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Played Lake Merced Country Club this morning as part of the NCGA outing. After being a disappointed with last year’s overpriced outing at The Preserve, I was hesitant to play Lake Merced. However, after seeing the course on TV when the LPGA play here, I had to give it a shot. I’m glad I decided to give it a go. Course conditions were excellent all around.

With Covid precautions/restrictions in place, we didn’t have full access to the club house which is modest yet stylish enough to make you know you’re at a premier private country club.

Range is on mats and they have a spacious putting green and chipping area. We started on the 10th tee and overall course conditions were top notch. Tee boxes were fantastic and easily rated at a 9. Fairways, were even better and rated a 10. Fairways had perfect lush dark green grass. They offered great roll out and still presented an excellent hitting surface.

Greens were also in great shape. The first half (10-18) rolled at a fast pace. Greens 1-9 slowed down to a more manageable medium-fast pace. The greens were medium sized and fairly tame as far as undulations go. In fact often I got caught thinking the green had more break in it then they did.

The layout is a parkland style track but you never really get the feeling that it’s an out and back been there done that type of course. The fairways are narrow with cypress and pine trees lining all sides. Several had large branches hanging out over the fairway making the opening even smaller. The dog legs are gentle on most holes but several have speed slots with a 40-60 yard down slope for extra yardage on the drive. The downside of that is they came with uphill approach shots.

The entire course is built on hilly terrain (as is all of San Francisco) but the course is definitely walkable (as we did) due to short transfers from hole to hole.

I was in about 4 sand traps. The first bunker was excellent and the others were ok.
Rough was only about 2-2 ½ inches deep but it was thick. I think POP was right around 4 hrs maybe a bit over. I'm not sure. I was playing with a buddy I hadn't seen in a few months so we were chatting away the entire day and didn't notice the time.

Overall the conditions were top notch and the course was certainly worth the entry fee. My only criticism of the layout is the lack of a water hazard course. There are no water features on the course or any forced carries of any kind. Other than that it’s a great track.
I joined the other GK’ers for the Guru round at Cascata. Had the pleasant surprise of the appearance of the official Traveling Birdie Chain and Deepsea14. I initially took a pass on the Vegas outing as I wasn’t planning to make my full return until Friday 7/31 but when Cascata popped up on the list, I just couldn’t pass it up! Cascata is such a great experience and easily meets all of my mandatory requirements for being a superb course. Great conditions tee to green, plenty of elevation changes throughout the course, numerous water hazards to add to aesthetics and challenge, plus top notch service.

Due to the COVID restrictions the locker room is closed off which is disappointing but totally understandable. I missed having my name on my own locker and using the showers but completely get the restriction under the current pandemic situation.

I meant to call and request a previous caddie, Casey (he was that good) but got busy at work and didn’t get a chance to do so. No regrets as our forecaddie David was spot on with his reads all day long. I’ve had other caddies tell me the hardest thing is reading subtle breaks and this is where David shined. He was confident in his reads and that breads confidence in the player.

The entire staff is polite and customer service oriented. They maintained the perfect balance between attentive to our needs and maintaining social distancing.

Conditions are what you would expect for a top notch course like Cascata. Tee boxes were level, lush and nearly perfect. Greens were super smooth and fast. Reminded me a lot of the greens at Pebble Beach. Downhill putts were lightning fast and uphill ones were manageable. It really puts a premium on being below the hole.

Fairways were also easily a 9 and the rough was manageable. Enough to get you attention but not so nasty you just wanted to throw in the towel.

Cascata is always an enjoyable experience and this time was no different. I’m so glad I decided to throw my name in the had and join the others for a great GK guru outing.
I decided at the last minute to extend my trip and join the other GK’ers on day three at the Mojave Resort Golf Course. I had never played it before so I wanted to see what it was like. When you first pull in you see a mobile home style trailer for a pro shop and you think, uh oh this is a resort course?! Then the kid comes out to greet you and assist with your bag which is always a nice touch. Pro shop is bare bones for sure but the staff is super friendly. Range is an all grass range located right behind the pro shop so no hiking 3 miles to hit just a few warm up shots. That was nice.

The course is flat so it could easily be walked (at least in the winter when temps are normal). We all had our own carts per COVID guidelines. The layout of the course starts out with some nice holes on the front nine but nothing to exciting. There was a nice par 3 with water on the right (a lake it shares with a par 3 on the back nine).

The back 9 becomes a fun course with water hazards on a few of the holes, a drivable Par 4 (for healthy people) and even a sand dune for off roading. OK, so maybe that was just our group that decided to go Dune bugging in the sand. I can honestly say, that will all of the courses I’ve played, I’ve never had my heart rate beat as fast as it did at Mojave Resort!

Condition wise the course is what you would expect for a place of this caliber in the middle of the summer. Fairways were better than expected. Nice and lush, green, no dead/thin spots and easily rated in the 7-8 range. A lot of the tee boxes were under construction during our play. They were completely ripped up and looks like come fall new sod will be put down. Because of that a lot of the tee boxes were combined. It actually worked out perfect for me because I had already decided to create my own combination of tees and move up on about 5-6 of the holes. Those happened to be the ones that the course was remodeling and had moved the tee box forward.

Greens were on the slow side. Hard to say if they were actually slow or just medium-slow pace but after Cascata felt like they rolled super slow. Given that our group had 8 birdies, they obviously weren’t too bad.

Rough was just that. Rough and super tough! It was easily 4+ inches deep and a bear to escape from. Bunkers weren’t bad at all. Not super fluffy but enough sand to escape from with a proper sand shot. I was in three and was 2 over for those three holes which in my world is good!

The course finishes with two great holes full of water hazards. 17 is a par 3 with the green guarded by a lake in the front and 18 is a par 4 which has you negotiate water off the tee and then on the approach shot into the green.

A definite go to course when in the area or as we did add it to the end (or beginning) of a trip.
It’ll take me a couple of days to catch my breath and get caught up on reviews from this past weekend. I’ll start with Reflection Bay. This is my second time playing this course and it may just have become a regular stop on my Vegas rotation of courses. Mainly because of all the great water features. As many know, I love a course with water features both internally and externally and Refection Bay fits the bill perfectly. The course opens up with a pond right in front of the first tee box that leads into a stream that follows the left side of the fairway. From there you get treated to some rolling hill terrain with another couple of water features until you come back around to the lake. Hole 8 & 9 are right on the lake’s edge with the greens being stuck out on the waters edge. Absolutely beautiful. The back nine has multiple water features mixed in throughout and then 17 & 18 finish up back on the lake’s edge. Because the finishing holes approach from the opposite side, the lake is now on the left and prevents the holes from being a been there done that feeling.

The clubhouse and pro shop are situated to overlook the lake for some nice views during a post round meal or drink.

Course conditions were very nice all around. Fairways were excellent. Easily an 8 or 9 They provided a good balance between offering good roll out yet a nice cushioned surface to hit from.

Greens were just a touch below the fairways being in the 7-8 range. They rolled smooth at a medium-fast pace. Some of the greens did have some different grass growing around the edges. Not sure if this is a seasonal grass change over for the high heat summer or some sort of disease. It seemed to always be on the edge of the green and didn’t affect any putts.

Tee boxes were also well manicured being level and lush with very few divots on the senior tees.

Customer service was excellent all round with attendants making sure your single rider cart was well stocked with bottled water before the round and at the turn. They were then ready to greet us at the end and wipe down our clubs which I always appreciate after a nice round.

I should be getting out to Las Vegas more often now that the Raiders are there. And on Sundays when everyone else is at the game, I’ll be at Reflection Bay!!
Coyote Creek has two 18 hole courses on site. The premier “Tournament” course and the original “Valley” course. In the past the conditions between the two have been night and day but I had heard they have changed that in the last year and brought the conditions of the valley course up close to the excellent conditions of its big brother track.

We played the Valley course with a 1:30 tee time. This place is always packed on the weekends so I was prepared for the 5 hour journey that awaited. Because of Covid single rider cart restrictions, all power carts are being used for the hilly tournament course and the Valley is walking only. Easily a walking course as it’s completely flat though there are some longish transfers. The routing really is odd, but I suppose with a cart it’s not noticeable.

A couple of COVID things. Masks in public areas, outdoor dining available at restaurant, pro shop closed off except for check in counter and then the biggest thing. Coyote Creek invested in the neat little pin contraptions that have a lever about 12-18” up the flagstick that you can pull with your putter and it lifts the ball out of the cup. Except they DON’T work. I’m sure in the lab it’s a great design. But in the elements with golfers banging them around and dirt being blown into them. They just didn’t work. At best they would come up but you would have to force the plate back down. Unfortunately most golfers just left them up so they were in the way. Also, half would get stuck halfway up when pulling up on the lever and the entire flagstick would pull out often times damaging the hole. We stopped using them before the halfway point.

As far as conditions go, I was pleased with the overall state of the track. Greens were in really nice shape, holding well struck approach shots and rolling true at a medium fast pace. Greens are average size with a decent amount of undulations. Actually the perfect amount. Enough undulations that you could easily read the break, but not so much it was a rollercoaster. Only one green had some disease on the edges. There were a number of unrepaired ball marks but after 12 hours of play by the end of the day that’s not a surprise.

Fairways had good coverage throughout. A few brown areas here and there but with the 90+ degree heat of the summer that this area gets, that’s to be expected. Tee boxes ranged from 2-3 that were ok, most were nice, and 2-3 were excellent. Again, I played from the red tee’s so they aren’t seeing as much action.

The layout of the Valley course is nothing to write home about. Most holes are “been there, done that”. Only one (slight) dog leg par 4 and one nice dog leg par 5. The rest of the holes are dead straight. Two lakes on the course. One in play in front and left of the green on a par 3 the other way off to the side and out of play. Why? I don’t get that.

Fun factor: 4-5 out of 10. The overall nice conditions are worth the admissions price but don’t expect to be wowed by the layout. Side note: The course is directly next to Highway 101 so access is easy if traveling from afar.
I played Lemoore Golf Course today and once last week. Course is in its usual Muni condition but I will say that during the Covid closure they did some great maintenance on the track. The real noticeable areas were the three ponds on the course. All of the tall weeds around and in the water edges have been removed and you can now actually see the water hazards!!

Last week the greens were super slow. Today they rolled at a medium-slow pace but acceptable. Greens are average. Some of them have some bumps and bruises (brown spots) here and there but overall they weren’t too bad. Given the recent off and on triple digit heat of the past month or so the fairways were decent. Good coverage for the most part and fairly green. I played from the red tees which were in great shape. Between not seeing much use in general and coming off Covid closure they were fine.

The rough was either about the same as the fairway or a little thicker depending on where you were. Most of the skirt areas around the greens were in decent shape. Certainly acceptable for an entry level muni course.

I was only in one trap over the two rounds and it had nice sand. Nothing super deep but enough to allow you to get a club under.

I played mid morning both times and POP was at about 3 ¼ hours. In fact today we could have finished faster today if had pushed the pace.

Lemoore certainly isn’t a destination course but if you’re just looking for a track to get some swings in with a few clubs after a major injury then it fits the bill perfect.
I played San Juan Oaks this morning with a mid-morning tee time. I haven’t played here in several months but I always enjoy the course. Conditions are always nice and today was no exception. Layout is great with the front nine being flat with a few lakes and twists and turns to navigate. The back nine goes up into the hill with some tough holes that have creeks and gully’s to navigate plus the wind.

Greens at San Juan Oaks are always a pleasure. Medium size with moderate undulations. Enough to keep you focused but not so much you feel you’re on a rollercoaster ride. Greens were rolling at a medium-fast pace and were rolling super smooth.

Fairways were nice and lush and offered both good roll out and a nice hitting surface. Tee boxes were also in good shape. Obviously having been in recovering mode for a couple months has turned this very good course into an excellent condition course.

I wasn’t in any of the bunkers but they looked a little hardpacked. POP was a bit on the slower side at 4:20 but for primetime weekend that’s to be expected. This was the first time I’ve ever walked SJO and it’s doable but there are some elevation changes to contend with so less fit golfers might want to opt for a cart.
Went out and played Hunter Ranch mid morning with a couple of friends. Course remains in overall very nice condition. The greens were super smooth and rolling at a fast pace. Cups are also back down in the ground now instead of a couple inches above like they had been for a couple of months. Still no rakes in the bunkers which I somehow avoided all day. The sand traps did look nice though. I noticed one was smooth with only one set up footprints from someone earlier in the morning.

Fairways were showing some signs of browning up from the summer heat but other than aesthetics they didn’t present a problem at all to hit from. Tee boxes had good coverage but a few were a little lumpy. Hunter Ranch saw A LOT of play during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and even with all the play the course is still in great shape.

We were behind a twosome early but once they let us through we sailed on without a hitch the rest of the day finishing in just under 3 hours.

Restaurant was open for takeout and outside dining. I believe she said they are expected to get the clearance for inside dining this weekend.
A quick little update on Pebble Beach as I just reviewed it a couple weeks ago so there’s no need to go into detail. First the speed of the greens were fast. I’ve always said that uphill putts are manageable and it’s only the downhill putts that you need to stress over. This time even in the rain, uphill putts were super fast.

Next, I’d like to thank Pebble Beach corporation for listening. In the last review, I mentioned the extreme walk all the way around the shops back to your car after finishing on 18. Now they’ve opened up the walkway so you can cut through back to the pro shop/ first tee.

Also, the pool noodles have been cut down to a reasonable height. Matt and I commented on one that was a little higher than desired but that was the lone exception. The rest were fine.

I’ve played Pebble a couple handful of times and this was the first time I’ve had extreme wind. Doing the punch shot off the tee on 7 was fun, but then again I’ve hit Sand wedge off the tee plenty so I didn’t mind something different. The wind on number 8 will always trick you. I thought we had a tail wind and adjusted accordingly. WRONG! Where are the caddies when I need them.

Speaking of caddies. I called a couple of our regular caddies before we played to see if they could sneak out with us. They told me that word from headquarters is caddies will be back in action on June 15th.
Matt and I played a warm up round at Poppy Hills yesterday and the course is in excellent shape even if my game wasn’t. I walked while the rest of our crew took carts. Poppy Hills goes back and forth between CPO and allowing them on fairways. They are currently allowing carts on the fairways, but they only allow two carts per group and it’s single rider per cart. So, at least two in your group have to walk. We tee’d off right around 3pm which was in the heart of the wind. The nice thing about Poppy is it is completely lined with tall pine tree’s so they help shelter you a bit from the elements. The bad thing, is Poppy is lined with trees….!!

Tee boxes are 10 or a 9.5 if you count the pine needles on the tee boxes. Same with the fairways. Easily a 10. Just perfect emerald green lush grass with no divots or thin spots. I made a comment after one of the many iron shots that went into a bunker, jokingly blamed it on not being used to perfect conditions. Speaking of the bunkers, they were the one “weak” link of the course. Still rated at an 8, with a nice layer of soft sand but they could have been a litter deeper in coverage. Yes, I’m nitpicking here.

Greens were fantastic. Slower speed than normal. I believe the starter said they were rolling at a 9. Greens were smooth, divot free and are large. Make that very large, but don’t get excited because they all have tremendous amounts of humps and lumps so the actual landing area is quite small.

As mentioned in previous posts, all Monterey County courses require payment via phone or on line prior to the tee time and Poppy had the foam pool noodle in the bottom of the cup to prevent the ball from going all the way to the bottom. I will say that I preferred the height of the foam at Poppy Hills as it was a true measure of the ball being in. They were low enough to let the ball actually drop in without interfering, yet high enough that you could retrieve your ball without touching anything.

Poppy Hills is always an enjoyable walk through the forest with numerous ocean views throughout. Even if those views were of whitecaps.
I went and played Ridge Creek this morning with a buddy teeing off at 7:10am. We were the second group off on a nice warm morning. Ridge Creek is a challenging links style layout with nasty rough (12”+) off of the fairway and deep pot punkers in the middle of the fairway. Accuracy is a premium to say the least. Greens are large with moderate undulations. The greens at Ridge Creek are almost always soft and easily hold well struck approach shots. Today was no exception. The down side of this set up is the greens get riddled with pitch marks. Most are repaired and don’t affect putts too much but to the eye it can cause some strain. Greens rolled at a nice medium-fast+ pace today.

Fairways were nice, but not as emerald green as I’ve seen them in the past. In fact they were more brown that green. Yet, the fairways presented a sufficient platform to hit from. Tee boxes weren’t bad. All were level with decent coverage and only the short Par 3’s were chewed up. I somehow avoided all bunkers today, but my buddy saved par from one of the three he was in and he’s a high handicapper.

Course is easily walkable which is what we did. For COVID compliance they had metal rings in the cups that were almost level with the top of the cup. Balls easily rolled over and out. For some reason this set up didn’t suit my eye and I struggled with putts. I thinkit was more mental than anything.

Customer service was friendly as usual. Overall, Ridge Creek isn’t in the best shape I’ve seen in it but definitely worth the price of admission.
I played Laguna Seca a couple of times over the past weekend. This is always one of my favorite layouts in the peninsula with all of the elevation changes throughout the entire track. Conditions are always average at Laguna Seca and this weekend was no exception.

Greens can always be a mystery here but this weekend, they were consistent. Greens rolled at a medium pace that was consistent throughout the course. Naturally downhill putts were very fast but everything else was manageable. Greens at Laguna Seca are sneaky. They don’t look intimidating (a la Blackhorse & Spanish Bay) but they can reach up and bite you big if you don’t pay close attention.

I will say that on Sunday afternoon there were a TON of unrepaired ball marks on the greens. I was routinely fixing 5+ pitch marks per green and that was only covering a small percentage of them.

Tee boxes had good lush coverage but some could use an overall and releveling. Fairways were in average condition. Decent overall coverage with no real major thin areas. Sand traps weren’t bad. The second day I played, I was in 5 bunkers and saved par twice from the sand which is good for me so the traps can’t be that bad.

Pace of Play… Well it was a three day holiday weekend on the peninsula with perfect weather and only half of the courses open. Enough said. Though, I’ve seen it a whole lot worse here.
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