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Southland Focus

SPORTS WEEKEND

March 20, 1998|MIKE JAMES, 12 handicap.

A weekly look at golf courses open to the public in Southern California.

Mt. Woodson Country Club

Address: 16422 North Woodson Drive, Ramona.

Phone: (760) 788-3555.

Green fees: $55-75 from Jan. 15 to April 15; $47-$68 from April 16 to Jan. 14.

Tee times: Seven days in advance.

The facility: This is a hilly, demanding layout with a 12,000-square-foot stone castle greeting golfers as they drive through the stone-walled entrance. Tucked in the mountains about 40 minutes from downtown San Diego, the course, open since 1991, winds through stands of live oaks and eucalyptus, over ravines and in between huge rock formations. The castle, on the National Register of Historical Landmarks, is open to the public.

The good: The course is short, even from the back tees, but far from easy, particularly for the directionally impaired. There are six lakes, trouble spots on every hole, undulating greens and extraordinary variety in the holes. This is a thinking player's course, where you can score well if you play conservatively and where gambles offer big rewards and big losses. The wooden bridge over an abyss to the No. 3 tee could be a new thrill ride at Magic Mountain. Fine conditions throughout. Exceptional service.

The bad: No driving range.

The score: Head professional Scott Welsh says, "We show where to land your ball off the tee, and we show you the trouble around it." He's right. Only thing is, when you're standing on the tee, there's a whole lot more of the trouble around it than landing area. Plan on bringing a few extra balls . . . but also plan on taking the time to play this course. It's worth it.

Overall rating: 3 1/2 balls.

* One ball: No-frills golf.

** Two balls: Worth an occasional round.

*** Three balls: Like shooting four strokes under your handicap.

**** Four balls: Where the golf gods play.

Rating/Slope: Black--68.3/130, Middle--65.7/124, Front--65.9/116

*--*

Hole Back Tees Middle Tees Par Front Tees 1 301 286 4 278 2 308 300 4 241 3 178 163 3 91 4 501 486 5 430 5 398 362 4 316 6 164 138 3 102 7 311 281 4 247 8 334 270 4 235 9 181 167 31015 Out 2,676 2,453 34 2,041 10 337 314 4 296 11 133 117 3 97 12 402 267 4 223 13 514 500 5 410 14 510 486 5 422 15 318 286 4 259 16 150 132 3 107 17 348 325 4 247 18 408 385 4 339 In 3,120 2,812 36 2,400 Total 5,796 5,265 70 4,441

*--*

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