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Course review: Los Lagos Golf Club

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They say that great things come in small packages. That’s because there are limited-size 18-hole golf courses that are definitely worth playing.

You don’t have to do golf layouts in the 7,000-yard-plus range to enjoy the whole experience. The Los Lagos Golf Club more than fits the bill.

Located off Tuers Road and moments from Highway 101 in San Jose, Calif., this short 5,393-yard par-68 course course will more than satisfy your appetite for an enjoyable and challenging round of golf. This picturesque piece of property that was designed by Brian Castello and developed in a park-like setting is completely surrounded by a medium-priced home development that could have been there before the course was opened for play in 2002. Because of this, you will find many holes that are fenced-in by mile-high wire defensive framing.

You can’t say that the fencing helps in the natural beautification of Los Lagos, but there are many holes that are hidden by redwoods, oak, deep under brush and forested creek that more than offset the supporting mesh and metal posts that are around to avoid broken windows and other problems.

There are many holes that are separated from each other entailing long rides through their natural forested environment and over bridges to the following holes. It’s just a matter of observing their designated markers so you won’t get lost. There are also acres of environmentally sensitive areas where looking for lost balls is a “no-no” unless you are in the act of retrieving a Pro V1 within reach of your longest club in your bag.

Los Lagos consists of nine par threes, four par fours and five strong par fives. There is enough strength in some of its holes to make this golf course far from being easy and monotonous. It’s also especially true when you have to contend with water holes at Nos. 4, 6, 9, 12 and 16. They didn’t name it Los Lagos for nothing.

A 500-yard par five starts the proceedings with water to the left side of the four-tee driving area. It’s an upward thrust to an expansive bunker controlling the left side of a generous size green that breaks from left to right. It’s followed by the first of many one shooters that weighs in at 157 yards. This is the only double green that also makes the par-three No. 8 of 197 yards stand out from the rest of the course. The two-level oversize surface that elevates from front to back also breaks sharply from right to left while being backed up by front and back bunkers.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 9.24.43 PM

After a long ride, it’s the No. 3 one-shot hole. A par four of 291 yards makes up for its short distance as it’s accompanied by a large lake on its right side with close trees on its left side, limiting fairway room in-between. If you are looking for action and strength with the driver, you can take a tee shot on a long ride over the water to a green that turns sharply right at the end of the hole.

Los Lagos prides itself on No. 6, its best of the best 567-yard par 5. It takes off on a majestic ride along fenced-in terrain on its immediate left as you make your way along narrowing fairway and downward where a lake hangs around on the right side. The water also faces the right side of the green. There are also two formidable bunkers on its left side. The putting surface is two levels with breaks from right to left that creeps slightly down in the rear.

A testy par three of 113 yards greets you at No. 7 with a substantial bunker covering the right side of the green and another smaller sand trap across the way. It’s where you will also contend with a two-level green with huge breaks that cater from left to right. Then a long ride takes you to No. 8 tee with beautiful foliage to keep your mind off the golf game. What awaits you is 197 yards of fun on the uplifting double, tilting green that undulates from left to right while raising from front to back.

The 485 yard par five No. 9 travels downhill with trees close enough to get in trouble on both sides. If you are looking for a place to stay cool with an interesting left-sided waterscape, you have to wait until you reach the bottom portion of the fairway. There you will find a sculpted pond fronting the elevated kidney-shaped green that slopes slightly downward.

The back side starts the golf ball rolling on 523 yards of uphill, undulating fairway with some quality bunkering especially on the right side where the green says hello. They are not deep but widespread and the putting surface hanging large is noted for its sloping bottom-to-top characteristics. If you are looking for the best of Los Lagos’ three pars, the 177-yard No. 12 gets the grand prize. An expansive pond hangs wet from tee to green with safe but dwindling turf grass on the far right. The oversized putting surface is raised while curving from right to left.

Another par three that shows off its water attributes is the 148-yard No. 16 with aqua on its right quarter. Once the predominantly poa annua green is attained you will find it oversized and slightly undulating with breaks making its way from left to right.

The 583-yard No. 18 ends the Los Lagos experience with everything outstanding and superlative from tee to green. From the driving grounds you will see a faraway sculpted pair of fences as you get close to the clubhouse with fencing throughout the left side of the entire hole. As the well-groomed turf grass continues downhill, you will contend with a bundle of bunkers as the fairway turns right at the end of the course with a slight elevation. Putter land consists of semi two-level property that turns sharply from right to left

What brings out multitudes of golfers at most hours is the course’s lighted, two-tier driving range along with a restaurant and full-service bar. As the San Jose Mercury News said “Los Lagos, a beautiful oasis in the center of urban San Jose.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. BlkNGld

    Oct 2, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    No review of this course is complete without mentioning the mischevious red foxes that like to hang out in the bunker waiting for an egg, er, ball to steal.

  2. Golfer X

    Sep 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    nice course, good time, SJ is lovely this time of year…

  3. Nick

    Sep 5, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I would also recommend The Ranch if you are in San Jose. Tough track but beautiful and well conditioned. Flip side of the coin from Los Lagos. Not easy, not cheap, imaculately maintained.

  4. Gianni

    Sep 5, 2013 at 2:43 am

    Nice review. This is one, if not the top confidence booster courses in the south bay. The greens are iffy in certain spots, but within 15 feet they are predictable and makeable. The rough is usually thick and the fairways/tee boxes are not trimmed properly. However, every par 4 leaves a short iron in and 3 of the 5 par 5’s are easily reachable in 2. Its defintely a good buy every now and then on golfnow.

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska

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There are so many fantastic golf courses throughout the world, and it’s all of the incredibly varied fields of play that make the game so great to me. The most random places in the world can be home to some of the best golf courses. When deciding which course to write about next, it seemed natural to write about my personal favorite course in the world., which happens to be in a very unexpected place.

If you told me I could go anywhere in the world for a round of golf tomorrow, I would be blazing a trail to the area just south of Mullen, Nebraska and playing Sand Hills Golf Club. Sand Hills opened for play on June 23, 1995 and is one of the most natural golf courses you can find anywhere in the world. There was very little dirt moved and most of the money spent building the course was spent on installing irrigation. The course is built entirely on sand, and was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Bill Coore speaks on the design here.

For a bit more background, here’s an old CBS Sunday Morning segment on Sand Hills…

The course lies in the middle of the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which makes up about one-third of the state. The area has huge, natural dunes everywhere that are much more reminiscent of Scotland or Ireland than the flat part of Nebraska along I-80 that most people associate with the state. Because of the firm, mostly fescue, sand-based fairways at Sand Hills, and the ever-present wind, the course plays like a links course though the bent grass greens rival any top country club for speed and purity. In fact, the fastest greens I have ever seen in person were at Sand Hills in late September.

The course has a tasteful amount of variety and challenge. The three par 5s are of the best sets in the world and include 1) a fantastic mid-length par 5 starting hole that is one of the best starting holes in golf, 2) a very reachable but exacting hole in the 14th, and 3) in my opinion, the best long par 5 in golf, the 613 yard 16th.

The par 4s vary from the long uphill 485-yard monster 18th, to the 7th, which at less than 300 yards still sees a lot more 5s and 6s than 3s. The par 3s are masterful starting with the 3rd playing a little over 200 yards downhill to a sprawling side hill green where you can hit driver one day and 7 iron the next. The 6th is 185 yards slightly downhill to maybe my favorite green on the course with definitely my favorite hole location in the front left of the green to a semi-blind spot in a little bowl.  The 13th is a 215-yard uphill monster that can be the hardest hole in relation to par on the course. Lastly the 17th is a 150-yard work of art to a little triangle shaped green and is definitely in the discussion for best short par 3 in the world.

Aside from a great variety in distance of the holes, the topography also presents an amazing amount of variety on the ground. Due to the random nature of the bounce of the ball, the undulating and random fairway contours, and the wind that can blow in literally any direction, the course never plays the same twice. There are just so many great holes out there that I really wouldn’t argue with any of the 18 holes being someone’s favorite. Personally, I can’t name a favorite as it seems to change every time I think about it. The routing is fantastic with both 9s returning to Ben’s Porch, which serves as the home base for the course where people eat lunch, have a post-round drink and generally enjoy one of the best views in all of golf. The course has a good amount of elevation change but is a dream to walk with very short green to tee transitions. It simply is as close to perfect as you can get in my mind.

While the focus of my reviews are on the golf course and not the amenities, I would be remiss if I did not mention the down-to-earth, welcoming people that make up the staff at Sand Hills. Any time I’ve been lucky enough to be at the club I have felt more like I was visiting family and friends than a golf club. When you combine the welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the club, some of the best food in the world and my personal favorite golf course to play anywhere in the world, you have an experience so special its hard to put into words.

Enjoy the collection of photos below from Dan Moore, and make sure to check out my other reviews in the links at the bottom of the page!

Hole No. 1

Hole No. 2

Hole No. 4

Hole No. 8

Hole No. 9

Hole No. 13

Hole No. 14

Hole No. 16

Hole No. 18

Ari’s Other Course Reviews

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Wolfridge Golf Course in Angora, Minnesota

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s hidden gem was submitted by GolfWRX Member eboettne, and it’s called Wolfridge Golf Course located in Angora, Minnesota. Why did it make the list? Here’s what eboettne had to say:

“This 9 hole reversible course is located approximately 30 miles away from the acclaimed Giant’s Ridge and Wilderness courses that are usually the center of most MN golf trips. However, few people include this course in the itinerary and it should be. The trip to the course is memorable as you are deep in the northwoods and must drive down a long gravel road to arrive at the clubhouse. The course has elevation changes, rock outcroppings throughout, and is generally just a fun time. However, the most impressive part of the course may be that the entire thing is maintained by one man that lives in a house(the only one you’ll see) on the property. If you are going to make it up this way you’d be remiss to skip this gem.”

According to Wolfridge’s website, it’s $39 to play 18 holes with a cart any day or time of year, or $26 to walk. Twilight is $23 for unlimited holes (presumably before dark).

Do you have a favorite Hidden Gem course you think belongs on this list? Click here to submit it!

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: “Sweetens Cove Golf Club” in South Pittsburg, Tennessee

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here! 

Today’s Hidden Gem is our first ever double submission! That’s right, two GolfWRX members have now submitted Sweetens Cove Golf Club in South Pittsburg, Tennessee as their favorite Hidden Gem golf course. Here’s what they both had to say below.

bogey pro

“It’s a 9 hole course that is all about the golf.  It doesn’t have a fancy club house.  It’s minimalist and pure golf.  It’s always in excellent shape and very fun.  It is a real treat to play and people come from all over to play it.  I’ve never heard a bad word about it.  Its very similar to a links style course with rolling fairways, waste bunkers, large fast undulating greens.  From the website, it is ranked 50th in Modern Course and ranked #1 course in Tennessee for the last 3 years.”

FairwayFred

“While starting to get too much publicity to be considered a hidden gem it’s hard to argue that Sweetens Cove isn’t one of the best golf values in the country.  For $40 peak season you can play 18 at the #1 ranked course you can play in TN and Golf Weeks 50th ranked modern course.  What Sweetens lack in holes (its a 9 hole course) it more than makes up for with amazing variety, incredible green complexes, firm and fast turf and in my opinion the best set of artistic bunkers I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Rob Collins the principal architect (and now the head of the management team) built the course by hand with his partner Tad King.  Rob has OVER 700 days on site working on the build.  That is almost unheard of in golf course architecture and construction and is the main reason why all the little details at Sweetens are so good.  The main thing at Sweetens is playing golf there is about FUN which is not always the case.  Definitely one to seek out regardless of budget.”

According to the Sweetens Cove website, course rates range from $25 to $65 depending on the day of the week, time of the year and time of day. Also, they have a $100 play-all-day rate (with a cart) and a $60 walk all day rate. Sweetens Cove is located approximately 25 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

Know a local course that you can play for under $50 that deserves recognition? Submit your hidden gem here

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