Golf Course Reviews
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Fun work trip down in Miami took myself and three work colleagues to the Miami Beach Golf Club for the first time. Quite a unique experience for this California kid whose only other experience in Florida was the very different (and fantastic) Streamsong Resort. An entirely different kettle of fish without a doubt, but no less enjoyable or challenging.

MBGC has a layout loaded with danger, mostly in the shape of water hazards big and small on almost every hole, along with some very strategically based bunkers and sandy areas, plus a strong contingent of palm and other much thicker trees. Some of the tee shots are truly tight and there are many risk-reward holes, the most fun one being the par 4 16th hole which any decent bomber can reach over the lake if your confidence is high. Long story short? You can rack up some big numbers here pretty quickly if you're off your game.

There is tons of wildlife here including ducks and geese, but you will absolutely be stunned by the sheer number of iguanas that are present on almost every hole. They're not at all upset if you play through.

Conditions at MBGC have apparently gotten much better over the years. My boss played here 20 years ago and considered it a dog track, but now it's been revamped and the cool layout now has sweet conditions to match, and make it worth the $130 or so price tag for a Friday round. We got to see most of it from the blue tees, and it did not disappoint.

Greens were incredibly difficult to manage, not only because of the different type of grass than back in California, but because they were just so fast that even the slightest breaks were magnified quite a bit. Slightest of mis-hits would find your ball six feet past the hole. But they rolled very true and were quite difficult to land without a perfect, high approach.

Fairways were in very good shape with only the rarest sightings of thin lies or burned out sections from the intense South Florida sun. Rough was thick and grabby and required your full attention and commitment to escape from when needed. Bunkers were all in very nice condition with very nice white sand, and the tee boxes were just great. No complaints really at all throughout the day.

Driving range is grass and very functional, but you do have to get a code from the starters (who were super nice) and then get your balls from a machine adjacent to it. Carts had a nice GPS system but it did not kick in until the back nine. They also have an annoying habit of loud beeps when you get too close to the green (which is fine) but it continues far too long after you've gotten back to the cart path. But if that's the biggest gripe for the day, you know you're having a good one.

Nice clubhouse to grab a bite in after the round, and during there was very attentive cart service throughout whom we saw no less than 4-5x during the day. If you needed something, the cart girl was bound to be around soon, so that was very nice.

I also managed to get in pics of almost every hole and they should be uploaded to the site soon to have a look.

Overall, had nothing but fun at Miami Beach Golf Club despite the tough layout that really took everything I had to keep it under 100 and still have enough balls left to finish after donating quite a few to the numerous lakes on the course. The club is very close to South Beach hotels as well so there's no excuse not to have a crack at it if you're vacationing in the area anytime. Make it happen!
Day Four of our annual desert trip kept us close to home base as we played the Mission Hills Dinah Shore Tournament course under gray skies and some fits of rain to end the golf week. My friend's family has owned a house here across the lake from the 18th tee box for the past three decades or so but this was the first time I've had a chance to play the same course that the LPGA uses as a major. Always cool to play the courses you see on TV.

Excellent conditions overall on this course and a lot of fun, challenging holes, but also plenty of chances to score well if you are hitting the ball decently. I never felt that the course was at all overwhelming or intimidating, outside of just a few holes perhaps. I even had a decent round going until a late collapse ultimately sunk my scorecard.

Fairways were mostly in fantastic shape but there were a few sections of GUR. Mostly though it was great lies all day and not a thing to complain about. The rough was really great just off the fairways, but on sections across from the cart paths, the grass was not overseeded so it was just a paler green if not yellow but still just fine to hit from. Tee boxes were a little bit thicker than what I anticipated but still fine, and the bunkers were great but tough to judge with all the precipitation that day that was making them much heavier and tougher to get out of than any normal sunny day.

The greens were pretty fantastic. Running about an 11 on the stimp, they rolled pure and true, and none of the greens on this 18 at Mission Hills are too tricked out or funky. Sure, you've got some tournament quality reads to make here, but if you stay true to your lines and hit with good speed, you will be rewarded with good putts. You certainly won't be frustrated at the greens for any reason.

POP was nice and easy until we caught up to a slower group around the 15th hole, but no worries there. Very nice practice areas as well but not necessarily as fancy as some other big-name country clubs, but who needs all that? Not me, at least not all the time. Course itself has a few elevations but is generally pretty flat, narrow in places and has a lot of large, thick trees to get in trouble behind - not what you would normally expect out here with the palm tree conditions of most clubs. You will also find some water on holes to deal with as well.

Once again, felt very lucky to be able to play this private little gem and excited to see next year's LPGA tournament here and run through the holes in my head while watching the ladies play. I also took some pictures on each hole and will post them later, but unfortunately the bad weather later in the round will take some of the shine off of them. I suspect you'll get over that though.
Day Three of our annual desert trip was a journey to golf heaven. The Palms Golf Club of La Quinta is everything you imagine a PGA tour quality course to be when you're stuck in a divot surrounded by brown and thin at Dad Miller.

It's such a rare treat to experience a place like this, and, being private, taking your time to stop and gawk at the roses is not on the cards. The enforced POP here is 3:50 and deviations are not tolerated. You take it all in while moving as purposefully as possible, and of course in between all this visual distraction, you're supposed to concentrate and play golf (which I sadly did an incredibly poor job of on the worst possible day).

If I'm not mistaken, this is a Freddy Couples design and he actually had a small house right next to the 15th tee box which was cool to see. Apparently he would just jump on whenever he felt the desire after riding his bike over to the clubhouse.

Describing The Palms is fairly straightforward. Fairways are lined almost exclusively (save a few of the first three or four holes) with rows of perfectly coiffed palm trees that create some stunning shadow tricks. Everything at ground level is that dreamy dark green stuff that goes on forever. The course's main defense is length (we played the blue tees), but on the shorter holes there's no shortage of thick foliage mixed strategically amongst the palm trees, and of course glassy, super fast greens and a big selection of bunkers to force uncomfortable angles. Add to that a few well hidden water features to torment you on select holes, and you get the picture.

The routing and finding the next hole here can be a bit of a puzzle as there are no real cart paths and no tee box markers. The members simply know where to go so it's an adventure if you're not one and used to it. There are some 'gates' that help guide the way though or it would be pretty much hit and hope at that point.

But yes, all conditions were perfect and I felt incredibly lucky to be able to experience that level of quality. Fairways and quite penal rough were thick, lush and consistent on every inch of the property. Bunkers had very good sand in them that maybe could be a tad bit fluffier if there's any possible knock at all today (which there really isn't). Tee boxes immaculate. Greens running about a 12 and very tough to hit the brakes on with anything less than a perfect pitch or chip. Very subtle breaks everywhere but magnified by the speed and very easy to misread. False fronts on many holes as well.

This is a golf club and that's pretty much it. You'll need to go elsewhere if you want to join a club that has swimming pools and tennis courts for the kids. The clubhouse is nice but nothing super fancy - very unassuming and unpretentious. It's all about the golf here and there's simply nothing wrong with that in the least. Even the carts are very basic - no GPS here and no frills like USB ports or speakers. No time for distraction here - get moving! I did however still sneak in pics of all 18 holes that I will upload to the site later.

Staff was also incredibly nice and took amazing care of us despite not being members. My only regret is of course a horrible round of golf personally, but that memory will long be overshadowed by having the good fortune of spending a gorgeous early winter day at The Palms.
Day Two of our annual desert trip landed us out at La Quinta Resort's Mountain course - a first for me. I've always heard a lot of fun things about this course, and while I wasn't super impressed on the front nine, the back nine was absolutely stunning.

We were advised before the round that the course had only recently come out of re-seeding and was taking a bit longer to green up, thus leading to the dreaded Cart Path Only situation. And while the front nine looked a little more yellow than green in many parts of the course, the back nine was very lush and just visually spectacular crammed up next to the mountains and their jutting rock walls. Super cool.

Despite the lack of verdant color on the fairways, the lies were still very good throughout the day so there's no reason to complain there. Some of the rough areas had a super thick hay that made ball finding nigh impossible - avoid at all costs! But the gentler rough next to the fairways was not too penal at all. Sand traps were good all around but not super fluffy greenside, while the tee boxes were all in very good shape (we played the black tees).

Greens were very nice. Well conditioned, rolling about the same as Shadow Ridge the day before, meaning not overly fast (maybe 10 to 10.5) but very true roll and some fun green complexes to navigate, but nothing super tricked out or wacky. As for the layout, lots of big carries and precise, narrow tee shots on certain holes - very few wide open 'grip it and rip it' here. The first few holes on the back nine are narrow due to the housing alongside them, but it opens up beautifully later and the course becomes one with the nature surrounding it.

We had frequent cart service which was nice and the POP was excellent up until around the 15th or 16th hole when we caught the group in front of us who had slowed down for some reason, but overall a pretty great and fun round. They say the Dunes course is inferior to the Mountain course here and of course I will like to find out for myself, but so far would seem to be a tough ask for the Dunes course to beat this one. Don't let the more 'pedestrian' front nine lull you into a false sense of normality before you hit the last 4-5 holes that will really blow you away. Fun.
Day one of our four-day Palm Desert excursion landed my two friends and I at Marriott's Shadow Ridge, a super fun Faldo design that leaves you wanting more every time. The course is in superb shape right now after re-seeding, which adds to the fun of the layout while playing.

Rode the green tees today under brilliant blue skies and a very comfortable low 70s temperature. It was pretty ideal. The fairways are all in pretty perfect shape and you can get some nice roll out there with low drives, but every ball sits up just right when you find it. The rough varies from thick to not so thick but found some of the heavy stuff around the bunkers. Speaking of bunkers, they were mostly in good shape with the very rare just okay one. Tee boxes? Immaculate. Flat. Green. Perfect.

The greens looked to be in perfect, glass-like condition, but surprisingly were not super fast at all. Medium to medium fast at around a 9.5 or 10 max, which was surprising, but they held shots well and if you can navigate some of the tricky tiers or breaks on these large Faldo greens, you can get the speed down and make some nice long putts. They were really fun to play in a nutshell.

Great driving range here and very good chipping and putting areas as well. Not the most convenient place for the pro shop, but stop your whining right this instant. Cart girl came around 2-3x and there were plenty of water stations even though it wasn't overly warm at all. It was just perfect.

Great mix of holes here and plenty of trouble to find if you're not hitting fairways or even fairways adjacent. You also get to make some fun decisions off the tee, like the 8th hole which tempts you with a 200 yard shot right for a good angle to the green, a 180 yard layup in front of a central bunker, or bust out the big dog and try to shape it down the left to be close but face a large greenside bunker from that angle. Decisions, decisions … but a decision that should not be hard is to play this course right now. It's fun golf right now.
Got to take some work colleagues out for a nice round of golf and, since I had never played Monarch Beach, thought it would be a great option. I was not wrong.

Before we get to the price:value portion of the review, let's talk about some of the great things that were on offer here. First of all, the property around the course is pretty spectacular. Yes, there's the ocean hole that everyone sees rather exclusively, but there are some really beautiful other sections of the course, including the view looking up the hill on number 11, or any of the other pretty lakes and landscapes. I found the course to be so much more than the signature hole, but that was pretty awesome too (and felt good to par it).

I found the front nine layout to be somewhat more, for lack of a better word, gimmicky, than the back nine, which I ultimately preferred (despite the ocean hole). There were still some fun holes for sure, but I just preferred the back for some reason. Lots of elevations, plenty of water and OB danger. I lost a lot of balls today. You just can't be wayward or the punishment will present itself.

Course conditions were very good overall with some slight nitpicking required. Greens were running about 11.5 according to the staff. I somehow did very well with them with only 27 putts all day so for me they seemed to hold shots great, follow their lines obediently and remain consistent in terms of speed and conditioning on all 18. That was great.

Fairways were mostly in great shape but there were a few thin or GUR areas to be found, most likely from recent rains perhaps, or could be overwatering. But a thin or dirt area was definitely on the cards if you missed fairways with any venom, so that's a bit of a knock. I also found the bunkers to be mostly all in great, fluffy shape, but one or two seemed to be just a level before the non-sand elements of the traps so you could see some cloth or something peeking out from the ground. Rough was perfect in some areas and deadly in others … varied by hole. And the tee boxes (we played the orange tees) were all perfect.

Pretty slow group in front of us made slower by the challenging layout and easy opportunity to lose balls. Still, we finished in around 4.5 hours I think so no complaining there. No cart service but we did have one of the staff drive by and give us apples and water. The same offerings were available at the 10th tee.

All this being said, this is a very cool, very high-end course. But it's well over $200 and that I feel is, despite all of the amazing things this course has to offer, slightly over the line. This is easily a $150 course with no hesitation. With some course knowledge now, I would absolutely love to come back here soon and get back some of those lost shots, but I'll certainly be looking for the deal to be available. However, if you have the means, go play this course and just have some fun. But don't be fooled by the advertisements that only highlight the ocean hole because the rest of this course combined is much more memorable than that one, albeit great hole.
Played at Hansen Dam with two friends and paired up with a single this past Friday. Walked the blue tees with a push cart so I think the total was around $55. Unfortunately they were charging Holiday rates for Thanksgiving even though it was Friday. What can you do?

I found the course to be in pretty good condition but with some questionable pin placements, namely the par 3 4th, where the pin was right in the middle of the most sloped part of the green so every ball would roll back down 20 feet. Utterly stupid PGA Tour type placement on a busy holiday for amateurs. The backup on the hole was three deep because of it.

In terms of conditions, they were mostly good but of course you're not going to find Augusta out here. Fairways were mostly in good shape but certainly some thin or muddy lies to be found (a day after the rains). Nothing worse than hitting a great drive and finding your ball in a dirt patch in the middle of the fairway. Rough was a mashup of long and short depending on distance from the fairway. Tee boxes were in some rough shape in some spots, especially the 10th which was basically just dirt. Sand looked okay but I never was in it.

Greens were rolling pretty well but there were some dried out areas on the edges. They were not particularly fast but held their lines pretty well despite some bumpiness that Keven alluded to in his last review. I thought they held shots pretty well though onto the green so that was nice. Not a lot of tricked out reads to make at Hansen, either.

Busy Friday but no cart service whatsoever was disappointing, but at least the water fountains throughout the course provided good, clean and cold water. And hopefully they've decided to keep the nines in this order and not reverse them again as the current setup is superior to the old one without a doubt.
Was spared an emergency Sunday round at Alondra this weekend when I noticed a $46.00 hot deal on for a single at El Dorado that also included a promo code dropping it down to $41, and it was at a decent 11:08 start time. No-brainer, right?

Went out a group or two early even after being paired with a twosome and a single. The pro shop gentleman also got me a complimentary small bucket to hit some balls before going out early, so props to the staff for that - much appreciated.

Solid layout and good conditions right now at El Dorado. The greens on the front nine seem to be in better shape condition wise than a few on the back nine though. There were some greens on the back that had a lot of dirt areas on the fringes that were not marked off as GUR. That was a bit annoying, but for the most part they were good rollers at medium-fast speed that held shots well and were fun to play on throughout the day.

Fairways are mostly in good shape with some dry, thin areas but not enough to make a fuss about. You're going to find good lies but you'll have to make good contact in some of the thinner areas as well. Rough was thick in places, short in others - not easy to tell where. Bunkers had decent sand in them but some were thin. Tee boxes all seemed fine.

POP was a bit slow unfortunately with waiting on a number of holes, but nothing too terrible overall. It was a beautiful day and the playing partners were very cool so there was no issue there. No cart service to be found but there is a nice snack shop that you can access when teeing off on holes 3 and 15 - find anything you need.

Compared to other LBC courses that were almost double the price, I would say it was the right decision spending a lovely Sunday afternoon at El Dorado.
Had a really fun Saturday at Rio Hondo with a monthly golf group I play with and most had never been there before. By the time the round was over, most were asking 'why not?' and making plans to return. Rio Hondo gained some new fans and customers this weekend.

The course is in fine winter shape right now. Sure, the fairways are not the lush green you would like to see every time out, but that's just the dormant stuff that goes a bit yellow in winter but plays just fine off the deck. The rough is very nice to hit from in most cases as well. Bunkers all seemed to be well stocked for the most part, and maybe some of the tee boxes could use some TLC, but mostly flat and in good shape (with exception of 14).

The greens were in very good shape. They rolled true at medium fast speed and held shots very nicely. It was even nice to see that the coots had not done their typical damage on the 16th green. Not a lot of super tricky breaks or slopes to play at Rio Hondo, but you definitely have to pick confident lines and hit your putts firmly to score low here.

POP was a very refreshing four and a half hours. We had two groups of five so being in the trailing group is always a better spot to be. We also had the cart service come out numerous times during the round, but they only take cash so keep that in mind. I did have one gripe though as I was early to get some food from the snack shop near the pro shop and it was open but no one was in there for at least 15-20 minutes so I had to tee off on an empty stomach!

But other than that, it was a very good day out at Rio Hondo and it's a very good option right now. We played the blue tees and, while not a long course, it's a narrow test of golf that you should definitely consider right now if you're in the area.
Another Sunday afternoon at RHCC and the course did not disappoint.

Greens were incredible - fast as ever, perfectly manicured, tough to stop of balls of course, and incredibly tiered and sloped and difficult. Fairways are still growing in and are showing some signs of drying out but you're still always going to find a good lie. Rough is brutal. You can lose balls which you watch from start to finish and know exactly where they are. It's baffling and sometimes infuriating.

Sand in the bunkers is in good shape and the tee boxes are finally settling a bit better so you can actually get your tees into the ground on each hole. That's a nice improvement from the first few months at this newly re-designed course.

Fantastic new layout that really rewards fairway hits and absolutely crushes you if you're in the rough or native areas. Still waiting on the hole 2 redesign though as that one makes no sense, but the rest are pretty awesome.

Still getting to know this course with each visit and learning its quirks and angles. It's just so easy to blow up fast here so more progress is definitely needed. Will keep at it. And if you get a chance to play here, don't skip it.
Quick nine at Penmar on Saturday after the desire to finally sleep in (and Daylight Saving Time having kicked in) took precedent over an early morning round and a long drive somewhere else. Enjoyed the round very much.

Good conditions currently at Penmar with slow greens that hold shots well but have a few too many bumps to them, but still better than other times here. You'll never get fooled by any break at Penmar so putting averages should remain low. Fairways are also in good shape right now and the only areas of concern are the tee boxes and bunkers.

Very basic, straight-ahead layout at Penmar but it's longer in some places than you're usual nine hole course. Par 33 with no par 5s but you will still use a few clubs. It's a good spot to stretch out the legs and walk and build up some confidence. Recommended.
Truly one of the best values in SoCal, played a very fine Lakewood CC on Sunday and was not disappointed in the least. For $40 walking on a Sunday morning, this is a steal.

The course is in very good shape actually with very nice looking fairways, thick but non-penal rough, excellent sand in the bunkers (perhaps too much fluff?), and quality greens right now that roll true and hold shots very well.

I was very surprised after playing some other comparable courses this weekend that Lakewood was far and away the best of the bunch. Even with the warm temperatures and lack of any rain lately, it's still in some of the best shape I've ever seen it and I would not hesitate to go back and play it again soon.

Layout has a nice mixture of holes but there's not one single elevation change on the entire course. If you love elevated tee boxes or downhill par 5s, this is not the place for you. But if you want very nice conditions at an incredibly affordable rate, then make the call.

POP wasn't even too bad for the day coming in at just under five hours on a Sunday. Cart service popped up 2-3x as well which was great as I did not see any water stations and it was a pretty hot day yet again. Overall? Great value and a very good course to play right now.
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