From the Shoreline to the Stadium

I ended up playing seven new courses on my recent trip up to the Silicon Valley/San Jose area. Three of them were short tracks (Sunken Gardens, Pruneridge and Rancho del Pueblo) and I reviewed those already in my latest Short Course Blitz.

The two marquee rounds on Saturday and Sunday afternoons were at high-end private/resort clubs. Obviously, each of those will get their own reviews.

This leaves the other two regulation courses I played on this trip. The first one was actually my very first stop after driving up early Friday morning…

Shoreline Golf Links at Mountain View • Mountain View, CA • 1/25/19

There were numerous courses and combinations I was looking at for Friday. I had my eyes on a great early afternoon hot deal at Sunnyvale (one of the other few public courses in Santa Clara County I hadn’t played yet), but it was for 2-4 players only and nobody ever booked any of the other spots to allow me to grab a tee time as a single.

As I’ve complained about plenty of times before, prices for even the muni courses in this area are generally quite high. I looked at all my options and decided on Shoreline because they had the least expensive rates for a mid-morning round on a Friday. I ended up booking a 9:54 tee time for $40 with a cart. It was a decent enough rate and the timing would work out well with the drive up (while also leaving time after to play Sunken Gardens).

Based on some reviews I’ve read online, I came into Shoreline with pretty low expectations. On the positive side, this is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design and the setting near the South Bay shoreline (as the name would imply) would seem to be appealing. However, most reviews seemed to rip on the quality of the conditions, as if this course has been on a consistent downhill slide in recent years and was maybe never that great to begin with.

As always, I like to make my own judgments and see what will happen with my own personal experience. Though the course was definitely a bit rough around the edges and it was very wet after a lot of rain lately, I found the conditions (especially for winter) to be decent enough and not as bad as feared. I’ll get into more details later.

My drive up went very smoothly and I actually arrived a little before 9:00. I was able to head out to the first tee pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I showed up just behind their first little morning rush. I ended up joining a twosome on the 2nd tee and played the round with them behind some slower walking groups. The total pace was still okay at just over four hours.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between Shoreline and nearby Baylands (the massively renovated version of what used to be the executive Palo Alto muni). They offer similar settings and similar design styles with a links-inspired approach. Of course, Baylands has a fresh feel right now after its renovation. I was fortunate to play there last year not long after it reopened.

In a way, Shoreline made me think of what Baylands might look like in 10-15 years if they neglect to maintain the course conditions at a higher standard.

As for the design, Jones did a nice job with the fairly flat bayside landscape. There aren’t really any significant waterfront views and I’m sure the Shoreline Amphitheater next door is a distraction if there’s a big daytime event going on. Otherwise, there are plenty of natural water hazards and doglegs throughout the course to provide some aesthetic touches. There are also some big bunkers with a typical RTJ flair. The greens are large and pretty undulated, as well. It doesn’t offer any real “wow” factor, but Shoreline is not a boring course by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a pretty good overall layout.

The back nine definitely outshines the front in terms of design character. It utilizes more diversity in the natural topography. The signature stretch in my opinion is holes 10-12. The 10th is a double-dogleg par-5 that plays along a little sailing lake and will provide some good risk/reward decisions for long hitters.

The 11th is a nice par-3 over a little marshy hazard. Then, the 12th is the hole I will remember the most. It is a sharp dogleg left par-4 with the natural hazard taunting you to try and bite off as much as you can on your drive. Really long hitters may even be able to carry everything and fire straight at the green.

As I mentioned, the course was rather rough around the edges, but not as bad as I was led to expect. The tee boxes were generally good. The fairways were mostly decent. However, there were definitely some muddy/waterlogged spots throughout along some other spotty sections here and there. Some of the worst spots were marked off as GUR, but I generally had decent lies and we played winter rules with such soft conditions.

The rough was much more “rough” as they definitely have a serious ground squirrel problem here. There are lots of hills and dirt mounds mixed with bare spots and then some sections where the grass is very thick and lush. It really is a bit of everything once you get off the fairways here, and this scruffy look really contributes to the negative impressions a lot of players might have about Shoreline these days.

The greens, on the other hand were soft and rolling decently. I found the greens to be somewhat inconsistent in terms of speed, but I may have just been off my putting game. I never felt comfortable as this was my first round in almost a month. The two bunkers I was in had pretty decent sand (a tad on the thin side). Some others I noticed looked much thinner.

I would argue that Shoreline offers a more interesting layout than some of the plainer muni courses throughout Santa Clara County (including the other one reviewed in this post). It also offers better pricing than most. However, some aspects of the conditions definitely detract. For a similar style course and better conditions, you are more likely to enjoy Baylands. That said, they really jacked up the rates after their renovation, so that’s your trade-off. I get the sense Shoreline is usually less crowded, as well, though my experience shows that all the courses around here get a ton of play no matter what.

Some pictures from Shoreline Golf Links at Mountain View (1/25/19):

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

On Saturday morning, I was up nice and early to play this next course before heading over to Stanford Golf Course for the main round of the day…

Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club • Santa Clara, CA • 1/26/19

This ended up being a pretty easy choice as it was the only course on my list that had early morning tee times available by the time I booked. I snagged the 6:45 time on the course’s website and figured that would be the first group off.

There were a number of people milling around in the dark waiting for the pro shop to open. During that time, I encountered the threesome who had booked the other portion of the 6:45 tee time. They seemed like nice guys and I knew it was going to be a fun round. The pro shop finally opened around 6:40.

When I checked in, the guy said he had me at 6:52. I showed him my confirmation email on my phone and he unapologetically said their stuff always gets mixed up. I told him I already met up with the other guys at the 6:45 tee time. He told me they were booked as a foursome. I told him they were only three and he seemed confused. Either way, he seemed to be pinning the blame on me for having the gall to book a tee time through their website! How dare I be so brazen?

Well, this and having to pay $68 for a basic muni course started the day off on a poor note. This would be a good walking course, so I could have saved money on the cart fee. However, it still was overpriced no matter how I looked at it.

The tee time thing didn’t matter at all as I still joined that threesome on the first tee and there were no issues. Ironically, we went off closer to the 6:52 tee time anyway because the pro shop was so slow to open and get us all checked in. We set a good lead pace and finished in about 3.5 hours with nobody ever pushing from behind.

The highlight of the day was a guy in my group getting a hole-in-one on the par-3 4th hole. Everyone in the group hit short and right and we all thought he was in the same landing area. After a couple minutes of searching, we found the ball in the hole! I’m still not sure what kind of roll he got to end up in there, but it was a fun moment.

Beyond that, Santa Clara is a solid course that doesn’t offer up too much excitement. It’s a very traditional parkland design with tree-lined fairways and mostly straightforward hole designs. There are a few doglegs and hazards here and there.

The most interesting part of the course is the 6th and 7th holes, which are situated atop a little plateau. This is really the only change in elevation on the course.

Santa Clara is definitely one of those older urban muni courses that has seen the city sprout up around it over the years. Most of the back nine is situated on the other side of a street that also has train tracks along it. I didn’t see/hear any trains during my round, though, but I’m guessing it gets really loud on certain holes. Otherwise, there are all sorts of businesses (a lot of tech companies) in the office properties bordering the course.

Easily the most interesting thing about the location of this course is that it is right across the street from Levi’s Stadium, relatively new home of the San Francisco 49ers and the site of several major sporting events in recent years. The stadium is seen in the background throughout much of the golf course and I’m sure it’s a huge pain to play here on game days.

As for conditions at Santa Clara, I will say that things were well above average for a muni course, especially in the middle of winter. It was pretty lush and green throughout with a mix of grasses, though still quite soft from recent rain. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways mostly quite good with some scattered weak spots throughout. It was very wet and there was not much roll-out anywhere from tee to green. The rough was pretty lush with a little bit of everything. The bunkers had good sand.

The greens were very good and dare I say the best greens on this trip. They showed signs of an aeration maybe a month or so ago. They were dotted in appearance, but it didn’t affect anything. They were firm, smooth and rather fast. These greens have some slope to them, so you definitely didn’t want to be above the hole.

Santa Clara falls nicely into the middle of the pack when it comes to Silicon Valley public courses. The design is pretty old school and simple. The prices are too high for what it is and my pro shop experience didn’t leave a great impression, though everyone else I encountered there was very nice. Lastly, the conditions were nice and the urban setting next to the big stadium is kind of unique. It has some good qualities and some not-so-good qualities, so that’s all I can say.

Some pictures from Santa Clara Golf & Tennis Club (1/26/19):

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