We don’t often get snow here in our region of Vancouver Island, it has actually been 3 winters in a row without the horrible white stuff and even when we do it is usually here today gone tomorrow. As was the case earlier in January, when our area was blanketed with snow making it look like a snowmobile was a better investment than a golf membership, but as I said it doesn’t last and alas we were back golfing in no time.
As lamented in the iconic Mamas and Pappas song, “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray. I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.; California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.” We have more coniferous trees, also known as evergreens, than any other dominant species so brown leaves are at a minimum, but yes we do have gray skies. Light gray, dark gray, medium gray………..gray, gray, gray, filled with rain, gray rain actually, it’s enough to make your hair……….. well you get the point.Now, safe and L.A. aren’t two words that necessarily go together in my mind, but warm is and with that in mind and southern Cal as our final destination, Escondido to be exact, we escaped Vancouver Island in mid December for a little golf getaway.
Our original list of places to play included 2 that succumbed to El Nino in a big way. We will hopefully see Mr. Steve Vigiano and his team at Coyote Creek GC in Morgan Hills just outside of San Jose and Mr. Shawn Cox and his team at The Fairmont Grand Del Mar just north of San Diego on a future golf junket.I chose a variety of courses, all daily green fees applicable with various price points. Two I had played in the mid nineties with fond memories of both and the others were ones that I picked randomly with a few relative aspects that were necessary. They were within a 30-minute drive of our Escondido accommodation and they were 18 holes in length.
On the drive northward back to Canada, Myra saw a gap in the weather and we timed an overnight stay in Sacramento with 18 holes at Haggin Oaks thus replacing one of the two aforementioned cancelled rounds and making this a 6 pack of golf course reviews for you to sit back and enjoy.
Day 1 – December 15th
Arrowood Golf Course – Oceanside, California www.arrowoodgolf.com
Situated in between the Interstate Highways 5 and 15, a few miles inland of Oceanside, California is the very enjoyable and challenging Arrowood Golf Course.On a breezy and by our standards a warm sunny 15C day we began our golfing week with a bang at a facility that covered all the bases for us.The layout of this great public course is what I like to call “ Southern Cal” style. Its holes often had that linksy, let the ball follow the contour feel to it within a parkland layout amidst an undulating and rolling landscape.Winter golf in the southern US often means that some areas of the course, especially those with Bermuda grass, go dormant which in no way detracts from the playability.
It can be a blessing in disguise as the contrast of the dormant tan colored Bermuda grasses and the over seeded green areas of Rye grass provide a natural framing for your shot.
We arrived to see a stylish clubhouse and plenty of convenient parking. After checking in and chatting at the pro shop with the very friendly golf shop assistant, Lori a steady 9 handicapper herself, we jumped on our golf cart with the help of Alyssa whose Alma Mater is Portland State University. For the countless number of times we passed by the power cart storage she was working constantly, cleaning and organizing the cart fleet.
We always arrive early for a golf review, taking it all in, camera in hand and some pre round practice a must.
I am a big fan of a practice area in very close proximity to the first tee as well as the clubhouse so I was very pleased to see the driving range with its choice of mats or grass tees and 5 target greens a mere 20 yards away.
The nearby practice green and separate chipping green was in excellent condition too and as well the practice bunker was raked and in great shape.
Positioned right outside the pro shop was the starter, Henry a very warm hearted and friendly man, who offered us the first tee 10 minutes early as well as some valuable information on the playability of the course and what to expect. He informed us that the course had not suffered from the recent droughts due to being on well water and it certainly showed in a positive way.
Myra and I are at two opposite ends of the golfing experience chain. I am in my 47th year of golfing and once played to a 2 handicap with her an ever improving 40 handicapper soon to challenge breaking a hundred and only in her second year.
Our diverse levels of experience requires choosing to play golf where it suits both of our skill sets and Arrowood was just what the doctor ordered. Half of her holes were scores ranging from 4’s to 6’s meaning she was playing to less than her handicap for half the round.
The course was so much fun to play, the fairways were clipped nice and short with an abundance of contours, the tee boxes were perfectly flat and the greens a solid 9 out of 10. All the bunkers had that fluffy, beautiful sand that the club slides through easily and the rough was not overly penal. At one point I walked over to watch one of the course workers, an older Hispanic fellow, who was edging a fairway bunker and pulling out scraggly bits of weeds by hand. The course is maintained at a high level and the entire green staff is to be very proud. In my best-broken Spanish I thanked him for his efforts.
Out of the many really great golf holes out there it was easy to see why the 16th hole is the signature hole, a downhill par 4 with an island green, spectacular!
There are no weaknesses to Arrowood, they have a friendly on-course beverage cart service as well as a great little restaurant to have a meal before or after your round.
GM, Jim Stull has instilled many great values amongst the entire staff, they were all courteous and friendly with the right mix of professionalism. A big thank you to him for arranging our day.
We finished almost exactly at the very desirable 4-hour mark and went in to thank them for a really great day.
By this time Lori had departed and Wesley Hess, a local Oceansider who had recently passed his PAT’s (Playing Ability Test) to become a member of the PGA, was manning the pro shop. A pro shop that he as Director of Merchandise was responsible for having a very uncluttered stylish lay out of great clothing, hats and accessories.
His very affable nature was a fitting end to our round and we left smiling in anticipation of the next days round to follow at Coronado Golf Course.