.

Conditions here were also soft, but better than the other two. It was definitely not nearly as mushy here. I’m sure that is due to the fact there is much less shade around this course and things dry out quicker.

You can pretty much copy and paste some of my comments about the first two courses when reflecting on the overall appeal of Rancho del Pueblo (solid short course, it is what it is, etc.). It serves its purpose just fine. It probably ranks second in terms of layout behind Sunken Gardens, but first in terms of winter playing conditions.

Some pictures from Rancho del Pueblo Golf Course (1/27/19):

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