Golf Course Reviews
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Reluctantly decided to come out of hibernation and play for the first time in four months on Wednesday, 9/21, and found the golf course to be in very good condition from start to finish. The rain that fell Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning was definitely beneficial but it appeared to me conditions were quite good prior to the storm that made its' way through San Diego at the beginning of the week. I'll point to Weber2323's review from 9/10 as evidence of that fact.

The golf course was basically wall-to-wall green carpet, which isn't something I'm accustomed to seeing at AB-North this time of year. There may have been some isolated patches that were the exception but I don't recall taking note of it. As a result, fairway lies were great from tee-to-green on practically every hole. However, because of the recent rainfall, fairways were soft and, in some cases, a bit soggy, particularly the landing zone on #12. One thing I have noticed when playing here is that the maintenance staff is very proactive when it comes to protecting certain areas of the course and there were plenty of signs posted to divert cart traffic away from that portion of the fairway. Nice to see them make the effort to protect an area that was extensively resodded just a year ago.

As expected, the greens held extremely well yet the speed wasn't as sluggish as I anticipated. Granted, they weren't as quick as I've experienced...or would prefer...but I didn't find myself having to slam the ball on every green because of the rain, which is testament to how well the putting surfaces drain. And I didn't notice any footprints or other irregularities that affected the roll of the ball either, except for an unrepaired ball mark on #13 that kicked my 40-footer off line at the last second, costing me a birdie!

The fringe areas around the greens were flawless and in the best shape possible...and that goes for the rough as well. Definitely longer and thicker than usual, venturing off the fairway was not a good idea. In most cases, I found my ball sitting up, which resulted in some strikes high on the club face. Conversely, if the ball burrowed, advancing the ball an appreciable distance was almost impossible.

Only hit one bunker and the sand was surprisingly fluffy...even to a good depth...and very playable. Looked at a few other traps as I passed by them during the round and their appearance seemed to parallel what I experienced on #7.

Saw the beverage cart and marshal on only one occasion but it wasn't very crowded at all. We played as a foursome...teeing off at 2:00...and finished a leisurely-paced round in about 4 hours and 15 minutes. Despite the high humidity, it was a perfect day to play and the constant breeze...which seems to be a given here...kept us comfortable.

Not much to add except that the course is in excellent condition at the present moment and should remain so until aerification of the greens commences on October 3rd.
12 Likes.
Made a late decision to play in Sunday's GK Event and was so glad I did. Cross Creek GC never seems to pop up on my radar...haven't set foot on the grounds in 10 years...but that may change after yesterday's experience. Not only is it one of the more challenging layouts in Southern California, the remoteness and solitude one feels is a welcome change from the run-of-the-mill housing tract developments that are all too common. Front and back nines each possess their own characteristics and personality, thereby eliminating monotony and boredom from the equation.

There's plenty of challenge wrapped up in the sprawling layout that will test all talent levels but be sure to select the proper tee box; despite the less-than-oppressive yardage numbers, I think the course plays longer than the scorecard would indicate. Mix in some soft fairways with a steady wind and you'll have plenty to handle.

Course conditions were good despite a few areas that were less than ideal but I'm willing to overlook those isolated flaws...thin tee boxes, wet turf, portions of the fairway that should have been marked GUR...because the greens were about as good as anyone could hope for. Smooth, quick, receptive to well-struck shots, they were an absolute joy to putt on and in excellent shape. I was especially cognizant of how easy it was to repair ball marks and how "clean" the finished product looked.

Whether it's through the efforts of the maintenance staff, the people who play here on a regular basis, or a combination of both, the presentation of these putting surfaces was impressive. I can deal with issues from tee-to-green on any course as long as the greens are top-notch, and that certainly is the case at Cross Creek. With the exception of some surface damage on Hole #2, they were just about flawless.

As alluded to in many other posts, the staff at Cross Creek couldn't have been more welcoming or accommodating. Despite being overwhelmed with food orders following the round, Brent and his staff were cheerful and pleasant, with no evidence of anxiety to be seen on their faces. It really was a nice way to bookend the day and this level of genuine customer service did not go unnoticed.

Thanks again to Johnny for putting Cross Creek into the GK Events mix; I've got to think the positive response from the consensus will definitely result in a return visit. And I'd also like to thank my playing partners, Kathie, Bill, and Wendy, for providing such wonderful company; it sure made for a fun day.
12 Likes.
Played AB-North on Wednesday, 4/20, and noticed a slight improvement in overall conditions compared to what I reported a few weeks back. Fairways are beginning to fill in with better coverage and more consistent lies than what's been prevalent through the winter months; tee boxes generally in decent shape as well.

Putting surfaces have definitely benefited from the recent top dressing process although they are still rolling in the medium speed category, with a few uphill putts requiring a little more "oomph" to get the ball to the hole. Did not see an abundance of unattended ball marks that needed attention but I did find myself fixing an additional three or four pitch marks per hole in addition to my own. Greens held very well, to the point where I was able to spin a couple of wedges back a foot or two; haven't seen that here in a while.

Putts rolled fairly smooth but I wasn't able to get anything of note to fall. Hit a number of putts, particularly from the 15'-20' range, where I thought the ball was going to find the bottom of the cup but that just wasn't the case. Typical of this course, however, as many putts have a tendency to take the break then straighten out at the last second or do something totally unexpected. There's a very fine line that separates a good putting round from a great one here; except for a couple of misreads, I was very pleased with my stroke and was never close to 3-putting, despite taking 31 putts for the round.

Only found the rough on two occasions and it was playable, although it took some effort to get the club on the ball. Fringe areas around the greens are also improving but there are still many spots where clumpy, uneven lies are prevalent, which made it difficult to keep shots from off the green, whether hit with a hybrid or putter, on line.

Bunkers are in need of some maintenance as the upper layer of sand appears to have thinned out considerably in recent weeks. Once one of the best features of the course, I've found recent forays into the sand has now become a guessing game; very hard-packed surface just below the ball that forces you to guard against blading the shot, thus making it very difficult to hit a high quality bunker shot. Nowhere near the Desert Willow disaster...thankfully...but still something worth noting.

As always, customer service level was fantastic...from check-in to dinner after the round...with on-course beverage cart and water service available on multiple occasions. Pace-of-play was excellent: teed off as a twosome at 1:19...following a group of three elderly gentlemen who were walking...and finished at about four hours and fifteen minutes.

The wind, which always seems to be omnipresent in the afternoon, was in full force for the duration of the round and probably the strongest I've encountered at AB-North. Knowing it has a tendency to swirl and change direction at a moment's notice, we were still amazed at how quickly conditions varied just from the tee shot to the approach on some holes. It really added to the challenge and fun factor and had us on our toes when it came to club selection but this is another reason why I enjoy playing here; the golf course always seems to play different from week to week to a certain degree.

Not sure if the rain that's projected to arrive next week will materialize but I believe it would be very beneficial given this recent spell of warmer than usual temperatures we've experienced. With summer fast approaching and winter now fading in the rear view mirror, I would expect conditions to continue to get better moving forward.
12 Likes.
Had a nice time at the Desert Willow GK Event on Saturday in the company of Steve, Al, and Steve. Weather was very pleasant with some early round humidity in the air but once the anticipated storm front began to roll in, things cooled off a bit and the overcast skies I was hoping for blanketed the course.

As far as course conditions go, it was a mixed bag: fairways and rough were immaculate...as good as one could hope for...but I did encounter a few tee boxes in need of leveling. Sadly, still not fully recovered from the last round of aeration...whenever that was...the putting surfaces clearly didn't attain the standard set by the fairways.

The greens were okay, despite a couple of them not looking all that great (such as #1), but very sluggish speed-wise. In fact, our group was amazed at how "sticky" some of the downhill putts were on various holes, particularly the slope leading down to the cup on the Par-3 14th. However, despite their lack of speed, the greens did roll fairly true and without any discernible bumpiness.

Simply put, the sand traps were a disaster. Hard-packed with practically a non-existent "soft" upper layer, I was disheartened that the round came with a "disclaimer" that a bunker renovation project is scheduled to take place next month which, for all intents and purposes, made it an "enter at your own risk" proposition.

In looking at the overall picture, I was extremely disappointed with the total package presented by the Firecliff Course. It's a great layout with plenty of variety, challenge, and desert beauty, yet I was measurably let down by the current state of the greens and bunkers, especially after being led to believe we were in store for something really special, based on this March 8 quote from the 'Downsize or Reschedule Desert Willow Thread'...

"OH BTW - the course is in fantastic shape, the best its been in 10+ years according to Desert Willow's tournament director (who is a friend so I know he is telling the truth)." (Johnny GK)

This certainly isn't on Johnny...we all know how hard he works to secure the best sites for these events...but rather the tournament director who made that statement. Have things changed that drastically over the past four weeks or had conditions in recent years deteriorated to the extent that what I encountered on Saturday is the best they've been able to offer in the last decade?

I understand the need for on-course maintenance can oftentimes infringe on the playability and quality of a golf course but had I known things were not as "fantastic" as advertised, I most likely would not have made that last second decision to participate.
14 Likes.
And now to complete the trifecta! Had an enjoyable day with Abbacat on a beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon at Temecula Creek. Booked through the JC Resorts website and secured a 2:00pm tee time for a $45.00 rate, which was an outstanding deal when you realize we managed to squeeze in 26 holes.

No need to go into much detail here as Wendy basically covered it in her review but I will endorse the observation that the Stonehouse Nine was in markedly better shape than the Creek Nine, most notably the greens. Very similar in appearance to the putting surfaces at Marine Memorial, they were nice to putt on and held well-struck shots.

Although not slated for aeration until May 10, there were a couple of greens on the Creek Nine that showed evidence of a recent punching and the fringe on #2 was hard as concrete. Speed-wise, they were definitely slower so it took a little more force to get the ball to the hole.

Another sore spot was the poor condition of some of the tee boxes, with #6 on Creek being the worst. Not sure if it's a lack of sunlight due to the surrounding trees...a similar situation prompted the removal of some trees and the addition of a new rear tee on #7 Stonehouse a few years back...but the tee box was muddy, torn up, and extremely uneven.

With on-course traffic being relatively light, we were able to move right along and also indulge in some extra practice shots during the round. To me, this is the best way to work on certain aspects of one's game, especially around the greens under "real-time" scenarios, and I welcomed the opportunity to do so. I like nothing more than playing 18 holes and then finding a remote green out on the course to practice my short game.

Ownership appears to have its' main focus on the lodge and restaurant facilities these days, recently completing a $2.5 million renovation to the dining area and they're not quite finished. Admittedly, this is a very nice 'Stay & Play' destination and the quality of the food...as well as the pricing...is definitely "gourmet" level. It's also worth noting that the service and friendliness level I encountered from the moment I set foot on the property was second-to-none.

However, it would be a shame if the powers-that-be have elected to forego investing the dollars necessary to keep the golf course on that same level. Perhaps that's next on the agenda, as the Oak-Creek-Stonehouse Nines offer three distinct challenges and should be on a par with the other features of the resort.
13 Likes.
Again, due to unforeseen issues, this is another late post. Played Admiral Baker-North on 3/17 and found it to be an eye-opening experience as far as how playing conditions stacked up against Marine Memorial, which I had played a day earlier. Since AB-North has basically become my home course over the past year or so, I've been generally pleased with conditions, willing to overlook some shortcomings due to my satisfaction with the fairly consistent presentation/playability of the greens along with my fondness for the layout.

However, after playing at Camp Pendleton, it's become apparent that AB-North seems to be wallowing in mediocrity as conditions have failed to improve over the past couple of months. The patchiness of the fairways still exists while the greens have gotten slower, bumpier, and frustrating to putt on. For whatever reason, there's always a few pin positions cut extremely tight to the fringe on a few holes on a weekly basis but now they've become downright ridiculous. I don't mind a tucked pin here and there but cutting it into a slope that has an automatic ball return built into it makes no sense whatsoever.

I realize we're still in the grasp of a major drought and various strains of turf respond differently but, with that being said, it's apparent I'm disappointed with the conditions, especially after I have been promoting this course for some time now via my reviews. Granted, this summary is almost two weeks old, but I'll probably look to play elsewhere for the next few weeks until I'm aware that some semblance of improvement has taken place.

NOTE: Received word from someone who played AB-North on 3/29 that the greens have been recently top-dressed and the sand still remains to a certain extent.
11 Likes.
Late with this post due to "technical difficulties" between my cell phone and GK's operating platform a couple of weeks ago. Was in no mood to re-write the entire review at that time but felt it would be beneficial to put something "on paper" so here we go.

Venturing out of my comfort zone on 3/16, I played Marine Memorial for the first time since November 2015 and was very pleased with the overall playing conditions. Although this course will never fall into the "plush" category, turf coverage was uniform and plentiful with very few bare spots. It's still basically winter conditions but the ball sat up nicely in the fairways throughout the round and, as a result, I was able to make much better contact with the irons compared to what I encounter at Admiral Baker-North.

Tee boxes, generally speaking, were good but there were some that required moving around a bit in order to locate that elusive level spot. Don't recall the Par-3s being chewed up with divots so finding adequate turf was not an issue at all.

Rough has gotten longer...which seems to be the norm everywhere else these days...so it took some force to dig the ball out of a few deep lies. The taller height of the rough really did a nice job of framing the fairways, thus providing a distinct landing area to shoot for from the tee. It also served to "pinch' some of the landing zones quite effectively so accuracy was definitely more of a factor this time around.

I was quite impressed with the playability of the bunker sand despite having my reservations as I got fooled by the dark, gravel-like appearance. Once setting foot inside, however, I found the texture to be almost like beach sand with a fluffiness that extended well below the top surface. Thanks to such player-friendly features, hitting out of the bunkers was one of the highlights of the round.

Saving the best for last, the greens were in excellent shape...smooth, devoid of ball marks, and moving at a quick pace...I thought they were close to "private club" quality. Composed of a different grass than what's featured at AB-North, they resembled tightly-napped carpets and the putts rolled smooth and true. Shots into the greens had a tendency to release a bit with the exception of some high-lofted approaches but that was to be expected given the lack of any recent rain.

Pace-of-play for two was just under four hours and I was able to play a second 18 solo despite an initial 12:50 tee time. Didn't see anything other than twos and singles out there so it was very wide open, which made it easy to fly around a second time in about 2.5 hours.

Marine Memorial is a solid no-nonsense track that requires just about every shot in the bag in order to post a low score despite it's failure to grab your attention visually. The maintenance staff seems to keep conditions at a consistent, better-than-average level, it's quite economical to play here even if you have no military affiliation, and the remoteness of the course keeps you far removed from any outside intrusions. One of my favorite layouts, I look forward to playing there again soon.

NOTE: Greens were aerated on 3/22 and 3/23.
14 Likes.
Got out for an afternoon round on Thursday, March 3, and found course conditions have "deteriorated" to a certain degree vs. what I've come to expect at Admiral Baker. Fairways are still hit-or-miss but I'm noticing more patches of very thin turf and, in some cases, bare dirt, which is reaffirmed by the amount of mud I'm having to clean off my golf ball. While there may be some small fairway areas where the turf is good, those spots are few and far between, which has now put me in a "lift-clean-and-place" mindset. Not sure if it's part of the maintenance plan but I also noticed some areas of the course were oversaturated with watering as well.

This was also evident in the sand traps; texture was soft and very playable on #5 yet I found the trap on #9 to have a slightly firmer base. What really threw me, however, was what I encountered on #15. While playing a 30-foot greenside bunker shot, I actually sent a divot of packed sand onto the green; it looked like a six-inch strip steak had landed just a few feet from my ball. I had no idea the base was so wet and compact prior to hitting the shot but it was right there staring me in the face when I looked at my splash mark. Must say, I've NEVER seen that in all my years of playing.

The rough is a bit taller than what I saw last week and the week prior; anyone's guess if it's by design or the mowers not having made their rounds yet. In addition to the increase in depth, the combination of clumpy and bare lies make it tough to get a clean strike on the ball. For distance shots, a fairway wood appeared to be the better choice vs. a hybrid or long iron.

Greens remain in decent shape although I was very disappointed in the speed...if I can use that word ...as they were as slow as I can recall. Noticed a bit of sluggishness the previous week but it was more pronounced yesterday, to the point where I left quite a few putts short and that's not usually the case. And although rolling at a medium-minus pace, the greens did not hold that well. There were a few exceptions...my knockdown 5-iron on #14 backed up a foot...but most shots had a tendency to roll out on the firm greens, including a towering 6-iron on #13 that I thought would "drop-and-stop".

The fringe areas, as noted in my previous reviews, are still choppy and uneven. However, after making a concerted effort to utilize the bounce on my sand wedge as opposed to trapping the ball with the leading edge, I was able to hit a number of very good pitch shots. However, hybrid or putter are still the safer bets until these areas fill in and provide a more uniform, cushioned surface to play from.

Pace of play was right at 4:30 despite the initial impression we might be in for a slow day. Playing as a foursome sandwiched between another four and a group of three, we ran about 6 minutes behind pace for most of the round yet closed the gap by the end of the day. As always seems to be the case here, we eventually had to wait on a few tee shots as we approached the turn and closing holes but those were minor, uneventful delays that had no impact on our enjoyment level. Beverage cart and water service passed by on a couple of occasions during the course of the afternoon as well.

I'm not aware of any impending aerification due to take place anytime soon and hope the greens will be back up to speed when I decide to play here again. Although I was let down by conditions as a whole, I'm willing to look past the shortcomings if the greens are where I expect to find them. Unless you take a similar point of view, then I probably won't be lobbying for you to get out there and play Admiral Baker any time soon.
13 Likes.
Took advantage of the February Special Offer...as well as ideal weather conditions...and got a couple of rounds in at AB-North this week. Teed off "early" (for me) on Monday @ 10:10 and found pace-of-play to be an issue at 4 hours and 55 minutes. Not sure if this is the norm at this time of the day but the course was obviously booked and played like it.

Taking this into account, went with a 12:16 tee time on Wednesday and had better results with a 4 hour and 30 minute elapsed time yet it was about 15-20 minutes longer than it needed to be. Mixed group of four ahead of us took their sweet time over the last 10 holes...while blaring country music from their golf cart...and we suffered as a result (having to deal with their choice of music as well as the snail's pace-of-play).

Overall, golf course is playable but the greens are the only redeeming feature at this point; still in good shape although I did see a few putts bounce at the point of impact. Didn't happen to me but to others in the group and I'm inclined to put the blame on their putting stroke rather than the greens themselves. However, spike marks (yeah, even in this age of plastic spikes and spikeless shoes) and other imperfections definitely had an effect on some greens.

Fairways are spotty with a variety of grasses/lies to be encountered. Found myself bumping the ball on more than a few occasions in search of a decent lie as there are quite a few bare spots out there with little or no turf. Tee shots were also prone to picking up mud on the ball as a result. These fairways are usually in much better shape during the summer so keep that in mind...and I'd toss the tee boxes in the same classification.

Fringe and collar areas around the greens are horrible and the uneveness of the turf resembles a washboard; it's almost as if someone went in and brushed something against the grain to create these annoying ridges. Not sure how to describe it although ragged comes pretty close. No uniformity whatsoever with regards to type of turf and coverage; there's absolutely no chance of hitting any delicate flop or chip shot. Many areas seem quite damp and soft so less-than-perfect contact results in a chunked shot. Even putting from off the fringe is a crap shoot since the random clumps of fescue will turn a simple putt into a game of pinball if the ball happens to come into contact with one or more en route to your target.

Beverage and water service were very good on Monday but lacking Wednesday; didn't see the mobile water jug until the 13th hole. Luckily I had my own thermos but went longer than I would have liked between refills. Given the warm temperatures, this was not a positive situation.

For $30.00, including cart, AB-North is in decent enough shape to make this an attractive proposition but the golf course, in my view, "shows" itself better in the summer months. Without overseeding, the fairways are a potluck of sorts in the winter time and the fringe areas, as mentioned, are exponentially worse and causing quite a bit of frustration for me. I'll either have to temper my expectations...and temper...or hold off until conditions improve as the summer approaches.
16 Likes.
Got out for an unexpected round yesterday (2/3/2016) at my old standby, AB-North, putting a temporary end to a self-imposed exile. The decision to play was more or less made to accommodate my regular playing partner, who's been recovering from labrum surgery for the past couple of months. Apparently, he doesn't handle cabin fever very well and decided it was time to test his shoulder so I felt compelled to join him.

Golf course was in surprisingly good shape, especially in light of the recent rain and wind storm that passed through here last week. Didn't encounter any drainage issues although the soil beneath the turf was damp in places, which presented a tough challenge around the greens. With the tight turf, moist soil, and slightly uneven nap of the grain, there was no room for error, making delicate lob shots a risky proposition.

Tee boxes were also uneven to an extent but not to the point where it was of major concern; a little searching usually yielded a relatively flat spot to hit from. As with the fringe areas around the greens, this was probably due to a steady stream of foot traffic following the heavy rain. The fairways were in typical winter condition and the lies, for the most part, were good. One thing I've noticed about Admiral Baker is that they are proactive when it comes to marking off ground-under-repair areas, no matter how small. Observed quite a few spots that are outlined so there is relief should your ball come to rest in one of these compromised portions of the fairway.

In contrast to the tee boxes, the greens were smooth, healthy, and rolling at a medium-quick speed, which was a welcome surprise. I was expecting bumpy, pock-marked surfaces but that was not the case at all; there were very few unrepaired ball marks to deal with...nothing like what I saw in October, when it was out of control. Putts rolled true and with consistent speed although the grain did exert its' influence on a couple of occasions. It was nice to see the putting surfaces hold approach shots yet roll with decent speed as I despise slow greens.

Bunker sand was excellent, which is nothing new at Admiral Baker. Even with last week's weather situation, the sand I happened to find on #6 was well manicured and fluffy with plenty of depth. With conditions like that, it was easy to get aggressive and hit a great recovery shot. There's a big difference when you can make a confident splash through impact without having to be concerned about blading the ball because of a thin, hardpacked base.

The rough can present problems due to the spottiness and lack of uniform height. I faced shots on a couple of holes where the ball was nestled between two taller clumps of grass, making it almost impossible to get the clubhead on the ball. The fairways are pretty forgiving and benign so being accurate off the tee will usually lead to good scoring opportunities; stray offline, however, and your scrambling skills will be tested.

Tee sheet was full (teed off at 11:40 as a foursome) and with the way Holes 1 and 2 played, I expected something close to a five hour round. However, things opened up once we reached the third tee and we moved along at a nice clip from that point forward. We did run into a delay once we reached #16-17-18, however, but that seems to be a regular occurrence so it came as no surprise. Still, even with that hiccup, we finished the round in 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Beverage Cart and Player Assistant made multiple passes throughout the round and customer service level from everyone was friendly and efficient. With a February Online Special now up for grabs ($30.00 w/cart between 10AM-2PM Monday-Thursday; two player minimum) I may have to think twice about my exiled status.
14 Likes.
Thought I'd wait a day or so to collect my thoughts and possibly offer a different perspective with regards to this past Sunday's GK Event at Rams Hill. After perusing the opinions expressed by those in attendance, it's obvious the masses were thoroughly impressed and walked away with the feeling that playing Rams Hill is indeed worth the long drive. I know that Johnny puts a lot of thought and effort into organizing these get-togethers, always hoping for the best, and I'm certain he couldn't have been more pleased with the turnout and positive reaction.

And it's not just the response of those playing in these events that Johnny is interested in; the manner in which the host facility fulfills their "obligation" is also a big part of the overall picture. To that end, I can't help but think Rams Hill did a fantastic job. As many have noted, and I'm right there in line will them, I got the impression that Mike Setchell and his staff felt they couldn't do enough to make the GK Community feel welcome.

From the initial contact in the parking lot with the Cart/Bag Attendant, to Mike himself as he pleasantly took my bag and directed me to my assigned golf cart, to the brief interchange with the Range Attendant, I felt I was being treated like royalty. Yes, many high-end courses promote this so-called "Member for a Day" service yet often lack the sincerity and genuineness necessary in order to avoid giving the impression it's an obligation rather than a privilege to serve their paying customers. With that being said, Mike should be proud of his staff and the manner in which they extended their gratitude in being selected to host our event.

As far as the golf course is concerned, it was in tremendous shape, as expected, with the exception of one small caveat and I'm a bit reluctant to mention it. Although everyone raved about the putting surfaces, I was taken aback somewhat by their appearance; most notably, the spike mark factor. Realizing the course had been subjected to a couple of inches of rain leading up to Sunday, I'll attribute this "blemish" to nothing more than a steady traffic flow of play on the softer than normal greens preceding the event.

Reflecting back on previous experiences here, the greens have always been firm and practically devoid of any ball and/or spike mark damage. That was not the case on Sunday and, as a result, I saw some putts get bumped off line where, in the past, I've been accustomed to seeing them roll straight and true from impact to the cup. And, on #12, a poorly repaired old cup location kicked a birdie putt offline, one that was assuredly headed into the center of the hole.

Putting it all in perspective, however, I don't wish to give anyone the impression that I'm nitpicking, because even upon close examination, you would have been hard pressed to realize that much rain had fallen during the week. I didn't encounter any standing water or soggy turf anywhere on the course and the sand traps were in great shape as well with no evidence of the recent precipitation.

And it was a delight to be able to putt on some surfaces that had an appreciable degree of speed for a change; despite the undulations and slopes, the greens were puttable and not out of control. I've encountered situations where people get obsessed with Stimp numbers being the benchmark of great greens yet they fail to realize the contours of the surfaces must be taken into account in order to keep things fair. Steve Gregory obviously understands this and gets a well-deserved nod of approval.

In closing, I want to mention that the outside patio provides a first-class spot to enjoy an after-round meal/drink and absorb the desert tranquility after a round. Weather conditions were pleasant and the portable heaters kept things nice and cozy as the sun began to set.

Restaurant service was good but I can't say the same for my menu item; I ordered a hamburger and found it to be bland and slightly overcooked (despite the waitress asking how I wanted it prepared when the order was placed). Comparatively speaking, Admiral Baker has them beat by a mile when it comes to preparation and flavor.

Maybe I just happened to select the wrong item off the menu...I don't know...but I'd be reluctant to make the same mistake again. If I'm going to be subjected to gourmet prices then the quality of the food has got to match.

On a final note. I'd like to thank my playing partners...Kristie, John, and Tim...for providing such a pleasant playing atmosphere. It was also nice to forge a couple of new acquaintances at the dinner table: Wendy and Matt, the pleasure was mine. In fact, I'm convinced it's the people I meet at these events who always make me glad I decided to play.
18 Likes.
As is customary at this time of year, I once again set up camp at Marriott's Shadow Ridge facility for a four-day getaway, using the GK Event at Indian Wells as an excuse to do so. Holding rank as my favorite course in the Coachella Valley, the Nick Faldo-penned layout provides all I could ask for in a first-class facility: a golf course that challenges all facets of my game while holding my interest from beginning to end, a peerless practice area, flawless playing conditions, and the nicest staff of employees I've encountered anywhere. It's why I never leave the property once I'm settled in.

Rather than launch into a full-blown diatribe describing the course's characteristics, etc., I'll devote this review strictly to current playing conditions. For detailed background info, you can access my review from December 2013.

First round of the week began at 9:15 Saturday morning, followed by another 15 holes at 2:15 that afternoon. In both instances, pace-of-play was better than I expected, especially after reading all these reviews of 5 hour rounds being the norm at other courses. Paired up with three Korean gentlemen in the AM and our elapsed time was right around 4 hours and 15 minutes, which allowed a brief respite on the range before joining friends for the latter round. Monday's round, as a threesome with a 10:48 tee time, ran just under four hours despite a somewhat sluggish back nine.

Going back to Saturday's afternoon round, it took two hours to play the front side but just 45 minutes to get another six holes in as the twosome ahead bailed out after #9. It was somewhat refreshing to play in this manner as the three of us made a concerted effort to try to get as many holes in as possible. The pace-of-play was quick yet not rushed; hit the tee shot, go to the ball, make a quick decision regarding club selection, and repeat the process...saving idle conversation for dinner later that evening. Wow...what a concept.

Tee boxes, fairways, rough (relatively short at about 1"-1.5"), and bunkers were in pristine shape. Heard a story that one group complained to the Pro Shop that there wasn't any cushion provided by the fairway turf. Had to laugh at that one but I'll refrain from disparaging any high handicappers with my response. I will say the fairways are perfect launching pads unless you're a habitual scooper of the ball so bear that in mind. Very reminiscent of what you'll find at Barona Creek, they obviously leave no margin for error but there's no sweeter feeling when you make spot-on contact.

The greens, which I view as the course's ultimate line of defense, were flawless...quite possibly the best I've ever seen them. Smooth as glass with hardly any ball mark damage whatsoever, they held well-struck lofted irons, as long as you were able to find a flat spot on the green. Faldo incorporated some pronounced undulations and false fronts into these greens so precise approach shots are necessary in order to avoid putting big numbers on the card.

That may not be to everyone's liking and there's a good chance first time visitors may struggle due to their unfamiliarity with the slopes and contours, yet there are collection areas surrounding every green that offer a fair opportunity to get up and down with a variety of club choice options. Conditions were windy and cold on Monday, which dried out the greens a bit, in turn making some of the pin positions downright diabolical. The front pin on the Par-3 fourth hole comes to mind, followed by the back center cut on the Par-3 seventeenth. If you've played there, I'm sure you can relate.

Green speed was excellent...very quick...and the ball rolled smooth and true. If you read my synopsis of The Celebrity Course at Indian Wells, you can certainly understand my disgust and disappointment with the putting surfaces I encountered there but I'll lay that rant to rest. Although not a guarantee, I almost certainly expect course conditions in the Coachella Valley to be in, or very close to, prime condition at this time of year unless some freak weather event is in play. The high season rates, in my view, would dictate that fact. Shadow Ridge met those expectations and, to be honest with you, actually exceeded them in some instances.

What also factors into my decision to adopt Shadow Ridge as my "home-away-from-home" course is the quality of people employed there. Whether it's on the golf course or in the hotel/resort facility, I've had nothing but pleasant experiences with everyone I've come in contact with, and I'm referencing a ten year time period. It's especially nice to see familiar faces year after year, people who remember your name and interact with you like a close friend. I often find the check-in process to take longer than the expected 5 minutes since it can easily morph into a 15-20 minute conversation about a number of different topics; such is the outgoing personality of this place.

This is a perfect time to book a round at Shadow Ridge and experience firsthand what this great facility has to offer. Even if you're not going to play the course, a mere $20.00 grants you all-day access to the practice facilities that allow you to sharpen your game from driver through putter, including just about every shot imaginable from 100 yards and in. I'm already chomping at the bit wondering when I'll be taking up temporary residence again.
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