Tucked away in Valley Center, in northern San Diego County, Woods Valley Golf Club has quietly remained a local favorite since opening in the early 2000s. JC Golf is looking to turn up the volume of players discovering, and talking about, the course.
JC Golf added Woods Valley to its popular JC Players Card in November and is hoping it entices more of its golfers to make the trek north.
JC Golf Director of Operations Erik Johnson said the initial response from players has been enthusiastic and positive.
“As soon as we announced it, it was really amazing to see how many new golfers showed up,” Johnson said. “It’s a great golf course that’s been around for over 10 years, and we are excited to use the JC brand to broad their exposure in the San Diego golf market.”
A boost in play would complete a year that has seen a remarkable improvement in the course conditions at Woods Valley, Johnson said, despite the drought. He credits superintendent John Martinez, who formerly oversaw Journey at Pechanga, for coaxing the course to its peak.
“It’s in great condition,” he said. “It’s up to the standard we expect for all of our courses.”
As the name suggests, the course is indeed tree-lined, but the layout alternates between being tight and open, somewhat akin to another JC course, Twin Oaks in San Marcos.
The front nine is more open and receptive to scoring. Then the course ups the ante on the challenge on the back with what many regard as one of the strongest back nines in in the region.
“It’s one of the best back-nine layouts in all of San Diego,” Johnson said. “It goes in and out of the woods so there’s a lot of visual effect.”
The stretch begins with one of the more daunting tee shots in San Diego. The par-4 10th has an elevated tee with water on the left and a wooded out of bounds right. There’s a narrowing landing area to hit to position yourself for an uphill approach. The wind often comes from your right, which makes the tee shot even more demanding.
Perhaps the most picturesque hole is the 15th, a strategic short par 4 with a sharp dog-leg right played from an elevated tee that offers a gorgeous overview of the valley and mountain surroundings. Carrying the dogleg with a driver brings the green into play, although the more sensible play is a hybrid or long iron aimed at the turn to set up a wedge approach.
The course has a few drivable par 4s and reachable par 5s that bring low numbers – and also usually risk – into play.
Johnson said the myriad shot options give the course a high degree of repeat playability.
“You could play this course several times a month and not get bored.”
Throw in some eye-pleasing and playable par 3s and you have a layout that offers something for everyone but has flown under the radar despite being 15 minutes from Escondido and the I-15.
JC Golf’s mission is to let the secret out and invite more golfers to the experience.
“Golf courses can be challenged in a lot of ways, but with Woods Valley it’s simply getting the word out, because it’s a great product,” Johnson said. “With our marketing and the JC brand, we’re expecting the course to see sizable growth in rounds (in 2016).”
Woods Valley is also unique, Johnson said, in that it’s a pure playing experience, meaning there’s no attached resort or additional amenities, making it a great place to escape to work on your game.
The course has an all-grass driving range – “They don’t even own mats” – and boasts the current Southern California PGA San Diego Chapter 2015 Player of the Year, Grant Strobel, as its head golf professional.
A personal word of advice for first-timers at Woods: You’ll look at the overall length (6,291 from the blues; 6,670 from the blacks) and want to step back. Play the course once before you do. That decision really hits home on the back, where you’ll want to see the holes once before you take on the extra distance.
“It’s a really unique place to play,” Johnson said, “If we get people here once, they’re definitely going to come back.”
By The Numbers
2003 – Year Woods Valley opened as a nine-hole course
2004 – Year it expanded to 18
2015 – Year it was added to the JC Golf Players Card
15 – Number of minutes it takes to reach the course from the I-15
6,670 – Number of yards from the back tees
0 – Number of practice mats the club owns; the range is all grass
$59/$79 – Public weekday/weekend rate