All the par-threes at Arroyo Trabuco require both sage club selection and good execution, but none more so than the attractive 188-yard 13th.
This Orange County golf course situated in Mission Viejo, California usually gets some pretty good reviews, especially for its natural setting, free from auto traffic and houses. The layout is one of those rare Southern California golf courses that is not surrounded by housing for it is situated pristinely in a natural setting absent from the inherent noise that afflicts many other area courses – well, almost!
This layout is eminently playable provided you select the proper tees for your ability. While the course starts out in the valley and then heads into the hills before returning, wide fairway corridors allow ample room to play, though anything off them spells trouble and likely a lost ball.
For me, the strength of the course are engaging par-threes, especially 231 -yard 4th. It is a Redan-style hole in which you can play out to the right of the green and end up in great shape in the middle of it or challenge the hole directly. Anything short or long is trouble. And be sure to check out the plaque at the rear of the tee. Touring professional and Arroyo Trabuco Co-Designer Tom Lehman (with Casey O’Callaghan) hit a 5-iron into the hole on the ceremonial opening day!
Condition-wise, the fairways and tees were perfect, firm, fast, and uniform – quite wide too. The putting surfaces, in contrast, quite disappointed me. At the time I played the course, I also played 13 other area public golf courses within the week and Arroyo Trabuco’s greens were easily the worst of the lot. They were not terrible, but for a $91 green fee (the highest of the lot), they were relatively really poor -soft and did not roll smoothly. That’s not a good thing when other courses with $28 fees have better greens.
For the first twelve holes, my playing partners and I not only enjoyed the views, but also savored the ambiance of peace and quiet, only interrupted by the sweet sound of birds. We all agreed that’s the way golf is supposed to be played and then it ended. All of a sudden, it sounded like someone was blasting a boom box from a distant home. One of my playing partners described the noise as a dog in pain. It was hideous, especially as we got closer. Maybe the breeze was carrying the sound. Then one of the players informed us that it was the Sunday brunch entertainment (St. Patrick’s Day celebration) from the course’s clubhouse patio. That was it!
The Redan-style 231-yard 4th hole may be the most exacting at Arroyo Trabuco.
Returning to the valley portion of the course, we were “serenaded” for the last third of the round. It was more than bad, it was atrocious – and I usually enjoy that genre! Maybe I sound like an old curmudgeon (ie. as in American Idol’s Simon Cowell), but this male performer was pitchy and yelling. You couldn’t have paid me to listen to that pitiful, painful, pathetic noise, let alone while I was eating. I’ve heard plenty of music around golf courses, but this was painful and completely destroyed the unique ambiance that Arroyo Trabuco offers. So much for the unique peace and quiet of Arroyo Trabuco – audition over.
Despite the clubhouse noise, Arroyo Trabuco ends well with a fun reachable water-lined par-five measuring 513 yards from the tips. Check out the fairway plaque to see where Phil Mickelson smashed his final drive of the opening day. We had it at well more than 400 yards off the tee!
All in all, Arroyo Trabuco is both a fun course and a good challenge, if you can stomach rough, bumpy putting surfaces. Most of the time, you can enjoy a scenic round in the country uninterrupted by noise and housing-free… and if they improve the greens, it’s worth the fee, but you shouldn’t have to wear ear plugs on a golf course!