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Had a late afternoon meeting in down San Diego so instead of spending the next four hours in rush hour traffic to get home, decided to try and squeeze in as many holes as possible at a local course. Wanted to try out Coronado for the first time but they had just punched the greens so I returned to Balboa Park for the first time in about two years. It was an inspired choice.

I was actually hoping to get in a little over nine holes by the time I started, but after some jumping around the course solo and passing a few twosomes and joining another one for the last two holes, actually finished all 18 after going back to the earlier ones I skipped. All in all finished in around 3 hours with even some daylight to spare, so that was amazing.

I had forgotten how very unique and hilly this course is winding through a verdant valley near the heart of Whale's Vagina. There is a lot more OB trouble to find than I remembered with the canyon that more or less splits the nines. Some of the holes are also very long and narrow so you really do need to be accurate and confident in your stroke here. It's a lot more fun than I remembered, especially taming 17 with a glorious GIR and par.

The conditions are quite good with the exception of rock hard tee boxes. The layout can be a little tricky to follow for a first-timer, but it will show itself soon enough. The fairways have nice coverage right now and the rough is cut to about 3-4 inches so you can definitely have some trouble finding a ball sitting down in it. The sand traps were in pretty good shape as well. I found the greens to be overall in good shape as well - a lot of slope to them and some tricky calls to make in terms of speed, but overall they were consistent and held shots well.

I played the blue tees so it's definitely got some teeth in terms of narrow tee shots with a few decent carries to navigate. The twilight rate and cart fee were very reasonable and the gentleman in the pro shop could not have been nicer or more personable.

It was a good decision to hit up Balboa Park again and I would recommend it right now.
Had a fun, yet challenging Sunday round at Morongo GC Legends course with Kassper7 and another friend. It was my very first time at this course and I must say it was well worth the drive out from the beach. Really beautiful surroundings once you get past the construction areas still going on up until around the fifth hole.

The feel of Morongo Legends reminds me a bit of Tierra Rejada with the first nine being very hilly with some ravines to cross over and some interesting downhill angles to navigate, but then flattens out on the back nine and ends with a strong par 4 closing hole with water protecting the green. And like 17 at TR, there's also a very short (86 yards today) par 3 at Morongo. It's a very fun layout and again, some of the old trees and wildlife are really cool to observe.

Conditions are very good right now with some great fairway coverage, nice tee boxes, a few areas of some very thick and difficult rough, and some nice greens with tricky undulations to them to challenge your putts. There were definitely a few more ball marks than one would expect at this caliber of a golf course, but nothing too awful that it affected my view of the conditions. There is definitely a lot of trouble to get into when wayward so keep that in mind. A few of the long holes still do not require driver and you can find yourself looking into some serious brush to find your ball. My only gripe? I would say the bunkers could certainly be a lot better, with some even having a few too many little stones in them for anyone's liking.

It was a hot day but the cart service came around numerous times, however the snack shop at the 10th hole was closed by 3pm, which was a bummer (keep in mind this layout does not bring you back to the clubhouse after the front nine). Oh yes, the carts - while the GPS on them is good, they're far too slow and really come to a dead stop anywhere near the green. Yes, I get why they're doing that but once you're going away from the restricted area they stay slow for an eternity!

POP was very good coming in at under 4 1/2 hours, and we even let a twosome pass us by near the 5th or 6th hole. Played the blue tees and got the first twilight rate of $37 which is a steal.

So all in all big thumbs up from me for this very cool course that I would enjoy playing again someday soon, or even challenging the adjacent Champions course that promises to be just as much fun.
Saturday round at Los Amigos with three friends this weekend. This is almost always a good course to get back to every few months to see what improvements they have made and shoot a good score. There's not a lot of peril to find at Los Amigos, with the exception of the final three holes.

They have done a lot of work recently at Los Amigos and there are definitely some noticeable improvements. They've redone the tee boxes on holes 11 and 14 which look great, albeit a bit shaggy currently. The reworked green on 11 is finally working and it's a very tricky, multi-tier challenge that came out very nice. So while some of the holes have some nice features like new tee boxes, others are still rock hard and in need of some love.

The fairways have pretty good coverage - not exceptional carpet by any means, but there are some nice sections and mostly good lies to be found. The rough is often not much higher than the fairways and can often provide a better lie than parts of the thin fairways. The sand, as usual at Los Amigos, is really good. And the greens were a mixed bag depending on which hole you were on as they varied quite a bit, but for the most part they were medium fast, held shots well and rolled pretty true. Quite a few ball marks out there though but nothing too heinous.

Hot day but no cart service. POP was actually better than it felt at just around five hours, which is not bad for this crowded course on a Saturday with an 11:48 tee time. Did see a few groups of six out there so not sure what that was all about - can't imagine the starters knew anything about that (at least I hope not).

So yeah, good time today at a currently slightly above average Los Amigos. I do believe I read that they will be aerating in the coming days so I would check ahead before booking a new tee time there in the next few weeks.
Oh Knollwood, why must you mess with my emotions like this? On the one hand, your layout is ridiculously fun and challenging, and your conditions are quite good across the board, but your organization is atrocious and your POP a total nightmare. I feel horrible giving KCC bad marks, but don't feel right neglecting the negatives either.

First, the positives. Layout is great fun. I love the uphill and downhill path this course weaves up in the SFV and when it's fairly lush and green like right now, it's truly wonderful. It's so nice to take in the view on the tee box at 16 and just feel good about being there.

The conditions across the board are all above average right now, with the bunkers getting even higher marks for their exceptional shape. There are mostly good lies to be found where you need to be, but it can get thin and there is some GUR (and heavy construction on the right side of the fairway on 7) to deal with here and there. The rough is fine but anything farther out than that and your asking for a mulch beating. Tee boxes are mostly good.

Now for the bad ... this may take a while. Had a 2:37 tee time and got there early only to see they were well behind (at least half an hour) and no carts were available. We eventually teed off just before 3pm and had a cart as they were shipping out as soon as they came in. The fivesome ahead of us was slowed down by the fivesome ahead of them and we eventually, after waiting on every hole, finished the front nine in three hours.

The rest of my group had to bail sensing a six-hour round, so I pressed on solo behind another fivesome, then was joined by a single on 11, then joined the fivesome ahead of us on 15 because the hacks in front of them were taking ages, then they left in the middle of 16, then it got dark, then we rushed to finish in the last possible light and get in 18 in roughly six hours. On a Friday. At twilight. That's just abysmal and takes the fun out of it.

Unfortunately it seems like these stories are happening far too often at KCC. And it stinks because it's such a great layout and fun day out - if you can even get it down to under five hours. Forget the weekends - I won't do it until I hear better stories. But that makes me sad as I would love for this place to get its act together.
Two days at Faldo's Wildfire 18 this week ... nice. I'm a huge fan of Shadow Ridge so I was excited to find out if I would like Wildfire as much as that Palm Desert gem. In the end, I think my bias of always seeming to play well at Shadow Ridge still gives it the nod, but I really enjoyed Wildfire, just in different ways.

If you're having a good, straight day, you can score well at Wildfire. It's not crazy tricky in any way, but it does make you consider options off the tee almost every time. And the landing areas for the most part are fairly generous, but the misses can be brutally punished. The layout is hard to follow even for a course geek like me, and while I can't say that each hole just screamed out to be remembered like so many at a place like Oak Quarry for example, the overall product is incredibly satisfying. It's just a fun course to play even while you're working hard to get into the best areas to enjoy it.

Great conditions all around. Tee boxes were all good, even with some divots showing on the par 3s - expected (tee box markers are funny cutouts of Faldo's silhouette reading his yardage book). Fairways were in great shape with that nice carpet feeling to them. You'll find very few little dry spots in places you shouldn't be anyway, but you're in the middle of the desert so there's that. The green complexes can be very tricky and intimidating, but if you hit your strokes confidently, you will be rewarded on the excellent greens. Good, solid speed to them, nice roll, accepting of many shots, and full coverage. Bunkers were very good but just a bit shy of great.

Nice driving range using Taylor Made balls, however it was noted they seem to use decompressed (or was it compressed?) balls because it's a very short range, only allowing shots up to 225 yards. It is odd with nothing but a wide open desert around that they couldn't figure out how to squeeze in a full-size range, especially with two 18s on the property of very high quality. Cart service was excellent and the overall resort is just classy through and through.

Hope I can come back again sometime later this year and play the adjacent Palmer course, but I would have zero problem playing Faldo a few more times either ... almost forgot - pics of all 18 holes coming soon. Crime for this course not to have any pictures.
First stop on a quick work-related desert swing this week and had an enjoyable surprise playing the Mojave Resort course on Saturday in a customer sponsored scramble tournament. I was not expecting much driving out towards Laughlin area but was very surprised indeed upon first view of the course and how lush it looked.

I found out from locals the night before the tournament that there are no water restrictions at the course since it is owned by a local Indian council. With that in mind, it's green, green, green amidst the sandy glow of the surrounding desert and mountains.

Mojave Resort is quite a lot of fun and there are some really great holes to play, but the occasional quirky one as well, but not enough to take away from the enjoyment. Not a lot of elevation changes as one would expect, but there are plenty of uneven fairway sections to challenge your positioning, and more than enough sand traps, natural areas and waste bunkers to keep you honest. There are also some very nice water features in play on many holes as well.

Conditions are very good at the moment with the greens being a bit fuzzy and on the medium side, but rolling nicely and holding shots well. Fairways are in great shape and really fun to play with only the fewest amount of GUR areas. Tee boxes, bunkers and rough were all in good shape as well.

I took pictures of each of the holes and will upload all of those as soon as I get back home later this week. Definitely worth a round though if you happen to find yourself at the river sometime soon.
Having played Balboa before but never Encino, had the chance to give it a shot and cross it off the list with a 9:52am tee time and hitting from the blue tees. My expectations (especially a day after Rancho San Marcos) were decidedly humble. I know the deal.

I'm not going to say that I was overwhelmed in any way, but we can say that I was pleasantly surprised in a few good ways. The main one was the greens. They are in really great shape. They were not particularly fast at all (but certainly not slow - let's call it medium), but were fantastic surfaces with little to no damage at all, great consistency and coverage, and held shots nicely all the while rolling true. Cheers to the staff for that.

The rest of the course was okay, with some parts not great. There were some good sections of fairway to be found, but mostly a lot was a bit overgrown on the sides and just past the tee boxes, and it was often hard to find the line between fairway and rough. Speaking of the rough, it's rough. There's also a lot of debris around, including many of the fallen trees post storm. Definitely some thin lies to be found as well - not sure how well this course drains.

Tee boxes were what you would expect - a little beat up and in need of attention. And the bunkers were very firm and unforgiving. I was in three bunkers throughout the round and never once needed to take any sand, but instead just picking them clean off the dirt.

But it was a very hot, beautiful day and I was not too disappointed to be there. Having played Balboa before, and despite their obvious similarities, I do think I lean more towards the Encino side as being just a bit more fun and varied from hole to hole - and mind you that's not a big lean, but a lean nonetheless.
Another GK Guru here who had the pleasure of joining the gang at Rancho San Marcos. I was completely blown away by this gem of a course and it automatically jumps into my Top Ten public courses I've played. Yes, it's that good.

Also had an absolute gas playing with abbacat, sixpez and kvisner in our foursome. It's always wonderful to play with good folks who love the game and appreciate that type of environment.

Even the drive up Hwy 154 is mesmerizing and as you get a glimpse of the gorgeous, green countryside dominating the views, you can simply tell that something special is down there. Like others have said, there's a very Wild West feeling to the facilities at RSM, and it's great. There's everything that you need and none of what you don't. All the staff are incredibly friendly and receptive to any and all of your needs.

The course layout is just so much fun. It challenges every single aspect of your game in some form or another. It will also test you mentally - not just dealing with all of the unique challenges thrown your way, but also with the distraction of the surroundings. It plays like this: Risk/reward, accuracy, reachable par 4, fade it, water, bombs away, distance control, thread the needle, positioning vital - and that's just the front nine! The back is also its own drama, but while very challenging and mentally taxing, it's also supremely fun and simply makes you realize this is pretty much how golf was meant to be played.

I heard about the course's glory days, and I heard about its recent woes. Well, perhaps the current conditions are somewhere in the middle, but most heavily swaying in the direction of glory. The fairways are in great shape and have a cool two-tone cut down the middle of them to show you the middle of the fairways. Balls got excellent roll and only the tiniest amount of thin lies to be found - almost all of them perfect. Sand in the bunkers was in very nice shape, but there were a few crusty and damaged ones greenside on 15. Tee boxes were all in fine shape to my eye. And the rough was cut to a playable length, but there was no shortage of tall grasses just waiting on the outskirts to eat your misses.

The greens were absolutely stellar despite the semi-recent small punch. I thought they would be heavily affected by the punch with their fast speeds, but they rolled absolutely true and were incredibly receptive to good shots. But if you hit low, hard drives onto them you may be in for an adventure. But overall, really great, which must be a tough job to do out there.

I certainly look forward to making a trip up to the Santa Ynez Valley in the near future and doing the La Purisima, Alisal (River) and Rancho San Marcos trifecta. I've heard great things about LP in the past, but it's going to take quite a bit to top RSM for me anytime soon. Keep doing what you're doing out there and let it rain some more if that's what it takes to keep this amazing diamond shining. Go. Now.
Finally made it back to the wonderful Navy (Destroyer) course this past Sunday for my GK Cup match with Kassper7 and another friend. I'll let Perry do the honors on that write-up as he was victorious in a well-fought match, but as for the course itself - pretty great.

Navy course is certainly a tough one. From the blues there's not only a lot of length to deal with, but also plenty of water comes into play and there are also plenty of trees that can really put a damper on your GIR numbers. There are really no easy holes at Navy - even the par 3s are long and challenging. But it's really fun to test yourself here, especially when it's in great condition.

The fairways really look terrific in all of the areas where it matters. Sure, there are few over-saturated GUR areas from the rains lately, and the occasional dried out area, but overall it's wonderful carpet in all the places you're supposed to be. The rough is cut to a nice length to play out of, however there were some areas where some dirt clumps were sprinkled around as if some tilling machine had cut through there - no idea what that was.

Bunkers were in very nice shape and had ample sand in them, and the fairway bunkers were nice and firm. The only potential gripe were some crowned and slightly thin tee boxes, but even those were only an issue on a handful of holes - most were just fine.

The greens were simply great. Plenty of tough pins and green complexes at Navy, but they accepted well struck shots and rolled very true indeed. Speed was medium fast but very consistent throughout. It also looks like people took care of their ball marks so that's great.

Bummer on the food/drink situation though on a crowded Sunday - the cafeteria was closed and the only food option was a truck out in front of the pro shop, however that truck did not have propane so could not serve any hot food. The snack shop at the 14th hole tee box was closed and there was no cart service all day. That's a bit of downer on what was essentially a great day out on the links (my match play match notwithstanding).

Greens were being aerated this week though so it's going to be a few more until going back, but I would definitely check back in at the Navy course in about 3 weeks for a great day out.
Have wanted to make it back to Oak Quarry for the longest time and finally had a chance to do so, with even extra motivation after hearing about the conditions from Gregholla the last time we played last week. He raved about its current condition, and he was absolutely right.

The Rock is in prime shape right now from tee to green. Fairways have very good coverage throughout (a tad thin here or there on the fringes maybe but most of it is awesome), and the rough is of varying length but mostly lush and playable.

The tee boxes are all in pretty optimum shape although here or there a bit shaggy, but no big deal. And the bunkers are good - not great, but very good. The fairway bunkers are firm, the greenside bunkers have ample sand - pretty much just how it should be.

The greens, now a few weeks after aerating, are pretty perfect right now. Just the right firmness to hold shots well but also to challenge your putting speed when you're on them. Not too many ball marks at all to speak of and they're very well covered and consistent on the speed, which is currently medium fast.

POP was a bit of bummer (a little under five hours) since the group in front of mine was incredibly slow (as evidenced by never seeing them have to wait for a green to clear so they were well behind the pace). I even called the front desk to ask them to send someone out to push them a bit, but never saw any marshall come out after they agreed to do it. C'est la Vie.

Saw the cart girl at least 2x before calling it a day, so that was good. If you haven't played Oak Quarry yet, it's a real treat for those optics lovers. Some of the holes are just so cool to play and the challenge is in not getting caught up in all of the awesome scenery. But it's a very unique landscape and the course has really been masterfully carved out of it. Highly recommended right now.
Had the chance to knock another private LA course off the bucket list today with a visit to Friendly Hills in Whittier. It was a shotgun tournament of the scramble variety unfortunately, but had a fun group and a great time on this most interesting and challenging course.

Friendly Hills is true to its name with a number of uphill and downhill holes - very few are flat at all, except perhaps on a section of the back nine. The course's main defense, besides the elevations, are sloping fairways, tight tee shots and small greens with some severe slopes to them in places. The course has a good amount of bunker coverage but not overwhelming. There are also a few water features that come into play on the back nine that are very difficult to see from the tee box in many cases. Nice finishing hole, too.

A little bit of a bummer that there are only two par 5s on the course, and one of them is the very first hole, which is uphill and long all the way, so better be ready from the range. It's a par 70 with a glut of long par 4s and some very tricky and long par 3s as well.

Conditions were pretty good overall, however the greens had been recently punched (although it didn't affect roll too much as it seemed lighter than the usual Muni punch), and there was a section chalked out around every green where the apron was rather chewed up and perhaps being redone altogether? I'm just not sure why this was the case on a few of the greens.

But the fairways were in great shape and quite lush. The rough was not too penal at all and of course the tee boxes were in great shape across the board. It's always hard to really judge certain aspects of a course when playing in one of these types of events, like POP for example, but the overall feeling was definitely of a place I would love to come back to with the opportunity to shoot my own score.

There were no photos of Friendly Hills up either from the last reviews so I took a good number of them from hole to hole and will post them later.
First time ever at Black Gold with the added thrill of a Guru round with Matt, Greg and Gary, so it's easy to admit that I had been excited about this one for quite some time. And in most every respect, Black Gold did not disappoint. My game was a bit of a different story ...

But the course itself was a good test for any golfer. Loads of uneven fairways and rough areas, plenty of well-placed and stocked bunkers, elevated tees and greens, along with some narrow landing areas with plenty of OB threat, and some super fast and tricky greens make BG a serious challenge to put up a low score.

Plenty of nice fairway out there and mostly all good lies, however I will admit that I was expecting the course to be a little more green in that area. But by no means does that mean it was bad. The rough is cut pretty high and makes for some tough escapes, but it's lush and consistent. The bunkers are in very good shape - fluffy greenside, firm in the fairways. And the tee boxes were all well level and never a problem to find a good spot.

As for the greens, well there was some love-hate going on there. They were in very nice shape for sure and ran very fast with some very unnerving breaks (especially if above the hole), but they were so firm and fast that most any balls landing on the green (even a firm chip) would simply roll off into collection areas. The apron was also recently punched.

POP was very steady with waiting of any consequence really only taking place on a few holes, and the cart service came by at least three times on a pretty gorgeous day all around. Carts are actually very nice with plush seats, good GPS system, and ice in the coolers. It was also great to finally play with Matt and Greg and their crushing drives, and meet and play a fun GK Cup practice round with Gary - we were neck and neck all day long!

The great Guru deal was of course the icing on the cake today, but I would certainly take advantage of the regular GK coupon for Black Gold and come back to play it again and improve my score with some better course knowledge.
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