Playing golf at Los Lagos, the longer of the two Costa Mesa municipal courses, used to be an exercise in frustration. Threadbare fairways, pockmarked greens, water hazards without water and excruciatingly slow play made for a decidedly subpar golfing experience.
And patrons were not shy about showing their dissatisfaction, head professional Brad Booth said. Many an irate player headed into the pro shop after crawling around the shabby course.
"We had some interesting afternoons out here," Booth said. "Put it that way."
These days Booth and his staff don't have to apologize nearly as often. The course is in good shape and getting better largely because of the work of superintendent Jim Fetterly. Fetterly, formerly of Tijeras Creek, has been at Costa Mesa for nearly a year and Los Lagos and the shorter Mesa Linda have never looked better.
"Jim knows how to grow grass," Booth said. "He has grass in places it never was before."
The greens are the most noticeable improvement. It's as if Fetterly brought the Tijeras Creek putting surfaces with him. Los Lagos' greens now have to rank among the best of Orange County public courses, a neat trick considering the 100,000-plus rounds it hosts annually.
There's nothing tricky about the William F. Bell layout that opened in 1968. It's an unspectacular track with mostly flat fairways lined by mature trees.
Two par fives start things off--slowly. Waiting is common on the first few holes; it took nearly an hour to get to the third hole during a round on Thursday. The pace quickened considerably after that. The front nine played in 2 hours 45 minutes; the back in 2:15.
After the opening par fives--pedestrian 528- and 531-yard holes--the going gets more interesting. Some highlights:
The third hole is the No. 1 handicap hole, a 412-yard narrow par four, the fourth is a 178-yard par three.
No. 5 is a nice dogleg-right par four of 354 yards. Those trying to cut the dogleg must avoid a fairway bunker on the right-hand side at about 230 yards. No. 6, at 543 yards the longest par five on the front nine, doglegs left along a out-of-bounds flood-control channel. Stay right and unless you are an especially long driver plan on three shots to get to the green. The fairway starts sloping up about 150 yards from the green, then dips into a gully before a steep climb to the green ringed by trees.
The back nine features No. 14, a 560-yard par five that wraps around a lake, No. 15, a 193-yard par three and No. 16, the 414-yard No. 2 handicap hole.
The 17th is another par three--183 yards with bunkers in front and another behind the green--and the 18th is a 522-yard par five with a rolling fairway.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
* Course: Costa Mesa Golf and Country Club, Los Lagos Course
* Address: 1701 Golf Course Dr., Costa Mesa
* Phone: (714) 540-7500
* Green fees (regular/twilight after 3 p.m.): Mon.-Thu.: $24, $15; Fri.: $26, $18; Sat.-Sun.: $33, $20
* Yardage: 6,542 championship, 6,233 regular, 5,907 women's
* Rating/Slope: 70.5/117 championship, 68.9/111 regular, 73.1/124 women's.
* Reservations: Seven days in advance.