West Coast Swing

It wasn’t until college when I started playing golf, which happened to be in a pretty good place as far as golf courses go, since I was in Santa Barbara.  I haven’t visited the courses in SB in years, but there were some really good tracks with spectacular views at reasonable green fees.  Glen Annie and SB Municipal come to mind first and foremost.  Sandpiper is right on the coast, but green fees are a little steeper.  I’ll get back to those courses one day and do a whole SB special review section.

Most of my family is still back in Southern CA, so I usually get to play a few rounds a year out there.  I recently went out for a brief visit and played a couple municipal courses.  I thought I’d share some thoughts from those rounds, even though these courses didn’t get the full review treatment reserved for our Philly courses.

Skylinks at Long Beach

6,560 yards, 127 slope from the Blues.

Skylinks is one of the Long Beach municipal courses.  Like most all Southern California municipals, Skylinks gets a ton of play, sends each group out as a five-some and you average 6 hours a round.  Some of these courses are able to hold up their conditions under so much constant play, others do not.  Skylinks is one of the courses that is in good shape with very well maintained (and extremely fast) greens.  In fact, most of the challenge with the course is with the greens.  Many are multi tiered and have all kinds of undulations.  It is quite easy to 3 putt here, or hit the green with your approach only to have to kick off into a bunker.

The routing was recently changed, so all of the holes were in a different order than in years past.  I have played here before and didn’t think the new routing was awkward or threw off the round.  It is difficult to write about the holes though since they are now all different.

Generally, the par 3’s stood out here.  The greens are all large, fast and hilly and are protected by large steep bunkers around the sides.  One par 3 is a carry over a pond.  I enjoyed them even though I think I found a bunker on each one.  There are a lot of variations with the par 4’s; long, short, straight, dog legs and raised greens.  There really are no elevation changes except for the raised greens.  The rough isn’t all that tough to get out of either.  Most greens are accessible from the front, so there really aren’t very many forced carries.  Lots of bunkers on all the other holes too, but the sand usually gives you a decent lie.

This is likely one of the better municipal courses in the area.  The lay out is interesting with enough challenge for repeat play.  There is a range, putting green and short practice area as well.  The cart girl seemed to only like the front 9- we were dying of thirst on the back 9.

One of the annoying things about this course is that it is right next to a helicopter school.  There are at least half a dozen copters buzzing over you for basically the entire round.  Maybe you get used to it if you keep playing there, but it was agitating. 

The long rounds and crowds are also pretty annoying.  I mean, five somes alone kill any chance of getting around in a decent amount of time, but it also increases the likelihood there will be someone in the group who doesn’t play all that much, which slows things down as well.  It was tough to get into any rhythm when you’re basically waiting at least 5 minutes between shots. 

I will say that the golfers we were grouped with on both days were great.  All were nice, easy to talk to and all had decent games.  That made all the waiting much better, as there was a lot of time to talk.

Los Verdes

6,617 yards, 121 slope from the Blues.

Ah, Los Verdes.  I have played this course periodically longer than any other course I know (since 1998) and have a complicated relationship with the place.  Basically, the highs are high and lows are low.  You cannot get a better location for a muni any where.  LV is in Rancho Palos Verdes and sits along the coastal hills of the South Bay.  You have clear views of the ocean on about half of the 18 holes.  Nothing is better than playing the 15th right around sunset time and getting a clear view of the channel islands as you stand on the green to putt.  For that type of location and view, many golfers pay hundreds of dollars for one round.  At LV, you pay $33 peak (at the time I wrote this).  And you’re playing a course by Billy Bell, whose courses also include Stanford and Newport Beach Country Club, among many other notable west coast tracks.  So to recap, for $33, you’re able to play a fantastic design in a fantastic location with fantastic views.  That my friends is one of the, if not the best, deals in golf.

Tee shot at the Eleventh


The lows?  Well, this great value course isn’t really a secret.  As a result, the place is swarmed almost non stop.  Most of the time I’m not able to finish my round because of darkness or because I have something else going on.  A six hour round here is a pipe dream to be honest.  I highly recommend making a tee time because the chances of being able to walk on are low, even with the five somes.  Although there are many players here, there are also a lot of folks who are either beginners or interested in hitting from the back tees when they should be playing forward.  This causes headaches as well. 

Most of the time when I’m in town, I don’t have time to waste precious vacation time at LV.  I’d rather plunk down more money to play at Trump’s LA course down the road and finish with enough time to do other things than wait up to 15 minutes to play the par 3 5th.  But I go back every now and then when I can have a ton of down time.

I enjoy the layout of the course a lot.  There is a severe slope towards the ocean, so you will have a lot of downhill, uphill and sidehill shots.  This also makes the ball break uphill at times.  You’ll also be forced to play up one side of the fairway to prevent from rolling OB.  The strong holes are 1, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18.  Obviously I like the back 9 much more than the front.   Some of the highlights include the first hole, where you tee off looking at the ocean elevated above a fairway that dog legs hard to the left, then uphill to a raised green.  Or the par 3 Fifth, which includes an angled green flanked with severe bunkers on both sides.  The par 4 11th has the best tee shot on the course, overlooking the ocean to the fairway below on a very short par 4.  The fifteenth gives you the best green on the course after a slight dog leg and rolling fairway.  The course gives you a pretty good challenge with tremendous views.  No wonder it’s so popular.

Off the right of the green on Fifteen
Another view of Eleven, best tee shot on the course

Generally, this is the ultimate, “only if” course.  If I lived in So CA, I would be happy playing here all of the time, only if I could figure out when the crowds weren’t around.  As it stands though, make sure you set aside the whole day, be patient and realize you’ll get around the track, eventually.  For those with less time and don’t particularly like waiting around or droves of beginners, Terranea (just voted best par 3 course in the country) and Trump National Los Angeles are 5 minutes away.