The sport utility vehicle rolled up to the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Club in Irvine and one of the passengers poked her head out of the window and had a simple inquiry:
"Where is the bag drop here?"
No, there aren't any attendants to take your golf bag curbside and there is no fancy clubhouse at Rancho San Joaquin. But $100 green fees are also absent.
For $36 on the weekdays and $65 on the weekends, golfers can play one of the better conditioned municipal-type courses in the county.
Sure, it's on the pricier side of the economically friendly courses. But in this neighborhood, where Strawberry Farms and Oak Creek also reside, this 30-year-old course is a relative bargain.
And here's what Rancho San Joaquin offers the budget-conscious golfer for that extra $15-$30:
* Availability. Although the course hosts approximately 100,000 rounds per year, General Manager Scot Woodward said, tee times are fairly easy to get, especially on weekdays (I played in a twosome on a Monday morning).
Tuesday afternoon, a Saturday morning tee-time at 11:37 was available and there were even more Sunday morning times available (the pro shop did note that fewer tournaments and golfers play on the long holiday weekends).
Reservations also are available as many as 14 days in advance.
* Playability. The improved course conditions are a big plus.
"The greens are great, they've grown the rough some, the fairway coverage is better," said Tracy Roberts, who has coached golf at nearby Woodbridge High for the last 10 seasons. "It's in the best shape in years."
Because Rancho San Joaquin was built on a landfill, course superintendent Frank Page said he needs to small-tine aerate the greens every three weeks in addition to the normal major aeration--twice a year--like most courses.
Although several greens had already been aerated Monday, it did not have a drastic effect on putts. Page said the small-tine 1/4-inch holes have little impact after the greens have been mowed, and the trade-off is good, healthy putting surfaces.
The course is fairly flat and not long, measuring 6,299 yards from the blue tees. It's not overly taxing for the low handicapper, but the subtle, rolling layout with trees, doglegs and water, which comes into play on five holes, will keep mid- and high-handicappers challenged.
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Course: Rancho San Joaquin
Address: One Sandburg Way, Irvine, 92612
Phone: (949) 786-5522
Par/Yardage: Par 72/Blue 6,229, White 5,794
Rating/Slope: Blue 68.9/112, White (men) 66.7/109; (women) 73.1/121
Green fees (regular/twilight)
Sat., Sun.: $65 (cart included)/$30
Reservations: Up to seven days in advance, free. Eight to 14 days in advance, $4 per player for weekdays and $5 per player for weekends.