Surrounded by the peaks of the Ortega Mountains, the towering trees of Cleveland National Forest, and the waters of Lake Elsinore, The Links at Summerly Golf Club couldn't seem farther from the flat, wind-swept coast of Scotland. But that didn't stop course architect Cal Olson from molding an 18-hole layout in the image of Scottish links golf. To that end, he made the most of the area's natural mounding, shaped three miles of burns into the clay, and filled the course with devious bunkers shaped like kidneys or just ovals with poor posture. Adding to the difficulty, the 7,012-yard layout incorporates a host of water hazards, leaving players a thin margin for error on many holes.
A venue for first-rate course play, The Links at Summerly also serves as a venue for practice and improvement with lessons helmed by PGA Class A professional Scott Marson. Lessons can incorporate video swing analysis and guided on-course play to drive home new concepts and strategies.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 7,012 yards from the tips * Course rating of 74.1 from the tips * Slope rating of 142 from the tips * Three tee options
Designed by renowned course architect David Rainville—whose resumé includes famed courses such as Indian Wells Country Club—the 18-hole California Oaks course stretches across 5,218 yards of bucolic Southern California topography. Towering trees, intervening ponds, and immense bunkers conspire to kidnap wayward balls throughout the course, and the club's immaculate fairways provide a hospitable landing zone for pinpointed drives and golf-obsessed extraterrestrials. A stream flows alongside every hole, adding a sense of continuity to rounds as golfers contend with each on-course challenge. After 18-hole expeditions, players can replenish at Oaks Bar & Grill, which, like the course itself, affords customers splendid views of the Temecula Valley, the San Jacinto mountain range, and the cloud-like spirits of drowned golf balls trying to contact 9-irons from the beyond.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par-70 course (par 68 from the ladies' tees) * Designed by David Rainville * Length of 5,218 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 66.1 from the farthest tees * Slope of 122 from the farthest tees * Three tee options
Cottonwood Golf Center's nine-hole executive course sharpens straight shots with one par 4 and eight par 3 holes. Duffer duets amble through the meandering fairways, launch dimpled orbs through 2,466 yards of emerald alleys, and defeat lesser opponents in pull-cart street races. The scenic course overlooks rugged hills and scraggly pines, thwarting off-kilter shots with a petite water hazard filled with foghorn-wielding ducks. Players can supply their own clubs, rent one of the facility's sets ($5), or thwack golf balls with the neighbor's flamingo lawn ornaments.
A 200-foot downhill tee shot opens Champions Club at the Retreat, rendering the 485-yard, par 5 first hole reachable in two strokes. Such elevational considerations color play throughout the 18-hole course, cradled as it is within the Temescal Valley's undulating canyons adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest. Bermuda grass fairways slink through the rocky outcroppings and low-lying brush, corralling foursomes onto smooth greens of bent grass. Yet despite its imposing appearance, a major renovation in 2011 tempered the course's difficulty a tad, eliminating some of the more punishing aspects of the course such as 16 bunkers.
Anchoring every round is the 25,000-square-foot clubhouse. Done up in a Tuscan theme and accessorized with trickling fountains and golden sunshine, the structure immerses visitors in creature comforts before they tee up. Players can stop for post-round drinks or fuel up for a round with pub-style eats on the grand patio, which overlooks the 9th and 18th greens.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,765 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 73.9 from the back tees * Course slope of 145 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole * Scorecard
Renovated in 2010, Mission Viejo Country Club is a play palace for singles and family members seeking premier dining, aquatic, fitness, and tennis amusements. A one-month membership grants seekers of the good life a pass to the club's fitness center, which has sleek equipment and scenic golf-course views. Assuage overexerted muscles with a postworkout soak in the pool, Jacuzzi tub, or, when no one is looking, the complimentary array of toiletries in the lounge facilities. Tennis revelers may find love on 55,000 square feet of court space, including eight separate nets lighted for optimal match-point debates. Cool down with a refreshing splash at the Mission Viejo aquatic center or bronze bodies into toasty marshmallows on the club's sundeck. Cap off a refreshing day of fitness with icy-cold beverage at the Mark O'Meara lounge, where a 65-inch television reveals what the world would really look like if everyone wore exorbitantly large knickers.