The Times' Top 10s

The must-play list

If you are a serious golfer in Southern California, here are 10 courses you should have in your I've-played-there portfolio:

Arroyo Trabuco: It turns out Tom Lehman's as good an architect as he is a golfer.

Desert Willow, Firecliff course: This layout is considered by many among the very best public facilities in the desert.

Golf course listings: In the Guide to Southern California Golf section published April 9, a listing of difficult courses included the TPC of Valencia. That club is a private facility and should not have been included in the section, which was for public-access courses only. —

La Purisima: A classic, demanding, scenic course that is a regular venue for all levels of tournament play … plus it's in wine country.

Oak Quarry: No. 14 is one of the best par threes in golf, a dramatic view of an old quarry from an elevated tee. But it's only one of 18 good holes.

PGA West Stadium: Lee Trevino aced the island green in the Skins Game years ago; maybe you can too. Then again …

Rancho Park: Yes, it can be tough to get on the course, but it's one of the country's best, most historic municipal layouts.

Rustic Canyon: Widely acclaimed as one of the top newer courses in the country. An inland course with a links feel. A traditionalist's gem.

Sandpiper: Call it a northern version of Torrey Pines or a southern version of Pebble Beach; either way, it's a course worth playing.

SilverRock: An Arnold Palmer layout always in exceptional condition, it's a future course for the Bob Hope Classic.

Torrey Pines South: Golfers who spend their time on public layouts don't get many chances to play U.S. Open courses. This one is worth the price, particularly if you live in San Diego.


One-day escapes Fed up with the rat race in the office? Need some peace and quiet? Here are 10 great places where the scenery will take the edge off: CrossCreek: The front nine is almost links-like; it's more target golf on the very hilly back. Serene, secluded location in Temecula.

Eagle Glen: Several holes back up to Cleveland National Forest, where you're more likely to see coyotes or hawks than even think about the noise of the city.

Elkins Ranch: The drive to the course is half the fun; it's particularly calming when the surrounding orange groves are blossoming.

GC at Terra Lago: Formerly the Landmark Club in Indio, two fine courses; host course for the Skins Game, 1999-2002.

Lost Canyons: Set among the rugged Santa Susana Mountains, two Pete Dye designs were restored by Fred Couples after flooding a few years ago.

Malibu: It's not near the ocean but tucked into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. It's a tight layout with live-oak-lined fairways.

Rancho San Marcos: Scheduled to reopen this summer after renovations, the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design is about as scenic as they come.

Robinson Ranch: Another facility with 36 holes amid hills of the Angeles National Forest, with generous views of the Santa Clarita Mountains.

Sandpiper: It's very rare to have such a striking seaside course that also offers mountain views.

Strawberry Farms: In Orange County, a quiet setting among rolling hills not far from the hubbub of Irvine. **

Overnight getaways If you're looking for a couple of days of golf and a place to be pampered overnight, here are 10 spots to book a multiple-day trip:

Barona Creek: The casino makes its pitch to high rollers; the course rolling through the San Diego foothills is tournament-tested and, some say, as good as any in San Diego County.

Four Seasons Aviara: Take your choice: Luxuriate in the spa, then play 18 holes on a spectacular Arnold Palmer-designed layout, or play golf, then get the massage.

La Quinta: There are five world-class courses affiliated with a resort that has been a desert destination since 1926.

La Costa: Two courses were home to PGA Tour events for years and there has been about $140 million in renovations to the resort/spa.

Marriott's Desert Springs: There's plenty to keep you very busy while you relax for a couple of days — and two Ted Robinson-designed courses.

Mission Hills: Two courses designed by Gary Player and Pete Dye that rate among the desert's best.

Ojai Valley Inn: Much of George Thomas' classic 1923 design has been restored, and the inn has been renovated.

Pala Mesa: One of the best bargains in Southern California, straightforward lodging and very challenging golf.

Rancho Bernardo Inn: Former site of PGA and LPGA Tour events, it has been a San Diego-area mainstay for years.

Sycuan Resort: Two championship layouts and a par-three course offer plenty of variety at the resort formerly known as Singing Hills.


Great courses to walk For traditionalists who believe walking is part of the game, here are 10 courses where walking the course gives you a memorable golf experience: Brookside: Two fine courses nestled in the arroyo near the Rose Bowl.

Coronado: Hard by the San Diego Bay, it has nice views, excellent greens.

General Old: The former military-only facility in Riverside is a bargain and a decent test.

Goose Creek: It's dairy-farm close, so this fine Schmidt/Curley design comes with olfactory challenges too.

Los Verdes: No, it's not flat, but the atmosphere of a seaside course is terrific.

Rustic Canyon: Not many courses these days are built to walk; this one's a masterpiece.

Rancho Park: This tree-lined L.A. prize has had some of golf's greatest on its fairways.

San Clemente: It's hilly, but a great municipal layout overlooking the Pacific.

Santa Anita: Where else can you lose your winnings on the course at the track next door?

Torrey Pines North: Plays as one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour; it won't for you.


Great bargains These aren't merely good courses, they're courses where you can pay the greens fee and have money left over to lose your $5 Nassau without worrying. Daily fees in parentheses: Coronado: In Southern California, it's almost impossible to beat this deal to walk a fine layout near the water. ($25)

El Dorado Park: It's a challenging municipal layout and site of the $155,000 Long Beach Open. ($32.75)

Griffith Park: The Harding and Wilson courses are busy but more than worth the L.A. city municipal fees. ($22)

Landmark at Hemet: The regular rates are low, but with their e-mail deals, they almost pay you to play. ($42, including cart.)

Marshall Canyon: A rolling, treed L.A. County layout up against the San Gabriel Mountains with particularly strong par threes. ($21.50)

PGA of Southern California: There are two exceptional courses and an outstanding driving range. ($65, cart included, with a $5 replay rate.)

Rio Hondo: The course was redesigned in mid-1990s; it's tight, not too long and in good shape. ($35)

River Ridge: The course is wide-open to the eye, but it's tougher than it looks. ($30)

Soule Park: It has mountain views in Ojai and was completely redesigned in 1995. ($28)

Woodley Lakes: It's flat and a good place to massage your ego. ($22)


Duffers beware If you don't hit the ball with some consistency, here are challenges that offer more pain than pars. But if you have your A game going, these are 10 places to put it to the test:

Angeles National: Like many tough courses, the tee shots are critical here. Put it in play with your first shot, and you'll be OK. When the wind blows, which is often, that can be very tough. Excellent greens.

Arrowood: This well-conditioned, new layout with good greens is very playable from the middle tees. A mix of very challenging and playable holes. Industry Hills, Eisenhower: The course has been renovated and is more playable than in the past, but you still need to hit it very straight off the tee.

Monarch Beach: Beautiful setting, but it's a bit cramped in spots, which means thinking where you want to put your shots, and executing, are key.

Moorpark: Of the 27 holes, the Ridgeline/Creekside combination tops out at a 142 slope that's as challenging as anyone needs. Oak Valley: When the wind kicks up, hitting these narrow fairways is like trying to land a ball on a ribbon.

PGA West, Stadium: Impossibly deep bunkers, rocks and water, narrow fairways and plenty of trouble everywhere. A Pete Dye classic. Redhawk: Tough enough at 7,175 yards to be site of the California State Open, and one of the best bargains around for a true championship layout. TPC of Valencia: Mark O'Meara, who was a designer of the course, has the game to play here and handle the 142 slope. Triple-figure greens fees can make playing poorly expensive to the ego as well.

Trump National: Speaking of triple-figure greens fees … you're paying for the spectacular view on every hole; you'll pay dearly for errant shots into thick rough and brush as well.


Short and sweet Here's a look at 10 of the best executive-length and nine-hole courses in the Southland:

Aliso Creek (9 holes, par 32): It's tucked in a canyon in Laguna Beach, peaceful, challenging, loaded with wildlife.

Arroyo Seco (18 holes, par 54): This is a place for your very short irons, with the longest hole 146 yards. There are mats on the tee boxes.

Birch Hills (18 holes, par 59): The course in Brea has fairly small greens, good variety on its par threes and some tough holes, with water, on the back.

Catalina Island (nine holes, par 32): Tiger Woods, Craig Stadler and Corey Pavin all played this scenic course as juniors. There are two sets of tees if you're playing 18.

Cimarron Resort, Pebble course (18 holes, par 58): This is among the Cadillacs of short courses, beautifully conditioned with desert mountain views.

Eaton Canyon (nine holes, par 35): It's a good starter course for those who have graduated to slightly longer courses. Nice location in Pasadena.

Heartwell (18 holes, par 54): The greens are fairly large for a course that has no hole longer than 140 yards.

Penmar (nine holes, par 33): The fairways are lush. Like all L.A. city courses, you need a registration card to make tee times. Added bonus: small planes overhead from Santa Monica Airport.

Reidy Creek (18 holes, par 54): The Escondido layout is nicely conditioned, with enough water to cause lots of problems and several mid- to long-iron par threes.

Scholl Canyon (18 holes, par 60): An up-and-down layout in Glendale, particularly so on the more difficult back nine. There are great views whenever the air permits.

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