The beauty of The Golf Club of California is as remarkable as Bubba Watson’s bending approach shot from the trees that helped him win the Masters. So came our initial thought after playing a few holes of a course that skitters across arroyos, meanders by ancient sycamores and oaks, and frames soul-stirring vistas of Fallbrook’s historic, hillside avocado farms.
Navigating the course may take a few Bubba-esque shots. The Golf Club of California requires making good decisions, as it sets up the player for a thrilling round of target golf. It’s not that the course is particularly long or tricky, stretching to 6,850 yards from the back tees and offering an even number of par 5s (two), par 4s (five) and par 3s (two) on the front and back. But some uphill fairways and several forced carries to elevated greens will have many holes feeling much longer.
Built as the centerpiece of a luxury residential community, the property was integrated nearly perfectly into a bucolic swath of rolling land located just north of Highway 76 and west of the 15 Freeway. Avocado farms, citrus groves, plant nurseries and horse ranches abound. Natural areas are virtually untouched. The cart path takes golfers under thick canopies of towering trees. Homes are set far enough back that you truly lose yourself in the idyllic setting.
As sensitive environmental areas flank several fairways, a player can’t afford to stray too far left or too far right. Finding success requires knowing how to work the ball both ways. The approach shot on several holes requires carrying a natural area or dry creek guarding an elevated green. Thankfully, original course designers Johnny Pott and homebuilder Wade Cable’s up-and-down layout gives the golfer a wide variety of options to play each hole.
Pott was a three-time member of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team. These days, he’s executive vice president of Landmark Golf. His development, project management and golf operations credits date back to 1971 and include such stellar tracks as Landmark Golf Club, Oak Valley Golf Club and SilverRock Resort to name a few. He supervised construction of the Las Vegas Paiute Resort, and in Mexico’s Los Cabos both Palmilla Golf Club and the Ocean Course at Jack Nicklaus’s Cabo Del Sol Resort.
Evidently wielding nature’s beauty as a weapon is Pott’s thing, because getting swept up in the views around The Golf Club can wreak havoc on your round. So briefly enjoy a “golden pond moment” as you drink in the sight of the shimmering lake running along the 12th fairway, but snap out of your reverie lest you overshoot the greenside landing area dotted with pot bunkers.
Turns out The Golf Club of California’s greatest challenge may lie in taming its greens. Multi-tiered and undulating, they demand accurate approach shots or else you may find yourself three-putting for most of the round. And be it coincidence or homage, the par-3 7th hole features a small bunker in the center of the green that recalls the famous 6th hole green at Riviera Country Club.
As at Riviera, quality is put on display at The Golf Club of California. The practice facility includes a large putting green and chipping area, along with a grass driving range with two-tiered multiple flag locations and Titleist range balls (all complimentary with your round). The men’s and women’s locker rooms are well-appointed retreats, and the cozy Water’s Edge Grille inside the monolithic 17,000-square-foot, Mediterranean-style clubhouse welcomes golfers before and after their rounds.
With a banquet hall, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, fountain courtyard and scenic on-site ceremony location, the club has become a very popular wedding destination. We imagine scoring brownie points with a non-golfer loved one with an invite to enjoy Reflections Spa while we play our round.
Almost as confounding as Bubba’s miracle shot is the fact that this hidden gem of a course welcomes public play. Avid golfers will have read or heard about The Golf Club of California’s struggles in 2007 and 2008 as it dealt with financing and environmental issues. But under the watch of LMT Management over the last three years, the facility has rebounded and progressing toward its goal (as outlined in a members’ newsletter published early in 2012) of reverting to fully private facility.
So, play it while you can – and have fun bending it like Bubba.
– By Michelle Flores
For more information or to book a tee time, call (760) 451-3700 or visit thegolfclubatfallbrook.com.