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Got a good prepaid rate of $24 on the SCGC website for 1:47pm on Monday, 11/28/22, on a cool, partly sunny day with not too much wind. They grouped me with a family: mother, 21-year old son (his birthday), and sister. Son had a decent game, sis almost none. Their first swings of the day were either whiffs or tops, so on the first green I excused myself and bolted to the second tee, but wasn’t able to make much headway against the two slow foursomes ahead of me.

Conditions were typical for San Clemente – good lies in the fairways, minimal rough with some bare or scruffy area, good sand in bunkers. Many of the tees are sloping – I played White. Greens were pretty firm, cut tight, and very fast. There’s not that much grass there over the green base – ballmarks were large but the ball released after impact. And, man, these greens have a lot of break toward the sea. My mouth was literally agape on several occasions as putts or chips made big turns or took very long runouts compared to what I expected.

Able to finish 14 holes in a little over 3 hours before realizing the foursomes ahead of me would likely have to set up camp to finish #15, so bailed out back to the house and missed the tough closing stretch. Looking at the scorecard, SCGC is one of the most egregious around in assigning handicap strokes based primarily on hole length – the par-5s, only one of which is >500 yards, are handicap holes 1 thru 4, while the par-3s are 15 thru 18. In reality, three of the par 3s (9, 13, and 15) are beasts that require excellent play to get a good score. Those par-3s should be at least middle-pack in terms of handicap, while the 5s are likely lower third on the list.

Recommended for good conditions and ambiance.
Got out to RSJ on Thursday afternoon, 11/17/22, for my first round in a month on a mostly sunny, pleasant day without too much wind on the front, and dropping away as we played the back nine and darkness approached. Grouped with three very nice visitors from the St. George, UT area – I’m pretty sure they were disappointed in the course conditions and ambiance compared to their home area.

Hadn’t played here in many years, seeing ongoing reports of poor conditions, and that’s what I found – fairways with vast areas of thin turf or bare dirt, inconsistent rough, and many areas closed to carts without any good reason. Tees were level (we played Blue [6,155/69.7/124]); bunkers had adequate sand (though often crusty and unraked); and greens were the best part of the course, with good coverage, rolling smoothly and surprising all of us with runouts beyond the hole, leaving a lot of 4/5/6-footers coming back.

One thing I will say about these greens is that they seem to have a lot of break – more than it looks like initially. Some of this is slope – putts from the side of the green pin-high can finish 5-6 feet below the hole. Putts from above the green can amble well past the pin and skew offline quickly. But overall the greens just break more than it looks. I must admit that I never seem to putt well on Billy Bell greens – I just never have deciphered the lines and speeds required.

There’s a lot of construction going on around the clubhouse and poor signage on the approaches led to a long hump with the bag, and they don’t allow carts in the parking lot so then it was a long hump back out. No advance notice in the clubhouse about carts having to be in by 5pm, just the popup notice on the useful GPS screen, but it was dark by 520 anyway.

Suitable for starting to get back into the swing of things, but not a course I would recommend for the serious golfer.
Played 10/16/22 at 2:15 pm in a GK Cup 19 match. The course had had rain over the previous 2 days, but overall conditions were decent with good coverage on the greens, although the longer rough was wet and juicy. Fairway lies were spotty with many scattered shredded/bare-ish areas. Traps looked like they had adequate sand after a bunker rehab earlier this year. Tees OK. Course crowded, pace poor - we finished 12 holes in just under 4 hours and completed #16 in the dark.

Still a good bargain and acceptable conditions in central OC.
Out to Talega with a high school friend for my first full round in 3 months. We were going to ease in at Oso Creek but I waited too long to book, and the only times available were like 3:30pm. Got a twilight 2:40 time on GolfNow at Talega on 10/13/22– the same time slot listed on the TGC website was $25 more! We joined a couple of easy-going younger guys in the 2:30 slot and the two groups in front of us played blast golf and we didn’t see them after #4, so we set our own pace and finished #17 just after 6pm, when I had to leave.

I’ve always liked the layout at Talega but conditions have generally continued to deteriorate over the past few years. The infrastructure is showing signs of obvious neglect and deferral, like collapsed rotted fencing, broken and overgrown sprinkler control boxes, alternating lushly overgrown and clearcut vegetation surrounds, etc. The bag drop is no longer manned so it’s a hump in and back out; the shop is pretty bare except for taking your money, and amenities like ball washers, hole signage, and cart features are lacking.

Overall the course was very soft, which can’t be attributed to the rain showers over the past couple days but to what looks like directed watering. Many fairway areas show signs of scattered fertilizer/mulch application and were pretty wet. Greens were very soft and held shots while rolling at only medium speed. Fairways were a collage of green/gray/brown lush or dormant all mixed together – lies were generally fairly tight. The course uses the entry/exit gate system but it looks like the ingress/egress points have not changed in several days and those areas are pretty beat up (and wet!). Rough was as variable as the fairways. Tees were mostly pretty bushy and needed to be cut; some tees were pushed well forward of card distances (we played White). A longtime bugaboo here, the sand traps, have become a feature as all that I saw (and my buddy played from) had ample groomed sand.

Fun layout, sad conditions. Still hoping for a turnaround.
Finally back out for some golf after a 2+-month layoff due to wife’s medical condition. She’s improving and we did a 9-hole test run today at Oso Creek to see how she would handle the situation. Will try to get in 18 holes next week – fingers crossed. Joined a group of young guys, all pretty good players, who were playing a putting card game and having a lot of relaxed fun. Great group to play with, and I was moved up a tee and just tried to stay out of the way.

The course is in pretty good shape after the very hot summer, in conditions similar to my reports earlier this year. Greens had good coverage and rolled well at medium speed – should speed up in the afternoon as they dry out. Our group left a lot of putts short, misjudging the rollout. Greens were pretty soft and held shots. Fairway lies were mostly OK but spotty; same for the rough. Rough around the greens could be clumpy or deep and lies were a crapshoot. Nobody was in the sand on the front nine, but traps looked like they had adequate material. Tees are generally mildly bumpy and scattered torn up.

An enjoyable relaxed play.
Met up with GK marathon traveler Nickesquire to play a GK Cup 19 match at Sierra Lakes GC on a warm, sunny afternoon, 7/20/22. Nick had played another match that morning and was ready ahead of our scheduled 145 pm time, so the shop sent us out an hour early, and surprisingly we had the course almost to ourselves. Never saw the singles ahead of us after #1, and only had the trailers behind us on the last few holes. Course conditions are very good – see earlier reviews by Nick and GKer FirstFlightFX-101. Greens, fairways, rough and tees in very good condition. The bunkers I was in had fluffy sand but down in the bottom were thin and packed with only a thin layer. No on-course services today.

I’ve always had good luck at Sierra Lakes with weather and conditions. Highly recommended.
Back to Mile Square for a GK Cup 19 match with FirstFlightFX-101 on a perfect day for golf. Conditions at Mile Square continue to be very good. Greens are consistent, roll medium-fast, and have good coverage. They are pretty firm and even wedge approaches were taking big bounces. Ballmarks as a result are pretty small indentations and sometimes can’t even be found. Fairway lies are good and rollout is good as turf is getting drier. Rough in many places has dried out with the summer and is thinned, but around greens you can still find lush areas. Traps have plenty of fine-grained heavy sand. Tees are level and mostly OK – a couple of the par-3s were more torn up/bare. Course was crowded after a morning group outing and pace was steady but deliberate at just under 5 hours. Still recommended.
Out to Oso Creek on a warm, sunny afternoon, 7/13/22, with very little wind. This course provides a good opportunity to work on your irons with many par-3 holes of various distances, and conditions are consistently good to very good. Greens are easily the highlight, with good coverage and consistent speeds. Some were firmer than others, but overall a real positive. Fairways are inconsistent with many scattered thin/bare areas - the course features 7 short par-4s. Rough is very random, ranging from bare dirt to lush deep grass. Traps show evidence of machine raking, but don’t have a lot of sand and were crusty from irrigation/evaporation. Tees are level and have few ballmarks. Carts are basic. No real warm-up area, but a large putting green that mimics course speeds. Great for a relaxed round.
Played with an OC Golfers Meetup group at 10am on Saturday, 7/2/22. Sunny, warm day with less wind than is usual for Meadowlark, and I found myself overdressed and warm. Conditions are unchanged from my review in April – very acceptable conditions for a casual weekend round. There are a few scattered wet areas (sprinkler issues) and scattered dry/bare areas. Tees on the par-3 (over water) 7th hole were moved well forward, perhaps to improve pace on a hole where 3- or 4- group backups are not uncommon. The one greenside trap I was in was hard-packed with a miniscule sand layer, resulting in a blade rocket.
I joined my high school buddy here on a foggy, cool and breezy Monday, 6/27/22, teeing off a little late around 10:15 between several foursomes. My first time playing here despite living in SoCal for the past 40+ years – I generally avoid 9-holers and never had an invitation from friends. He invited me during the COVID period but they weren’t allowing carts out, which is a no-go for my bum knee. The setting was attractive and very quiet with the surrounding hills close by, very few homes in view, and the damping effect of the fog. We moved along with the other players ahead and behind, finishing in just under 2 hours.

Greens are the highlight of the course and are in very good condition, fairly firm and rolling nicely at medium+ speed. Speeds were consistent through the round, which is great. There’s no significant tiering and most greens are fairly flat. I consistently played too much break on most putts, which we found to be almost always pretty straight. Greens didn’t hold shots too well due to firmness. Many green surrounds were closely mown and shots running onto these slopes funneled down into collection areas or against rough collars. Tees were level – we played White, as the Blue card has some very long par-3s. Fairway lies were good and rough was generally very playable. Traps had apparently been recently refurbished and were visually appealing, had adequate sand quality and quantity, and played great.

Club facilities are nice and look to be recently refurbished. Small but attractive pro shop and snack bar/restaurant available. The accompanying resort was pretty busy during the breakfast/lunch hours with an international clientele. Valet parking is required and staff is efficient. No driving range, but a large netted hitting bay is available, and a tiny putting green about the size of a walk-in closet.

OK for a quick casual round.
Played River View for the first time with an OC Meetup group at 8:21am on Sunday morning, 6/12/22. First time here for the two guys I played with, as well, so we all discovered the course together. I’ve lived in the OC for 45 years and never played here, and I have to say I won’t likely be rushing back. The course is pretty quirky and limited in design by playing up and back along the river and up and down off the riverside bluffs and down onto the banks. So there are a lot of holes that look and play very similar.

The course was crowded and, while we started on time, we waited on every shot after that. Seemed longer than the 2:20 on each side, I guess because of the waiting, but finished in around 4:40, which isn’t too bad on a weekend morning. There was a “lesson”-type thing going on in the group ahead of us, but it looked like they were waiting on the people in front of them, as well.

Conditions were pretty average. Greens had good coverage and rolled pretty well at medium+ speed. Not too many unrepaired ballmarks. Some greens have minor tiering at the back or some minor undulation, but most are fairly level. Some greens were pretty soft and receptive; others were much firmer and approaches took longer bounces. Fairway lies were pretty thin and we saw many large areas where turf was patchy or absent. Rough was variable, from mown areas to wildly-growing deep yikes, as well as areas that were bares and leaf-covered. Holes playing along the river had large stretches of river sand to be avoided. It’s hard to hit to these elevated greens off a bare/thin lie, and then the slope/runup to these perched greens is lush and difficult to play from. Traps were firm with thin layers of coarse sand. Tees were generally flat but many showed a lot of divot damages – partially-filled divot mix bottles on the carts, but no divot mix boxes on the par-3 tees, and no refill rack.

Some really visually-challenging holes. #3 is a longer very narrow par-3 flanked by large trees with a couple of intervening traps. Hole #11 is even more extreme – a shorter par-4 that basically a hallway between huge trees, with a ridge running down the fairway to funnel your ball into the bare dirt under the right trees, if you can hit straight enough to avoid the forest.

Shop is very basic, and so were carts with only a generic GPS to the MOG. No cart girl, but a snack bar in the clubhouse at the turn. Range on mats. Huge putting green with a putting “course” set up – conditions of that green were pretty lush and similar/nicer than the on-course greens. Course infrastructure conditions cry out for maintenance/improvement, but it doesn’t look like ownership is putting much back into the place.

We also had the new experience of seeing a homeless guy get arrested right next to us as we were playing the 4th green – cops had guns drawn and everything. Apparently he was following/harassing a woman golfer in the group ahead of us. So more of the local charm here.

Meat and potatoes golf and what would be a last option for me. Hilarious comment of the day by one of my playing partners: “seems like they packed 10 pounds of sh*t into a 5-pound bag!”
Played Mile Square on Sunday, 5/29/22, joining a threesome of friends at 1:22pm on a sunny, breezy great day for golf. Walked on and was paired up within about 15 minutes. These guys were enthusiastic players and brought lots of beer and harder liquors. We moved slowly but steadily as the course was pretty crowded, finishing in about 4.75 hours, as things started jamming up on the back 9, especially the last 5 holes that were imported from the old Players Course.

Overall conditions are very good. Greens are pretty receptive, have good coverage, and roll smoothly at medium+ speeds. Too bad there are so many unrepaired ballmarks everywhere. Fairway lies are good and rough is generally pretty short. Tees are level and traps have good quality sand, but most had many unraked areas from earlier players, despite readily-available rakes.

No senior green fee rates on weekends. No cart girl today – there’s a snack bar at the turn. Didn’t see a course marshal. Looks like some construction work has started on the bones of the abandoned course. Future park facilities, I believe.

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