Torrey Pines (San Diego): SoCal's Pebble. Where else can public walk on and play U.S. Open course? Worth every penny. Great views. Stay at the lodge and play South & North.
Rancho Park (Los Angeles): Great history. Great track. The gem of LA munis. Green fees under $30 won't last forever. Par threes all tough. Don't miss Arnie's plaque on No. 18 tee.
Rustic Canyon (Moorpark): A touch of Scotland in Simi Valley. Terrific bargain. Friendly staff. Bring your putting game: Biggest greens around. Blue tees a lot harder than whites.
Brookside (Pasadena): Two contrasting courses in shadow of Rose Bowl. No. 1 long and longer. No. 2 short but watch those postage-stamp greens. Nice patio dining & pro shop.
VA (Los Angeles): Hidden executive course on the Veterans Administration grounds near Westwood. Hard to find. Grass tees. Play early to avoid getting hit by errant shots. Outstanding practice green.
Bill Dwyre14 HANDICAP
El Rancho Verde (Rialto): Nicely priced, always coupons and deals working. It is wide open, requires some long hitting, but has wonderfully old, mature greens.
Sierra Lakes (Fontana): Again, no precision driving needed here. Spray it a lot and still break 90. Good variety of hole design and especially playable on weekdays. Weekends can be six-hour nightmares.
CrossCreek (Temecula): Quiet, hard to find, usually not crowded and challenging while fair. A plush course at prices reasonable for what you are getting. Don't look at the length and assume you can shoot well here. But even if you don't, you won't care.
Indian Springs (Indio): If you can't hit a driver straight to save your life, this is your place. Some of the fairways are wider than runways at LAX. Greens are desert hard, fairways are well-maintained.
Azuza Greens (Azusa): Not the prettiest, or the swankiest, or the best fairways (although there is grass on some of them). But the greens are mature and the variety of holes is interesting and you can usually walk on easily. There are three par threes on the front, a par five that a 20-handicap can hit in two, a par-four No. 10 that you can drive and a friendly staff that charges you little and seems happy to have you there.
Joel Greenberg18 HANDICAP
SilverRock (La Quinta): Long, stylish, links-style. Water, sand and desert growth strategically and aesthetically woven against the stark Santa Rosa Mountains. Arnold Palmer designed.
Escena (Palm Springs): New, but a classic desert course. Still reasonably priced.
Oak Quarry (Fontana): The name says it all. Chiseled beautifully into the rocky former Jensen Quarry. Tough, eclectic, fun.
PGA West, Stadium Course (La Quinta): Even the pros don't want to test themselves here. But it's still a lot of fun. Pete Dye at his most diabolical. Also, try to match Lee Trevino's famous Skins Game hole in one on the 17th island hole.
Rustic Canyon (Moorpark): Good links course. Huge greens, modest greens fees. Must call early exactly one week before playing to get a time.
Ann Herold20 HANDICAP
Sandpiper Golf Club (Santa Barbara): The poor man's Pebble Beach, and we mean beach. Hit long on the 11th or hook on the sixth and you'll be there. The views are worth it. One of the few courses where the tranquility alone will elevate your game.
Rancho Park Golf Course (Los Angeles): The history! The classic layout! The crowds! The old-growth trees on this course make it a birder's paradise (red-tailed hawks on the 18th, Western bluebirds on the 11th). As for the humans, it's L.A.'s great melting pot. If only the greens weren't so lumpy.
Desert Willow Golf Resort (Palm Desert): What you wish your garden looked like. So well-maintained it's a wonder it's a public course. Lots of chances to score well on the plush, forgiving fairways.
Four Seasons Aviara Golf Club (Carlsbad): Don't let the dizzying swales on the first tee intimidate you, or those tight fairways, or the water everywhere. The Arnold Palmer-designed layout is more than fair, and this pampered course comes with luxe amenities.
Malibu Country Club: Designed by William F. Bell, who also laid out Sandpiper. Just as Bell took full advantage of the ocean there, he's capitalized on the mountain highs in Malibu. Tees look down and up at sweeping fairways, where it's easier to stay clear of the snakes than you might think.
Steve Horn14 HANDICAP
Elkins Ranch (Fillmore): Quite a drive for most to get there, but a nice layout with some elevated tee shots, the orange groves smell great, and you must have a burger at the turn.
Palos Verdes Country Club: It's very expensive, but you don't get to play a course this good for nothing. A couple of very tough par-threes on the front side.
Oak Quarry (Riverside): Everyone should know about the spectacular 14th hole by now, but the rest of this course is also worth the drive. If you get a windy day, hold onto your cap (and everything else).
Recreation Park (Long Beach): My favorite of the Long Beach municipal courses, ahead of Lakewood, Eldorado and Skylinks. It's tough to get a tee time and the first two holes are teasingly short, but it will challenge you from there, leading to an impressive 18th hole.
General Old Course (Riverside): It used to be more spectacular with B-52s flying low over the course on the way to March Air Force Base. It's still one of the best values in the Southland and a fairly flat layout that has a lot of character.
Mike James8 HANDICAP
Goose Creek (Mira Loma): Great bargain, risk-reward options off many tees, plus you can score here. Dairy-farm close, which means some days can have an added aroma.
Mount Woodson (Ramona): It's quirky and you need to keep the driver in the bag on some par fours, but a fun ride through the live oaks and over ravines.
Pala Mesa (Fallbrook): A traditional, Arthur Hills design with tree-lined fairways that scarf up wayward tee shots. Another course where keeping it straight off the tee is mandatory.
PGA of Southern California (Beaumont): Two challenging courses built over a huge expanse of land. Terrific place to play 36.
SCGA Golf Club (Murietta): The Robert Trent Jones Sr.-design in Murietta has some elevation changes, is maintained well and has great variety from hole to hole.
Roger Smith22 HANDICAP
La Quinta, Mountain Course: Great old resort with three courses. This one hugs the mountain, offers great views, with a mind-bending par three.
Los Verdes (Rancho Palos Verdes): Two crowded, too slow, and maintenance by the county. But the views and the price can't be beat.
Moorpark Country Club: Challenging course that looks different on return trips due to 27-hole layout. Several memorable holes over barrancas and elevation changes.
Oak Quarry (Riverside): Carved around an old quarry, with one of the Southland's best signature holes.
Torrey Pines, South Course (San Diego): One of the best municipal courses in the country, with the Pacific on one side and fine dining and lodging on the other.
Larry Stewart19 HANDICAP
Santa Anita: Only five minutes from my home, this course gets a lot of traffic, particularly on weekends. Uneven terrain makes some of the holes, particularly six, 16 and 18, challenging.
Whittier Narrows (Rosemead): Conditions have improved. There are some challenging holes. Another course that gets crowded, particularly Sunday morning when the men's club has a tournament.
Sepulveda Golf Complex, Balboa-Encino: Balboa is the easier of the two adjoining courses. The courses are in better shape than they used to be. And the friendly service in the coffee shop and restaurant is an added plus.
Woodley Lakes (Van Nuys): Some people refer to his course as a cow pasture. It's that flat. And very little trouble, although you have to hit over water at No. 10. If you need a confidence boost, this is the place to get a good score.
Griffith Park, Harding-Wilson (Los Angeles): These neighboring courses are worth the drive if you don't live in the area. Fairly challenging and quite picturesque, even in spite of the view of the 5 Freeway from the back nine at Harding.
Peter Yoon14 HANDICAP
Elkins Ranch (Fillmore): A classic, mature hidden gem nestled in orange groves, this course features a variety of holes that will force you to use every club.
Industry Hills (City of Industry): A traditionalist's dream with huge trees and a challenge on every shot over 36 holes. One of the few high-end venues worth the price. No wonder Nissan Open qualifying is here.
La Purisima (Lompoc): A pure golf course that will challenge your ability to play and think. Superbly manicured and scenic. Play in the morning to avoid the winds, then go wine tasting.Rancho Park (Los Angeles): The PGA Tour once played this classic, tree-lined course, so it's all the golf course you can handle. Plus, you don't have to drive an hour to get there and it costs only about $25. Rustic Canyon (Moorpark): A links style gives a feel unlike any other in the Southland. The large, fast greens will drive you crazy, but for $55 on weekends, you get high-end golf without high-end prices.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times