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Talega Golf Club in Orange County: A beauty and a little bit of a beast

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SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- Located in the hills of San Clemente set above the 'Spanish Village by the Sea,' Talega Golf Club is a picturesque course in a very pleasant setting. Located just three miles from the coast, this elegant daily-fee facility is situated just below the Shops at Talega, a casual outdoor shopping area, offering retail outlets and eateries.

Talega Golf Club fits the same motif with a large Spanish colonial clubhouse that features an outdoor patio, Signature Grille Restaurant and banquet, and meeting facilities that match the Spanish theme.

The 6,951-yard golf course, however, is still the star.

This 2001 Fred Couples signature design features generous landing areas off the tee, plenty of water, great views and a few holes that will certainly get your attention, given some of the challenging approaches to greens.

But perhaps the most unique aspect of the course is that it has five par 3s and five par 5s, no doubt a personal touch of Couples.

The par 3s, especially on the front nine, are particularly challenging, and with Couples being known as a particularly long player who took advantage of the par 5s in his career, there are three on the back. That means there will be scoring opportunities down the stretch, but these par 5s are anything but easy.

In fact, Peter Dalkas, general manager at Talega, offers some sound strategy.

How to succeed at Talega Golf Club

'If you can manage your misses on the par 3s,' Dalkas said, 'and plan to play the par 5s in the three shots, you'll have an excellent experience and ultimately beat your playing partners.'

And if that doesn't work out, Dalkas said, try the 'aloha press' double or nothing bet on the last hole, a daunting par 4 that features an intimidating approach shot over water to a semi-island green.

And speaking of forced carries, the above-mentioned par 3s have plenty of them from the rearward tees. The third, for example, plays 228 yards over water from the back tees.

This former private course has also undergone an ownership change. Dalkas said one of the biggest problems is just getting the word out that the course is open to the public. It has that private feel throughout, both on the course and in the clubhouse.

With that said, Talega offers all sorts of pricing for juniors, seniors and memberships. Juniors can even play free with an adult at certain twilight times, and senior rates start at age 55.

Talega Golf Club: The verdict

If you like great conditions, generous fairways and nice scenery, then Talega Golf Club is a good choice. Its bentgrass greens roll true, no two holes are alike and the course features a terrific finishing stretch.

The clubhouse is also a great place to hang out. With San Clemente's year-round near perfect weather, having a cocktail on the patio with an appetizer is a perfect way to spend an afternoon, whether it follows a round of golf or not.

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