There is a saying "nothing worth having comes easy" and that describes Ram's Hill to a T. Located a healthy 3.5 hours from Los Angeles, the drive is hard to get there as you have to go through the Salton Sea area and over the canyon terrain of Anza Borrego. Don't believe me? Here is a picture headed to the course:
However. once you are there, you will get a top tier golf course that to me, is one of the 5 best in all of SoCal.
High praise? There isn't high enough praise for this course. The conditions were immaculate:
The bunkering was outrageous:
The greens, while a bit on the slow side because they don't want them to die in the Sumer heat, rolled true and provided a stark contrast to the desert environment:
The routing was fantastic. Tom Fazio did a tremendous job using the natural contours of the land to really nestle in this course resulting in each hole being a unique challenge. Impressively, most tee shots had you hit drives that went downhill (some more subtly than others)
which adds to the enjoyment for the average golfer as there are speed "pockets" aplenty here that if you catch it right, the ball will go a long way.
You will notice that there is water on a lot of holes which I am sure is part of the Borrego Springs network and you just can't get over how stark the contrast is from the desert environment and the course you are playing. The course is not all Augusta-green, there are many areas of hard desert interlaced around the course which is great to see as I fully applaud efforts like Coore/Crenshaw and other architects pulling up turf in these arid times. I think Ram's Hill has the right balance of green and desert (said sitting from my admittedly ill-informed perch).
Ram's Hill also has the traditional SoCal par 3 over water (a pet peeve of mine as readers of this blog can attest) yet at this course with how they route the shot feels fresh and interesting. Rather than a forced carry over water, water is only death if you go left and there is a bailout to the right which makes for a much more interesting variation:
Ram's Hill also does things the "right" way (at least according to me ;)) with lots of sprinkler heads showing you the yardage and most importantly (given the harsh desert environment), lots of water stations throughout the course:
It has been a weird experience recently golfing around SoCal as we live in a desert yet water stations are not prevalent on a lot of courses. I usually bring my own water in any event but was very thankful for Ram's Hill's foresight on this one. They also shut down the course during the Summer season rather than having deteriorating conditions as the heat and sun take their toll. They are open from November until July which seems right to me.
Overall, Rams Hill is definitely in my top 5 courses in all of SoCal (joining Rustic, Oak Quarry and Sandpiper) and even though it is an insane trek to get there, it is well worth it. I think next time I play there, I will stay in Borrego Springs so I can get multiple cracks at the course, its that good.
For more information on Ram's Hill check it out here: http://www.ramshillgolf.com/