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ON THE GREEN

Getting on Course Is Hardest Part of Playing San Clemente

Budget golf: Many arrive in the wee hours seeking tee times at one of Orange County's most popular layouts.

July 07, 1999|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They say the best way to get a tee time at San Clemente Golf Course is to buy a house within city limits.

While that might be stretching the truth a bit, it certainly wouldn't hurt.

Because of the reasonable rates, scenic vistas and comfortable climate year-round, tee times at San Clemente are among the most sought-after in Orange County.

Reservations can be made seven days in advance and, no matter what day of the week, dozens of players line up outside the pro shop hours before it opens, trying to secure prime tee times for the following week.

For weekend and holiday times, people often sleep in their cars to secure their spot in line.

It usually takes only 45 minutes until the following week is booked through 1 p.m.

Those who live in San Clemente have an advantage. Residents can purchase a resident card for a $40 annual fee. Card holders can make tee times a half hour before nonresidents. The card also gives discounts on green fees (see chart).

"It's tough," head professional Dave Cook said. "The best times are usually taken by the residents. We start taking times at 6 a.m. and after about 10 minutes the only times left are late morning and early afternoon."

It's not as grim as it sounds, however. A unique policy at San Clemente is to leave three tee times open every hour to accommodate walk-on players. That means 12 walk-ons get out every hour. The wait is usually reasonable, lasting about an hour during the week and two on the weekends.

"By the time you get a bite to eat and hit a bucket of balls, you're on the tee," Cook said.

Once there, you'll discover what all the fuss is about: The Pacific Ocean is visible from most holes.

The weather is also nice. It can be 95 degrees in Anaheim, Irvine and Santa Ana and it will be 75 in San Clemente, which explains why the course is packed throughout the afternoon every day.

At just 6,447 yards from its longest set of tees, San Clemente is defended by tight fairways and difficult-to-read greens that guarantee to inflict three-putts on even the best players.

The secret, they say, to putting on ocean-side courses is to remember that everything breaks toward the ocean.

The problem at San Clemente, however, was summed up nicely by one course regular as he pointed in three different directions on the first green.

"There's ocean there, ocean there and ocean there," he said.

The fairways are in good shape for a course that gets about 115,000 rounds a year, and the greens are slick and well-manicured.

If you manage to stay awake through the uneventful, straight and flat front nine, the back nine offers plenty to jolt your golf juices.

The 11th and 12th holes are par fives, with tight sloping fairways. The 483-yard 12th dares long hitters to go for it in two, but the right-to-left sloping fairway demands a tee shot to the right side to hold the fairway. Hit it a little too far right and you'll be in the street or in the front yard of a neighborhood home. Both are out of bounds.

The 13th is a tough, 205-yard par-3 and the 304-yard par-4 14th is uphill the entire way with a fairway that is about 50 yards at its widest point and progressively narrows up to the green.

The scenic par-3 15th is 196 yards downhill across a valley and it's all carry. The 405-yard 16th is the toughest hole on the course, with a sharp dogleg left across a barranca off the tee and then an approach shot that must carry a broad depression.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Course Information

Course: San Clemente Golf Course

Address: 150 East Magdalena, San Clemente

Phone: (949) 361-8384

Nonresident green fees (regular/twilight):

Mon.-Fri.: $25/$17

Sat.-Sun.: $30/$20

Resident rates (requires purchase of resident card):

Mon.-Fri.: $17/$7

Sat.-Sun.: $20/$10

Carts: $10/$7 (per person)

Par/Yardage: Par 72/Blue 6,447, White 6,114, Gold (Par 73) 5,722

Rating/Slope: Blue 70.6/121, White 68.9/117, Gold 67.0/113

Reservations: Up to seven days in advance beginning at 6:30 a.m. (6 a.m. for residents).

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