Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Golfing Bel-Air Country Club- Review

When you think of private Los Angeles golf what comes to mind? For most people it starts with Riviera and ends with Los Angeles Country Club. The one man who links those two courses together is George C. Thomas who also designed another tremendous Los Angeles course, Bel-Air Country Club.

The first hole of Bel-Air is very much in that Riviera vein with an elevated tee shot par 5 which then cross a stream to a great green with an amazing bunker complex.

To me, what really sets Bel-Air apart are the bunkers that guard the holes and make for devilish outs on the fairways.

They seem to be almost like rolling waves on the ocean and god help you if you get in one. On one hole our caddy suggest I get out of the trap with a wedge. Like a fool, I didn't listen to him and tried for a 7 iron only to bury it in the lip and then chagrined, got my wedge out.

Speaking of caddies, it was the first time I played with one. I was very lucky in that my caddy was full of history and very laid back so I didn't feel any pressure about playing with him or anything. I chose the clubs, he read the putts and so we went around.

The course was built in 1925 and it does have that classic MacKenzie, Ross feel to it and the members like the overall shape as the tee markers are basically welded into the ground (No 4 will always be 448 I think!).

Like Riviera (and like LACC from what I hear), there are a lot of elevation changes on the front side from par 3's

To par 5's

Above are pictures of one of my favorite holes, a long par 5 and infamous for Howard Hughes landing his plane to court Katherin Hepburn. Once you crest the hill, its a long downhill to a narrow throated green. Making par here was one of the highlights of my day. 

The course really turns it on on the back side, first up, the most famous hole on the course, the par 3 10th across the gorge and taking the swinging bridge over.

The hole is long and tough, let's leave it at that.

The rest of the backside has what I can only describe as an Augusta-lite feel to it. Fascinating tee shots

Picturesque approach shots

and all leading up to 17,my favorite hole on the course.

A long par 4 with Augusta-like fairway slope, a large bunker guarding long and left shots and then a still a wood in to a green with an almost cliff on the right right hand side (the red stakes for out of bounds is so close to the right side of the fairway its basically left or death. If I could play one hole over and over again at Bel-Air it would definitely be 17.

18 ends the round with a longish par 4 underneath the swinging bridge with a very difficult second shot. The course is undergoing significant renovation which you can see in multiple places and the greens, while rolling true, will also need that renovation TLC at some point. However, BACC is a top quality track and while not mentioned in the same breath as Riv and LACC, deserves to be and if you are every lucky enough to be invited to play, you should definitely jump at the chance.

For more info about BACC, check it out here: 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Golfing Altadena Review

If you have traveled around a bit in your golfing life you will know that there are major differences between golfing on the East and the West coasts. Bentgrass vs. Poa Annua; lush green golf vs baked out fairways; etc. etc. Having played almost exclusively on the West Coast for the last 3 years I had gotten used to the course conditions out here until I ran into Altadena golf club and thought I was in Maine.

Sure, I don't think Maine has been this sunny in its entire life and has a lot less palm trees

but darnit if I didn't feel like I was back on the East Coast at a cheap but enjoyable 9 holer that I played with my dad. Growing up I wasn't exactly playing National Golf Links of America or Bethpage Black every weekend but courses like Cedar River, Rainbow Golf Club and Hillcrest.  

Altadena is very much in this East Coast vein. A little ragged on the edges sure but fun, fast and the right amount of challenging. When you have a course that has par 4's longer than its par 5, you know you are in for an interesting layout. 

Exhibit A are the par 3s; all uphill and all tough with a variety of shots to get you on the green.

Exhibit B are the wonderfully long par 4s that force you to shape shots and question your sanity on how the fairways slope when very well hit tee shots start running toward the trees.

The course even has some relaxing benches that remind me of certain East Coast tracks and were always well positioned to be the shade (a must for West Coast courses).

Are the greens slow and the fairways threadbare in places? You betcha. Are guys wearing jeans and weirdly starting on the 6th hole cutting in front of you? Sure why not! 

Since golf is so expensive even for "beater" courses, I made a resolution over the last year only to play the best that I could afford. That being said Altadena (and Roosevelt) are the exceptions to that rule, here I will pay some dough any time to play these tracks!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Golfing Fossil Creek Review

DFW or Dallas-Fort Worth. While Dallas and Fort Worth are close-ish together, they are miles apart in terms of topography and the types of golf courses that reside in each metroplex. Whereas Dallas is flat and residential, Fort Worth is much hillier with different style of courses.

One of the better courses in the FW area is Fossil Creek, which was designed by Arnold Palmer. I haven't played too many of Arnie's tracks so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. One neat thing about the clubhouse is that they have schematic drawings with the thought process behind each hole which you should definitely check out before or after the round.

The front side of the course is rather benign. It follows a creek but otherwise is not too remarkable although there are some forced carries.

That being said, I think the front side would be really good in the Summer when the fairways bake out and are cut a little more close (it was a bit shaggy the day I played).

The real reason to play this course is the backside, starting with a 190 yard par 3 with all of that distance over water.

It continues to crank up with multiple carries around water or taking water into consideration. My favorite hole of the course had to be number 12, which is a severe dogleg right around a lake with tee shots and approach shots crucial.

Hole 13 is just as challenging with a 170 yard carry over water. I played the hole to the left and then had an easy pitch on for a par. Its rare when you see a "sucker" green but this was it, bail out to the left, don't try and hold the green.

The rest of the back 9 has holes where you are shooting over creeks and quarries at various times, whether off the tee or right in front of the green.

The sand in the bunkers at Fossil Creek are top notch and the greens roll true so once you navigate the gullies and creeks and such, you definitely have a chance to score if you are near the green.

Overall the course is really challenging, especially on the backside which puts a premium on target golf and making sure you hit the ball over gullies. One other checkmark for this course are the hotdogs. Seriously, you won't have a better hot dog in the DFW area than at FC. I think I met the course on a slightly off period during the winter and my concerns about the shag in and around the fairways will probably be gone as the warmer temps get cranked up.

If you are in the FW of the DFW metroplex, definitely check this place out!

For more information on Fossil Creek, check it out here:

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Golfing Alhambra

Los Angeles has a lot of courses in all varying sizes. Some are very short, no more than a pitching wedge required-type course. Some are regulation length and some even host major professional golf championships. There are a few courses in-between all of these, "I'm not a girl, not quite a woman" courses and I played a super enjoyable one the other day, Alhambra Golf Course.

The geography of the course is pretty impressive. No houses ring any fairways and there is a killer practice facility here. The course is also very engaging so much so that if I lived closer to Alhambra, this would be my go to golf destination most nights.

The course is short, no doubt about that. Many of the par 4's measure 280-300 yards in length but it is a well maintained course. They actually closed off portions of the fairways to allow them to recover to a higher playability standard. Even though it is short, it is entertaining and one of the most interesting features are the forced draws the course makes you hit.

For the most part, courses are designed with right handers who slice the ball in mind. I haven't seen a course in some time actually force you to go right-to-left like Alhambra does and it was a great challenge. Even if you do go right, there is enough room and trees are thinned enough to make recovery shots possible.

Apparently a lot of golfers use electric carts at the course which, given how short it is, was very perplexing although my playing partner said its because the backside is so hilly. And hilly it is!

While most could do these hills by walking them, I definitely got the point on why some regulars would want carts. Still the hills weren't that bad and added even more layers of challenge the course. Most executive-type courses basically require no more than a decent 3-5 wood and then some command of your wedges or shorter irons. Alhambra adds that but stretches all aspects of your game so I was cleaning a lot more clubs after the round than I was expecting.

Finally, Alhambra knows they are a short course and asks you to play accordingly, meaning no round there should take more than 4 hours and I love that pace of play mantra! There are a lot of courses in LA that are on my bucket list and Alhambra was one of them and I am so glad I checked it off the list!

For more info on Alhambra:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Golfing Redhawk Review

Nestled in a canyon with housing developments on either side, Redhawk welcomes golfers to try out its crazy greens in Temecula.

The course itself is in pretty good shape, green where it needs to be

and with strategically placed bunkers that challenges tee shots and approach shots alike.

However, what I want to talk about when you talk about Redhawk are the greens. Many greens are not so much greens but rolling hills and god forbid if you hit your approach shot on the wrong level! There was a tournament going on the day I played and I experienced true Sunday pin placements with most pins cut on the tightest part of the green. This makes chip shots supremely difficult as the greens were also cut relatively fast.

This isn't necessarily a slam against the greens there its just that you have to know what you are in for. The fairways and the set up is rather unremarkable but knowledge of the greens is paramount if you want to score on this course.

The other interesting feature were the par 3's. Each one brought its own unique challenges and were very picturesque. I think this one has to be my favorite (with an Augusta National-type bridge to boot!)

Overall, if I am being honest, Redhawk was not my favorite. I felt the greens and the pin positions were too punitive and the par 3's do not make up the entire 18 and given Temcula's distance from LA I am not going to be gasing up to go back anytime soon. That being said, the staff was very friendly and the course is in good shape so if you are in the area, roll the dice and try your luck on the greens.

For more info on Redhawk check out the following: