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Southland: Woods Valley Joins JC Golf

Jan. Southland

www.southlandgolf.com/articles/location-304-north-northern.html

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

Celebrating My Hole-In-One-Aversary: Two Years & Counting

vineyardhone

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The two-year anniversary of my only hole-in-one is Labor Day, but I’m not envisioning a holiday as a big blog traffic day so I’m celebrating on the blog a week early. (Hey, it’s my blog, so I can do these things.)

I achieved the Holy Grail of golf shots quite unexpectedly three years ago, on Sept. 3, 2012, my first year in California.

That day I ventured out mid-afternoon only looking to get a few swings in on what normally would’ve been a tournament day (Monday) while I was attending the Golf Academy of America.

My original intent was just to hit range balls that day but my request to use my school-arranged range was denied, no kidding, because I wasn’t wearing long pants and thus in non-compliance with the most ridiculous element of the school’s dress code. (Long pants even for practice? Really?)

Anyway, the closest course to the range was the Vineyard in Escondido, so I decided to walk on and see how many holes I could squeeze in before sundown.

Well, on the third hole, a tranquil short par-3 played over a pond, I had the golf shock of my life: my first hole-in-one.

Playing a mere 125 yards from the blue tees, I pulled pitching wedge and watched my shot land about a foot in front of the hole and then hop into the cup.

photo (35)
The hole

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It took me about five seconds to realize what had happened. The silence of the moment was broken by my three playing partners breaking out a celebratory golf clap.

After driving up to the hole, which I’d never played before, I walked up to the cup with camera phone in hand. I plucked the ball from the cup and struck a celebratory pose under the pin flag as one of my planning partner’s snapped the photo you see up top.

That brought the moment full circle and made me really realize I’d finally accomplished something had eluded me at least six times on the golf course, including once when my foursome slapped my back and high-fiving me on the tee only to find the ball 2 inches away from the cup, stopping on a downslope of all things.

Yes, these shots are part skill and part luck, thus the odds of making one being roughly 1 in 12,000.

I considered it to be my greatest golf moment since I won my first real set of irons (Titleist AP 1s) in a raffle for $20 at a charity golf tournament.

When I reported my ace at the clubhouse, they handed me a photo of the hole, which became the centerpiece of a shrine to the moment that I kept in my closet. The display consisted of the photo, the ball and my scorecard (38 on the front, thank you). I later, as a present, received a wooden “1” that would host the historic ball.

As best I could tell, that’s how you were supposed to properly celebrate what most regard as golf’s ultimate lifetime achievement award (a double eagle – a two on a par-5 – is actually more rare, but so much so that it’s beyond the wildest dreams of most who play).

A couple of the fringe benefits going forward were:

1) Every time I played the hole, I got to tell me story of my hole-in-one and re-live the moment a bit. (And, yes, I can still see and hear the ball going in.)

2) In any conversation about hole-in-ones, I could say I had one, and there are really only two camps of golfers: those who’ve had one and those who haven’t. You celebrate with the ones who have and commiserate with the ones who haven’t. My eye doctor looked at me with particular disdain when I told what I’d accomplished. “Thirty years of playing this game and I haven’t had one,” he said, shaking his head.
The game can be cruel that way, but my doc seemed to be in a particularly bitter group who could probably use a support group.

For me, it’s just fun to remember the day and the circumstances. Among others, I’d only been attending golf school for a week when I had my ace. When I announced my ace at school the next day, I told my instructor, “I had no idea school would work that fast.”

It’d be great to make another one some day – and, in fact, I had one round at Monarch Beach last summer where I nearly made two – but it’s mostly in the old business file. My new business is making and breaking par for a round.

Somewhat strangely, I think of my moment when the “This is SportsCenter” comes on where there’s velvet rope in a hallway at ESPN and seemingly bass bumping behind the door of what looks like a service closet, guarded by a doorman with “the list.” The bass turns out to be a bass drum from a marching band, one of the “club” members for ESPN’s Plays of the Week.

I’m not a member of many clubs, but I am a member of the hole-in-one club. When you make yours, I look forward to quoting the commercial and saying, or mostly likely texting: “Welcome to the club.”

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July 2014 Southland Golf

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 11.35.58 AM

www.southlandgolfmagazine.com

Eagle Crest course review, Page 16

Front Nine Golf Leaders Profiles

Harry Arnett cover story and profile, Page 28

Mike Flanagan profile, Page 31

Susan Roll profile, Page 35

JC Golf: Five Reasons to Play Reidy Creek

reidy creek

 

If you haven’t yet discovered Reidy Creek, an executive course at the base of the Escondido Mountains, you might be surprised at what you find.

It’s easy to say this isn’t what you’d expect from an executive course. It’s another thing to show you.

Take the third hole. It plays to 167 yards nearly dead uphill with two deep sand traps guarding the right side. There’s room short and left, but long is OB. The green is double-tiered, not counting the false front. It took a healthy 6-iron for me to find the back fringe.

It’s no stretch to envision this being a par-3 on the course you play regularly. And that’s what Reidy largely feels like – a real golf course at an reduced yardage (2,582). It’s more like a second-shot course, if you will, because the greens are what you’d expect to find at the end of a regulation par-4 or -5.

Take that level of play and put it without terrain that winds through the wilderness of a wooded area (trees, streams, wildlife, etc.) and you’ve got an uncommon executive golf experience. Note: If you aren’t hitting it reasonably straight, you will lose balls here.

I played Reidy for the third time last week, first in a while, and was glad to be reminded of its merits. I came away with at least five things I really like about this course.

Sophisticated greens – The normal association you get for greens at an executive course is small and mostly flat. Not here.

Every green at Reidy is undulating and some are quite large (there’s a double green on back nine) meaning they can host multiple pin positions and really change how the course can play.

Some pin positions can be quite tough. For instance, I hit a shot to 6 feet early in round that ended up being a 15-foot putt. My ball landed on the wrong side of a ridge.

And that’s part of what keeps this course challenging for advanced players. If you go pin-seeking every hole, I guarantee you’ll eventually have to hit a major recovery shot at some point. For me, it was a bunker shot from an awkward stance.

The other benefit of these types of greens is that if you aren’t good at reading greens, this is an ideal place to learn. And the green speeds are kept at a pace that doesn’t penalize you terribly for your misses.

To show you what kind of putts you can get, I was really wanting a birdie to get my card back to 1-over going into No. 18. That meant sinking a 12-footer on 17. The putt had 6 feet of break and I just missed, grazing the cup. Not a putt you normally find an executive course, but great practice for my next regulation round.

You will earn your score here, trust me.

Walkability/pace – My only reservation about walking here is simply a few long, but manageable, stretches between holes. But I saw people walking who told me they didn’t mind.

The Reidy staff told me about a third of players walk or take a pull cart. Either way, playing in under three hours is certainly doable and a refreshing break from the plodding pace you find on some bigger courses.

I zipped around in about 2:30, playing through about three groups in the early afternoon. It found my rhythm on the back and scored well.

You can play fast here, or take time to teach, which I’ll get into in a few more paragraphs.

Great condition – Save for some maintenance on the tee boxes this time, this course has been in peak shape each time I’ve played it. And the greens are tip top.

You don’t have to worry about spotty greens or finding a course that’s rough around the edges here. You get the same quality you’d expect at every other JC course.

 Great couple’s course – It’s common to see couples here, and for good reason. It’s a course that can easily accommodate differing handicaps.

From my own experience, I brought a former girlfriend here who was getting back into the game.  She found the whites tees comfortable and the course quite playable. On the back nine, after a few near-misses, she finally bagged her first birdie on No. 16 and did a victory dance around the flagstick.

That success came after a little coaching and a little practice, which the pace here allows for.

Meanwhile, I was getting some solid practice in on my irons and my short game.

The only possible drawback here is that you don’t get to hit driver, which I know some players like to do at least once or twice on an exec., but you don’t really miss it. The level of shot making required keeps it interesting enough.

No. 18 – Try to think of a finishing hole at an executive course you’ve played. Can you?

You’ll remember the 18th at Reidy Creek, partly because it gives you your first impression of the course.

When you pass the pro shop, the first thing you see is the pond surrounding the 18th green and the stone walking bridge leading to it. It’s an eye-catcher and evokes a little Amen Corner association the first time you see it.

Playing it is a challenge. It’s 164 yards to a deep green, which, again, is surrounded by water on the right and OB left. What’s more, factor in a slight crosswind.

When I played it, I pushed a little too hard for birdie and yanked my tee shot OB. There’s a rather safe play available to the front of the green, but then you’ve got a lot of putt on your hands.

I took double bogey and walked off in 3-over on the back. I’m coming back to par it. Hey, didn’t I say that last time?

To book a round at Reidy Creek, call 760.740.2450 or book it here at jcgolf.com.

 

      

 

 

 

 

Highlight Hole: Meadow Lake GC No. 4

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First, the bad news about the par-3 4th at Meadow Lake Golf Club in Escondido: This is where play backs up.

The good news: You won’t mind. This hole is as much a joy to look at as it is to play.

No. 4 plays to 176 yards from the back tees and 160 from the blues, but the significant elevation change makes it play significantly shorter. The yardage book says one to two clubs “under normal conditions,” but it played to three clubs with the wind behind us the first time I played it. That meant I reached with an easy 9-iron.

The next time I played it, however, the wind was coming from the right and a smooth 8-iron found the front left trap. I’ve played it three times now and it hasn’t played the same twice.

That’s part of the fun of this hole, which I’m told used to play to a par-5 – using what’s now the No. 5 green – but it was changed to a par-3 to spare homeowners from errant tee shots.

Meadow Lake is uniquely situated with views of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain ranges. That makes for several stunning vistas, but none are better than what you see off the tee at No. 4.

While the tee shot is a bit of a guessing game – fyi: there’s ample room short and left – it’s only half the battle. I have yet to par this hole despite three great chances. The green is deceptively slippery, with putts moving right and being unexpectedly quick. It’s tough to prepare for if you haven’t played here previously. I’ve decided I’m going back until I make par or better here.

Southern California is blessed with a bevy of fun elevated par-3s. Add Meadow Lake to list of those check out. I’m banking par will elude you at first and you’ll want to come back, if not for the score then for the view.

Highlight Hole: No. 12 at Eagle Crest

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Photo courtesy of Eagle Crest General Manager Mark Hayden

If you’ve played Eagle Crest Golf Club in Escondido in the past but haven’t been in a while, you’ll notice some changes when you return.

Since coming under new management late last year, Eagle Crest has embarked on some course-improvement projects, mostly involving reworking tee boxes and bunkers.

To date, the most significant change you’ll notice is around the green on the par-5 12th.  What used to be a sizable and steep sand trap on the left has been converted into a water hazard, returning the hole to its original design.

From a playing perspective, it raises the risk when thinking about going for this green in two on a hole that plays to 529 yards from the blues and 514 from the whites.

Granted to do that, you’ll have to get off the tee box in decent shape first, which is a stumbling block for many.

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Tee shot on 12

From the blues, the tee shot looks narrower than it actually is. That said, your best bet is to favor the left side as the right side of this fairway is tree-lined and mounded. You’ll either likely have an uneven lie or be hitting a knockdown if you end up there.

The second advantage of the left side is that it’s bowled a bit to keep errant tee shots in. I used that to my advantage on Sunday and was sitting about 260 out. That’s not ideal “go” range here especially when hazards lurk left (water) and right (traps) and there’s plenty of room to lay up short to a green with a very narrow opening.

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The look on your second – notice you can’t see the water on the left yet

I hit a rescue to within about 90 yards and then had no trouble hitting wedge to the back of the green and making par.

This hole comes in the middle of a very score-able stretch of the golf course, being preceded by a short elevated par-3 and being followed by a short par-4.

When deciding how much you want to push it on No. 12, you’ve got something new to consider that’s more penal than before.

I’m guessing the course’s flock of wood ducks will like the hole’s new design more than you will if you miss left.

Highlight Holes: Nos. 14, 15, 16 at The Vineyard

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The green view of No. 15

Most courses have a stretch of holes that amount to gut-check time in your round. It can be a series of holes that play tough under certain course conditions, or as a tricky combination, or they could just be hard golf holes.

For instance, the PGA Tour has the Bear Trap, an infamously difficult stretch comprised of a mid-length par-3 over water, a tough par-4 and then another lengthy par-3 buffeted by water at PGA National’s Champions Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Combined, it’s 803 yards of heart-stopping golf to negotiate.

Course designer Jack Nicklaus, for whom the stretch is named, once told USA Today about the Bear Trap, “That stretch is about precision. That stretch is about guts.”

Like I said, you can find these stretches on many courses and often in threes. At The Vineyard in Escondido, I regard Nos. 14, 15 and 16 as the stretch where your round is made or gets away.

I look forward to the challenge here every time and while my failures thus far outnumber my successes, especially on the final hole of this group, I at least feel I’ve got a good handle on what it takes to be successful here.

The following is my breakdown on this group of holes, including a few playing tips.

 No. 14, par-4, 412 yards (blues), 381 (whites)

I forget to get a photo of this hole, but it sets up like this: the fairway bubbles out into a crescent-shaped water hazard on your left and the fairway drops off into an OB and trees on your right. If you’re right, you’ll be lucky if a cluster of saving bunkers actually save you. This is the most demanding tee shot on the course. You’re only way home is to hit it straight here into about a 75-yard strip of fairway.

The fairway bottle-necks about 130 yards from the hole, making driver a really risky play. A really big hitter may have carried all this once, but I’ve never seen it, much less done it.

The play is a hybrid or long iron that hopefully leaves you in play and with 150 yards or so to get home. You only take more club than that if you’re really striping it. Otherwise, you’ll be on way your way to the big number than many take here.

Hybrid has long been my play here, but I tried a 4-iron off the tee on Thursday. It hit it solidly down the right side, but I had an undesirable 188 left to get home. With wind at my back, I hit a flush 6-iron that ended up just short and found the front-right sand trip, which is a difficult out. There’s also a sneaky pot bunker lurking back left here.

The biggest bummer on No. 14 is to negotiate the tee shot and then give the hole away in a hazard, which is basically what happened to me Thursday. Normally if I’m at 150 yards or less, I’m looking at a nice number here.

As a sidenote, the homes (mansions) on this hole spectacular, as is the backdrop. This is the last hole played toward the mountain backdrop that gives the back nine a much different feel than the front, besides the back being nearly 400 yards longer and undoubtedly being the tougher of the two nines.

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No. 15, par-5, 551 (blues), 523 (whites)

From the tee, this hole doesn’t look like much. It’s just a straightaway par-5 with a cluster of bunkers on the right off the tee and then another cluster left near the green. The trouble can be what you don’t see: a sometimes stiff head-wind.

Nos. 15 and 16 are normally played into at least a breeze, making them play even longer than their hefty yardages. I’ve never played this course in the morning, but that’s mostly likely the best time to tackle this stretch.

There’s plenty of room off the tee on 15 as it extends into a hilly patch of land behind the 13th green. The trouble with going there, though, is the risk of tricky side-hill lie and possible trees. I find the bunkers on the right more desirable, so I’d favor the right side here and hope you find the middle.

Stringing two decent shots together here will put you in prime position for a birdie, and anything less than par here normally feels like a big letdown – especially since this is the only par-5 on the back and of only two on the course – but I’ve seen it done many times and many ways.

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No. 16, par-4, 453 (blues), 425 (whites)

When the GPS on your cart informs you that this is the No. 1 handicap hole, it does so with an exclamation point – and for good reason.

This is one of my nemesis holes, but I know that I’m hardly alone in that regard. Par is a rare score here and birdies are on the endangered species list.

What’s tough about No. 16? Ummm. Everything?

It starts with a demanding uphill tee shot, often into the wind. Because of the slope, you don’t get much roll-out here and when you hit the fairway, it seems you’re always about 15 to 20 yards short of where you’d like to be.

The second shot is daunting because of a huge sand trap in front and because you may have as much as long-iron or even hybrid in hand if you’re a short-hitter.

I’ve often doubled my fun (heavy sarcasm) here by pushing my tee shot right into a stand of trees and sometimes the 11 fairway. By doing this one day, however, I actually discovered a risky route home that you can actually executive intentionally.

If you go right, through the trees, you catch a sidehill. If you don’t end up tree-trapped, you can end up within about 140 yards of this green on the right side. It’s a much friendlier attack angle than what get in the fairway since you probably take the front trap out of play and you have a sizable green to work with.

I’ve nearly parred the hole this way. I’ve also nearly parred the hole playing straightway. But I’ve ALWAYS bogeyed this hole no matter what. Many people consider bogey victory here, but I’m determined to make par or better at No. 16 in 2014.

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The green view of No. 16

I’ve you had success at No. 16, please post details in the comments and let us take inspiration from your achievement.

I don’t always play it well, but I do really enjoy the back nine at Vineyard and think the downhill par-4 18th is a very cool closing hole. I always look forward to that, especially if I’ve taken my lumps on 14, 15, 16. That stretch seems to need a nickname. The Cellar, perhaps?