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A Round Here Is No Lark If You're Just Trying to Wing It

March 11, 1993|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

OK, so it's short. So was Al Capone.

At a comparatively shrimpy 5,750 yards, the par 70 Meadowlark Golf Course in Huntington Beach looks, on paper, like a patsy. Don't believe it. You might step up to the tee at the 262-yard eighth hole, say, and entertain sweet visions of coming out of your shoes and driving the green. But chances are you'll miss the green, and if you miss, chances are you'll do no better than par.

This course won't necessarily pummel you, but it could nibble you to death. If you fancy yourself a long hitter and think that that will carry you through to a low, low score, you may be frustrated. Here, accuracy pays.

"Our difficulty," said club manager Jack Henry, "is not in the length, but around the greens. Most of them are elevated and have contours around them, and that makes getting up and down in two very difficult. If you miss to the right or the left, or if you're over the green, you generally have a very difficult chip shot to get back. It's very hard to judge the kick you're going to get off the hill. If you're going to miss it, the place to miss is short. That way you have a clear shot into the green and you can have control over the shot."

This course isn't exactly booby-trapped, but it punishes overconfidence, and you need go no farther than the first hole to discover this. No. 1 is also the No. 1 handicap hole, a 450-yard par four with a large lake down the right side to swallow slicing tee shots. It requires a pair of long, straight shots, and it's worth staying out of the rough. It's fairly long and difficult to hit out of with any distance.

Other par-four holes appear more mouthwatering on the card, but beware: They all play longer than they look, for one reason or another. No. 6, for instance, at a mere 255 yards, can ring up eagle dreams in your eyes until you realize that the green is guarded on two sides by a small lake. Pull a driver and drown. It may cause pain in the go-for-it player's soul to do it, but the club off this tee is probably a four-iron.

The front nine, which is played on a mostly flat plateau on the northern end of the course, is kinder than the back side. Most of the second nine plays around through contoured, hilly little hollows that are bordered by many varieties of mature trees. The 395-yard ninth, one of the toughest on the course, plays up a fairly steep hill bordered on the right by thick trees. The extra difficulty, however, is offset by what Henry called "as pretty a nine holes as you'll find in this area."

Water is a recurring feature on Meadowlark, and by the end of this year it's going to be even more dominant, said Henry. Little ponds are strategically placed on many holes, he said, to offset the shortness of the course and trick it up a bit--"to make it play more interestingly," he said. The largest body of water, however--the lake between the first and 18th fairways--will be expanded to "two or three times its length" as part of an irrigation reconstruction project this year, said Henry.

For the golfer trying to begin or end a round well, that news is likely to be, well, interesting.

A Matter of Course

Meadowlark Golf Course, 16782 Graham St., Huntington Beach, 92649.

Distance: 5,750 yards.

Par: 70.

Greens fees: $15 Monday through Friday, $20 Saturday, Sunday and holidays. $11 senior rate Monday through Friday until 11 a.m.

Carts: $18.

Lessons: $25 per half hour.

Driving range: $2.50, $4.50 and $5.50 buckets.

Reservations: Restaurant and full bar, lighted driving range, putting green.

How to get there: From the San Diego (I-405) or Garden Grove (22) freeways, take Bolsa Chica Road south to Warner Avenue. Go left on Warner and left on Graham Street.

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