California reality: A local's guide to public golf around Los Angeles

By Travel ArticlesFebruary 13, 2013, 5:00 am

Yes, there is plenty of public golf beyond the exclusive private clubs in Tinseltown. Los Angeles resident golf writer David Weiss shares where he plays around his hometown when he's not playing on the road.

Los Angeles golf was a bit of an oxymoron until about 20 years ago, when a spate of decent daily fee courses took their place between the over-played and scruffy munis and the untouchable private clubs that mere mortals only dream of playing -- especially L.A. Country Club and Riviera Country Club, the latter playing host to the Northern Trust Open on the PGA Tour.

All that has changed, thank the golf gods, and nowadays one can choose between a good double-handful of modestly priced tracks in the San Fernando Valley and Orange County when the green urge strikes. And fortunately, in an area where mild weather and copious sunshine are the norm, decent conditions rule, and business is steady for the canniest of the local operators.

At the top of that list is Moorpark's 6,988-yard Rustic Canyon Golf Club, a Gil Hanse design that has made its humble way into the august roster of best places to play by the national golf magazines. Part of the allure is in the course's fee structure: Walkers can play the course for around $40 on weekdays, and weekends only jump up to the mid-60s or so.

Cost aside, Rustic Canyon is simply a delight to negotiate, with its expansive fairways (70 yards wide on No. 1, a par 5) and smooth-rolling green complexes. Still, when the wind picks up in the early afternoon, canny club choice becomes a veteran player's ally, and the ability to hood shots and hit low runners is highly prized. RC's sandy soil and closely shaven bent-grass fairways allow one to putt from as far as 30 yards out, taking the stress out of half-wedge shots and the like.

The GolfNow Local Leaderboard: Top 10 rated golf courses in SoCal

Those in search of a little show-biz ambiance might want to test the slow-moving waters of Rancho Park Golf Course, a historic muni right across from 20th Century Fox studios. Rancho is one of the best city-run courses anywhere, albeit far too popular and stocked to the gills with well meaning amateurs.

A 1947 William P. Bell design (as are many of the area's best layouts), it was home to 18 Los Angeles Opens and features a plaque commemorating a 12 that Arnold Palmer carded in 1961 on the par-5 ninth hole (now the 18th). Arnie hit four drives out of bounds that fateful day.

A half-hour north of the city is Angeles National Golf Club, advertised as the 'only Nicklaus Design golf course in Los Angeles County.' The fact that the architect was Gary and not Jack himself matters little -- it is one of the best new 18 holes to have come along in decades.

The greens roll fast and true, the fairways are hard and narrow, and there are forced-carries galore. They have a great driving range and practice facility, and the setting in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest is unmarred by hideous housing. It ain't cheap, but when Angeles National is in shape, it's a great place to play.

Speaking of great greens, the 36-hole Robinson Ranch in Santa Clarita (about 40 minutes outside of L.A. proper) is known high and wide for the quality of their putting surfaces. Also perched next to the Angeles National Forest, both Robinson Ranch's Valley Course and Mountain Course are carved out of 400 acres of sage and chaparral, and offer some of the best views of any course in the area.

Both tracks are eminently playable, unless you count the six finishers on the Valley Course, where designers Ted Robinson (Jr. and Sr!) fashioned a narrow labyrinth of holes dubbed 'Death Row.' Bring a canteen, and watch out for rattlers.

If you're one of the brave souls willing to ford the molasses-like traffic of the fabled 405 freeway, you might want to make your way down to the Resort at Pelican Hill, where 36 holes of inspired Tom Fazio golf await the player willing to handsomely pay the piper for an oceanside location and immaculate conditions.

General Manager Steve Friedlander runs a great operation, combining unparalleled customer service with one of the best pieces of golf real estate in California. In the mood for true pampering? Check in at the five-star resort and hang your golf cap for a few days. Then hope you win the lottery to compensate for the extravagance.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.