Fountains whisper to themselves amid low emerald hillocks. Groups of golfers confer over tees at the ninth hole, where the fairway drops off to the left, into the cool mirror of a small lake. Architect Ted Robinson, who has designed more than 170 courses, draws heavily on the many uses of water in his creations. With mountains spearing the horizon in the distance, golfers cut beneath swaying palm trees. The scents of grilling burgers drift down from the clubhouse, and during Sunday-morning brunches, champagne glasses clink occasionally like a shy xylophonist.
For more than 30 years, Southern California Golf Schools' professional golfers and teachers have been passing their club-swinging tutelage on to golfers of all ages. The director of the golf school's operations, Steve Bean, started his teaching career in the early 80s and went on to teach alongside such golf luminaries as Derek Hardy and Hank Haney, who was Tiger Woods' swing coach and shadow-puppet partner. Bean has been a golf pro for several country clubs, has worked as a custom fitter for Titleist, and has owned multiple golf schools in San Diego and Las Vegas since 2011. In 2010, he was named the teacher of the year by the Professional Golf Teachers & Coaches Association of America.
Dramatic elevation changes and a labyrinthine layout with nary a parallel fairway coalesce to create the scenic 6,104-yard, par 70 course at Indian Hills Golf Club. Throughout the round, the Jurupa Valley and the rising crags of the Riverside County foothills draw eyes to the horizon, stealing attention away from critical putts, club selection, and exploding golf balls slipped in by a deceitful caddy.
Water hazards threaten on three holes, including the 451-yard, par 4 ninth, where drives that land to the right of an ever-narrowing fairway become sunken casualties of the course’s most difficult hole. After finishing on the 515-yard par 5 eighteenth—the course's lengthiest—golfers can replenish energy lost by visiting the club's onsite restaurant, 19th Hole Pub & Grille.
Course at a Glance:
The beautifully manicured golf course at Hidden Valley carefully incorporates the existing flora, streambeds, and outcropped rocks into its 6,860 yards of dimpled ball habitat, making players of every skill level feel as if they're teeing off in an unspoiled national park. A GPS-enabled cart will keep you from accidentally driving onto the Autobahn as you journey through a pleasantly challenging round of recreational golf (up to a $67 value, cart included). To warm up wrists before the game, guests can flick through a large bucket of balls on the practice green ($10), and once the 18th green has been conquered and purged of its mini-dragon guardians, it's off to the Villa Amalfi Ristorante to refuel. Sip on coffee, tea, or soda, and choose one food item from the breakfast or lunch menu, which includes tasty breakfast burritos ($6.95), mushroom-swiss burgers ($7.95), fried-chicken salad ($10.95), and more (up to $17.95 value). Customers also get their choice of either a hat ($20) or a golf shirt ($65), giving them a change of clothes when their astronaut suit is being dry-cleaned.
Empire Lakes Golf Course bears the design imprint of one Arnold Palmer?seven-time major championship winner and one of the few golfers mentioned as a contender for greatest of all time. His sensibilities can be seen everywhere around the 18-hole course, which sprawls for more than 7,000 yards over sun-scorched earth in the shadow of Mt. Baldy. These include fairway and green-side bunkers placed strategically to give golfers fits, as well as a dearth of straightaway holes to emphasize shot-shaping and draw attention to the global shortage of 400-yard rulers. Though certainly tricky, none of these elements cross the line into artifice, which is in keeping with the "The King's" belief in natural, unadorned course design.
Conveniently close to both Orange County and Los Angeles, Empire Lakes is a stop on the PGA's Nationwide Tour. Once players arrive, they'll also find a lighted driving range and a School of Golf staffed with award-winning teachers and club fitters.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 7,034 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 74.1 from the back tees * Course slope of 136 from the back tees * Five sets of tees per hole * View the scorecard.
El Rancho Verde Golf Club has spent half a century basking in the majesty of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, testing golfers on a challenging course without disrupting their inner peace. The par 72 course boasts holes to make both advanced stick-swivelers and novice wedge-wielders feel at home. From the longest tees, balls can race down 6,844 yards of fairway, along pools that reflect the towering peaks and lush greenery where native owls wait eagerly to adopt lost golf balls and hatch them as their own.