While Northern California gets all the press when it comes to great golf courses, Southern California has no shortage of great courses. In addition to the highly rated and very exclusive clubs like Riviera and The Los Angeles Country Club, there is no shortage of fantastic courses that regular people can actually play. Any golf magazine worth its salt will have a list of the best courses in the country or state, but what they never tell you is how much it costs to play at those places.
This is a list of some of the best courses in Southern California that you can get on and play without shelling out several hundred bucks per person. These rankings are based on course quality as well as the greens fees and the average pace of play. Of course, you can play Rancho Park for $35 but if its going to take 7 hours, that’s not really a worthwhile endeavor. I have used weekend prime-time rates for the greens fees since this is when most people are going out to play. I’ve also avoided factoring in summer rates for the desert courses just to keep the playing field level. There are always some ridiculous deals for 50-75% off in the Coachella Valley during the peak of summer if you can stand the heat. If you have any suggestions for this list, please feel free to add them to the comment section at the bottom of the post.
1. Rustic Canyon (Moorpark) – This is one of my personal favorite courses in the whole region. A links-style layout designed by Geoff Shackleford is a nice change of pace from your typical desert layout in the San Fernando Valley. It’s a challenging but not punishing course so it’s great for golfers of all skill levels. Weekend prime-time rates run $63 and mid-day (11 a.m. until twilight) will set you back $52. Carts are optional and will cost you an extra $13 and the walk is not too tough so I recommend teeing off after 11:00 and enjoying the nice stroll through the base of the foothills to save a few bucks.
2. Goose Creek (Mira Loma) – Another very solid layout for $63 on the weekends (optional cart for $12). A Schmidt/Curely design, the course is always in fantastic shape and is never too crowded. The par 3s are a little redundant since four of the five play between 179-188 yards from the back tees but overall the layout is very enjoyable. It’s also right on the way to Vegas so it’s a great way to add some golf to a weekend in Sin City without breaking the bank.
3. Oak Quarry (Riverside) – Oak Quarry is one of the coolest public courses around. Designed by Dr. Gil Morgan and Schmidt/Curley, several of the holes are set right at the base of the Jensen Quarry. The award-winning par-3 14th hole is one of the best par 3s in the state. A weekend round will run you $95 with a cart and they usually have specials on replay rates if you’re in the mood for 36 holes. On a day when its not too crowded, you can even kill some time trying to hit bank shots off the quarry onto some of the greens.
4. Lost Canyons Sky Course (Simi Valley) – Lost Canyons has been struggling to keep play rates up since the economy went in the tank, but their loss is your gain as their greens fees have come down about 20% over the last few years. A Pete Dye/Fred Couples design, the Sky course features the most dramatic elevation changes and tends to be the more popular of the two courses at the facility. A weekend round will cost you $99 including a cart. This course is definitely for a more skilled golfer as those who tend to hit the ball far off center will lose a lot of balls.
5. Lost Canyons Shadow Course (Simi Valley) – One of the best features of Lost Canyons is that the two 18s have such distinct personalities. Unlike its sister course, Shadow has a much more rolling layout. It’s also more of a “shotmaker’s course” and can take several rounds before getting the feel for the best way to play it. Also, unlike Sky, the longer holes tend to play with the wind at your back so you don’t have the 450-yard par 4s into 20 mph winds. Shadow also is a bit cheaper, costing $90 including cart for a weekend round. Another warning as lost balls are just as likely to happen on Shadow and you don’t get back to the clubhouse until after the 18th so make sure to stock up on ammo.
Last place. Trump National Golf Club (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) – Don’t let the location fool you. Set on the cliffs of the Palos Verdes peninsula, every hole features an ocean view. However, the course is incredibly gimmicky and, apart from the scenery, has virtually nothing to offer. There’s a reason so many LPGA players complained after their tour event there. On top of all that, it costs $275 to play there. Save yourself the dough and take a nice hike on the trail next to the course, then go play elsewhere.