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Hills and Trees Make Imperial a Challenge

April 15, 1993|PATRICK MOTT | Patrick Mott is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition

First of all, we'd better tell you about the mother hawk.

Yes, she's still out there, ranging around the course, but in the past few weeks or so she's been pretty well-behaved, according to head pro Bob Breeding.

You might remember her. She made national news about a year ago after she dive-bombed a handful of golfers who were getting too close to the young in her nest near the first fairway at Imperial Golf Course in Brea. Whammo! Talons to the noggin.

The folks at Imperial have since made great concessions to the mad mother, roping off an area near the first hole to keep golfers at a safe distance and distributing a flier in the pro shop that says, in part, "To avoid inhospitable encounters with the defensive mother hawk, visitors to this area are requested to stay clear of the roped-off zone. Golfers may take a free drop from the roped area in the drop zone to the left of the fairway."

All that and you have to hit it uphill, too. Built on a series of low, rolling hills, Imperial is not an alpine terror like Anaheim Hills, though it does require a bit of hiking and hillside play.

The recent rains have left the course in fine, green shape, although the greens have tended to slow down. The trees, in particular--willows, peppers and eucalyptus predominate--are a beautiful sight and are plentiful. And therein lies part of the challenge of the course.

Not overly long at 5,953 yards, Imperial places a premium on straight shooting and a bit of local knowledge. Although water is not plentiful (it comes into play on only three holes: 5, 15 and 16), there are a breathtaking 13 holes on which out-of-bounds markers threaten (14 if you count No. 6, on which you are out of bounds if you overshoot the green).

Yardages on many holes look accommodating on the score card, but even a gentle slope can make them play longer. No. 1 offers a good introduction: On this 445-yard par 5, the second and third shots are made at, and on, the side of a long hill, from which the lay of the green cannot be seen.

And there are a handful of man-made hazards that are not even part of the course and serve to remind the player that he is in a town whose name means "tar": grasshopper-type oil wells, many of which continue to produce. They are, however, neatly tucked into the layout and detract little from its beauty.

Placentia Avenue, however, is another matter. Extensive construction is underway to cut this street through a part of the golf course, and it forced--about eight months ago--a reconfiguring of the eighth and ninth holes. The most dramatic change, according to course marshal Joe Paioletti, occurred on the ninth, which was shortened from a par 5 to a par 4. Paioletti said he used to birdie the hole routinely when it was a short par 5, but now that it's a long par 4, he sometimes struggles to make par. He cautioned that the hole probably plays shorter than the indicated 460 yards--perhaps as much as six yards shorter--but it's still a test.

Still, it's unlikely you'll get dive-bombed by the mother hawk there. Pull out the driver and let it fly.

A Matter of Course

Imperial Golf Course, 2200 E. Imperial Highway, Brea, 92621.

Distance: 5,953 yards.

Par: 71.

Greens fees: 18 holes--$16 Monday through Friday, $22 Saturday and Sunday. Nine holes--$10 Monday through Friday, $13 Saturday and Sunday.

Carts: 18 holes--$20 Monday through Friday, $22 Saturday and Sunday. Nine holes--$10 Monday through Friday, $11 Saturday and Sunday.

Lessons: $25 for half hour, $125 for package of six lessons.

Amenities: Pro shop, restaurant, driving range, putting green.

Driving range: $2, $3 and $4 buckets.

Reservations: Weekdays, may call one week in advance, beginning at 6 a.m. Weekends, may call beginning at 6 a.m. the previous Monday. (714) 529-3923.

How to get there: Take the Orange (57) Freeway north to Imperial Highway and head east half a mile.

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