Angeles National, Sunland. Steve Nicklaus, 2004.
A desert-style course set in a valley on the north edge of LA; if this course had saguaros you could imagine it was in Scottsdale. The lack of housing is a bonus but they want everyone to treat all desert/native areas as off limits and that gets old fast, especially on a course that isn’t overly wide to begin with. Nonetheless, there are a handful of holes and features here that you’ll remember—some pretty great, a few more questionable.
The best stretch of the course is right in the middle. The 11th is a short par 4 with a pot bunker right in front of the green. It’s tempting, then, to try to hit a drive left of the green, where there’s plenty of short grass. But you have to be sure to get a drive past the fairway bunker on that side. If you do, you’re still left with a chip from a tight lie to a green above you with trouble tight on the other side—no guaranteed birdie here.
I loved the deep but narrow snake green at the short par 3 12th, a hole that is 130 on the card but can play as long as 145 or as short as 110, depending on hole location.
And then the par 5 13th is only 494 yards but asks for decisions on every shot. There’s a centerline bunker in the fairway. Carry it, or drive to the right, and you should be able to reach the green in two, but the shot is largely blind as the green is protected by a 75-yard long bunker front right, a pot bunker front left and a large mound that necessitates a taller than normal flag. Misses in either of these short bunkers are no good at all, but of course it is easy to overclub in an effort to be certain that you don’t come up short and then the desert behind the green becomes a factor.
But not every hole and feature is so inspired. The steep fall off on the left half of the sixth green didn’t make much sense to me and the green surrounds at 9 seemed a bit severe given the length and difficulty of the hole. Some holes even combine the great and the WTF—the eighth is a confusing driving hole, but the green site is marvelous; conversely, I really liked the bunkering in the fairway of the 16th, but nothing from 75 yards in made much sense.
Both of the finishing holes feel forced—17 is an awkward near 90-degree dogleg right and the 18th feels like one of those finishing holes with a pond simply because owners think finishing holes should have ponds.
On the balance, though, there are more than enough good holes here that I would enjoy playing the course every so often if I lived in the area, even if it doesn’t rate high on my list for a return as a visitor.
California 4th Quintile