Trump National GC Los Angeles, Rancho Palos Verdes. Pete & Perry Dye, 1999.
Trump’s waterfalls here were removed a few years ago as, I believe, a water-saving measure. I don’t think they’re missed. This was a tough spot to put a course—The Donald likes to compare it to Pebble Beach, but Pebble is built on a comparatively gentle hillside above severe cliffs. Trump LA is basically just built on a cliff. This was basically the knock on the course I had heard before playing—that to even squeeze a course on to the site required building such narrow and terraced holes that an odd sense of claustrophobia sets in despite the long, beautiful ocean views. I found this only half right and even then really only on the front nine.
The first seven holes are frankly a bit of a slog—straight and narrow with steep hillsides going up on one side and falling away on the other. Dye tried to inject these straight holes with interest by forcing angles. No one is better at this than him and he succeeds but it’s too clever for how tight this area is. The sixth is a mid-length par 4 with a green angled to advantage an approach from the right. But the fairway is only about 30 yards wide and then a bunker on the right pinches it down to 20 at the spot where you want to drive it. This sort of architecture works when width and options abound. Neither is present for the first seven holes here, but you muddle through with the help of the views.
Things pick up around the eighth and ninth—those are really not great holes, but it’s at that point when you’ve made it back down to about the level of the clubhouse and the course starts to feel a bit wider, a lot more natural, and much more like a seaside course. I thought the back nine offered eight really excellent holes—the best of them is the most simple, the 13th, where the angle of the tee and fairway and the visibility of the green in the distance make it all but impossible to play your tee shot on a safe line. Unfortunately, the back nine also offers the 14th hole—very possibly the worst golf hole I’ve ever played.
Things pick up again at the 15th, a devilish little downhill par 3 to a small green with trouble on ever side. The 16th is maybe driveable with the right wind and otherwise is a solid drive and pitch hole. The 17th is one of the holes where waterfalls were removed, and to the hole’s benefit. This is a long-ish par 3, a bit uphill and often back into the wind. The holes major feature used to be a huge waterfall built into a hill beyond the green the finished in a pond just right and long of the green. I never played that version of the hole, but the last thing I want on a long par 3 is the potential to lose my ball if I go just long of the green (the green was then, as it still is today, guarded front left by imposing bunkers). Bunkers have replaced the waterfall and if you’d never seen a picture of the course before, you’d never know it used to be there.
The 18th is the hole that originally was lost in a landslide just before the course opened, which led to the property being purchased by Trump. The new hole was very expensive and it has a great view and a ton of sand in play, but as a strategic golf hole there’s not much to say about it. It’s not the 18th at Pebble Beach, which is what the owner is trying to promise, but it is a pretty great spot to end a round of golf.
California 2nd Quintile