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Borrego Golf – The Season in Review


Last updated 6/25/2015 at 10:02am

As I sit in air-conditioned comfort during our current heat wave, I reflect on the wonders of Borrego Golf played under far saner conditions.

From October through June, I had the assignment of playing and reporting on each of the six magnificent courses in Borrego Springs. Yes, it was a tough job, but Borrego Sun publisher Patrick Meehan picked the only guy who would brave an attempt to overcome the rigors of such an assignment. Actually, it's how he not-so-subtly lured me into job as a writer for the newspaper, but that's another story.

Each of the courses provided a unique set of conditions, and that, of course, is why us golfers love to play different courses. From the long-course challenge of de Anza, to the lightning-fast greens and hilly course at Rams Hill; from the tricky winds at The Resort to the tricky greens at The Springs; and from the tree-lined and wonderfully maintained course at the Roadrunner Club to the off-beat seclusion of Club Circle – they were all fun and in their own way challenging. And the pro's who accompanied me around the courses were very helpful and informative.

Oh, and by the way, I'll be going up to Warner Springs for a round of golf with club pro Byron Casper (son of Billy Casper) in July and review the course. Stay tuned for that one being added to the list.

Meanwhile, let's begin with a review of first principles in playing Borrego Golf. The first is warm-up. This 66-year old body needs coffee, a 15-minute Jacuzzi, more coffee, even a couple of Ibuprofens if I'm still sore from golfing the previous day, all prior to getting out the door. Plus putting and chipping and more coffee, then a few balls with each club on the driving range.

My consistency in actualizing that ideal warm-up regimen, however, was not at all laudable this past season. A couple of weeks back I woke up very late and had no time for warm-ups. It took not only a sympathetic partner to run into her house next to the 4th green and pour me a cup of Joe, but also the entire front-9 just to get my eyes in proper focus. Warming up, at least your eyeballs, is important!

And soon after, I hadn't warmed up at all and shot a 76 out at The Springs course. Three birdies and an almost-eagle. Go figure.

The next thing one needs to bring to the course is attitude. "I love this game!" is a good one to tuck into your bag. When things are going well, anyway. "I hate this game!" usually precedes or follows the prior attitudinal outburst, sometimes by only one stroke.

And there's also the camaraderie to keep in mind. You're with your friends who love and support you, and you them, despite everyone's vacillation between loving and hating the game at any given moment. It's a learning experience of when, and to what level of enthusiasm to give compliments on a given shot, and when to hold your damned tongue on a bad one.

And now, the envelope, please. Let us review each of the six courses in the order I played and reviewed them.

The Springs

A 9-hole course played twice. I've parred it once. You need both a fade and a draw to play this course consistently well. Tree placements at the doglegs are like those legendary sirens luring you to disastrous shoals should you fail to cut the corners. The best and safest shots are fades and draws -- of the intentional kind! My natural fade helps on #1/#10, but I'm working on my draw for the two toughest holes -- #3 Par-3 (185-yards from the white tees) and #7 Par-4 (especially from the blue tees). I must be on the green in one to par Hole #3. And for #7, long and beyond the dogleg is always an unfavorable lie from which to hit the green. A slight draw, on the other hand, lands me on the fairway with about a 150 to 160-yard approach, very doable. I haven't hit John Peterson's house, located inside the dogleg and now with rooftop Solar panels in...well, since the panels were installed.

The Springs putting greens are moderate speed-wise, as compared to the slow Club Circle greens and the lightning-fast greens at Rams Hill, with The Roadrunner Club, The Resort, and de Anza in between at increasing quickness. The Springs greens are creatively sloped, providing deceptively undulating paths to the pins that are usually the major cause for concern and focus, especially unnerving hillside pin placements on Holes 5, 6, and 8. Reading those lines and ball speed properly, especially on side-hill putts, is an art form I can master only in my golf dreams. Once in a while, like the proverbial blind squirrel finding that acorn, I par or even birdie one by going high enough up the hill and see it slow down quickly on its parabolic curve and veer sharply into the hole. It's a rare event for me to have both the correct line and speed, especially on those killer 3-foot side-hill putts. But I'm workin' the problem.

RoadRunner Club

Living at the first tee box has its advantages. Like when I see a golf buddy warming up and yell out, in my best low-growl Clint Eastwood impersonation, "Get off my lawn!"

I love to play and practice on this course because I use every club in my bag except driver. I've parred it twice, and one time went 1-under during a tournament. Sometimes I use a tee, other times off the grass if I'm working on approach shots for the longer courses. It's a beautiful, well-maintained course that I can play in a couple of hours with a partner, even less if I'm by myself on a practice round.

It's all about what it takes to hit it straight and onto the green. Straight is good. I'm now starting to keep track of how many greens I hit off the tee box. As that percentage increases, my score miraculously decreases! Who'da thunk it?! Oh, and one big reason I'm working on my draw is that I've had it up to here hitting the street on #18 (185 yards) using my 3-fairway and then hitting 3 from the tee; it's re-e-eally tough to par after going OB on that hole. And besides, finishing a round with a double, or more likely a triple bogey has repeatedly shown up for me as nothing short of depressing. So I'm working on that draw if for no other reason that to end the round in a good mood!

De Anza

Very traditional, nothing fancy. But I'd better bring my long fairway game if I want to break 80. I shot a 75 two years ago, putting a lot of wear on my 3-fairway Cobra. And the greens are fast, too, when the plug holes are gone. And watch out for the trees. The last time, I needed a tree guide to name all the species my ball landed next to, but mostly directly behind in a tough lie. But the most important thing I learned at de Anza was from Damian Terres, a young pro-tour golfer and my playing partner for the course write-up.

In the past, if I found myself in deep rough within reach of the green with a short iron, my instinct was to go up a club, say from 9-iron to 8-iron. No longer. Thanks to Damian, I now go down a club, using my pitching wedge instead of a 9-iron. Seemingly counter-intuitive, swinging harder with a longer iron through the thick grass usually does more harm than good, so the answer is to get it out, and straight at the pin. Every time! So what if I'm a little short? Better than a pull or push into a greenside bunker, or a flyer, or a fat shot landing 20 feet away. I'm quite sure that Damian's advice saved me many, many strokes this season while playing the courses at Borrego.

Rams Hill

This one is a no-brainer: Go over to the clubhouse and practice hitting my golf ball with a pool cue from any corner of the pool table up to, but not past, a mark near the opposite corner! Unlike Rams Hill, however, that pool table doesn't have any slope, so a minimum half-hour on the practice green at Rams Hill is my only viable alternative. Two-putting any of those greens at Rams Hill is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. And if there's a wind? I'm in the 90's for sure. But working on my draw should compensate, even a little, for a left-to-right wind-drift. And may God give me the strength to hit it easy on those greens! Lastly, my reward for a 2-putt is looking out over Borrego Valley, one of the truly spectacular vistas from any golf course, ever. Heavy sigh.

Borrego Springs Resort

Most of the holes are aligned north and south, but the prevailing winds come in mostly from the west, sometimes from the northeast. Crosswinds can wreak havoc on your scorecard at The Resort, so my only strategy is to keep the ball as low as possible, except on east-west oriented holes (#4 Par-5 and #6 Par-3 on Desert Willow course; #6 Par-3 on Mesquite course). Every time I've played The Resort, a westerly tailwind has helped on each of the aforementioned holes. I love consistency!

And now a few words on the cookie-cutter cute and numerous sand traps, both fairway and greenside, at The Resort: First, they look quite spectacular from one of Todd Wade's drone cameras. Perhaps it only seems like the last time they groomed those bunkers was just after the invention of the rake. So stay away, I say! Don't go there! The gnarly pebbles left behind after the winds blow away all the small sand grains will ruin the face of my sand wedge!

By some miracle, I shot a 73 at The Resort two years back. Starting at 8:00 a.m., the temperature rose 1-degree per hole, ending at 118-degrees. Three quarts of Gatorade saved me that day. But more than the Gatorade, what really saved me was the fact that there wasn't a whiff of wind!

Club Circle

Nine holes played twice from different tee locations. While all the other courses present technical challenges of different stripes, what I learned from playing Club Circle is remembering that playing golf is also about having fun out there. Another beautiful day in Borrego. A golf buddy I can laugh with and relax. Cheering the good shots, shrugging off the bad. Take my time. No one's behind pushing me. Hey, check out Indian Head (Chief Rain-in-the-Face) Mountain! Oh, wow, I didn't realize Gray Brandt's stunt plane could do that, too!

Sure, golf is about scoring and handicaps and great birdies, and laying on a nice draw around that dogleg. But it's also about getting a little better and better while playing a game I have grown to love and having one helluva good time doin' it!

My thanks to Sun Publisher Patrick Meehan for suggesting the Course Report series, and thanks also to those providing me positive feedback on the two main objectives of this series – to inform and to entertain. And finally, I very much appreciate the time spent by the course reps that went out with me on the course reports – Joe Gamulin, Damien Terres, Joe Tatusko, Todd Wade, and Bob Moore.

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