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ON THE GREEN | CHIP SHOTS

Fontana's Sierra Lakes Worth a Drive

May 03, 2000|MARTIN BECK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

There's a Catch-22 element to building golf courses in Southern California. Most of the golfers live in urban or suburban locations, but most of the land available for courses is in outlying areas.

So developers are forced to push farther afield, building in communities on the fringes of the metropolis and trying to entice golfers to make the drive to their courses.

It's a strategy used by courses such as Eagle Glen in Corona and Goose Creek in Norco, which both opened in 1999.

The latest entry in this category is Sierra Lakes, which opened Saturday in Fontana. The Ted Robinson-designed layout is reminiscent of another Robinson creation, Tustin Ranch, the Orange County course that was a local pioneer in upscale golf.

Sierra Lakes, a slightly rolling layout, is still a bit rough around the edges--a few areas had to be re-sodded before opening day--but given a bit more time the course should become a Fontana gem.

Like Tustin Ranch, the course is set in a residential development. About 200 homes have gone on sale and eventually, the course will be ringed by 2,000 houses.

But Robinson insisted that houses not surround every fairway, said David Lewis, vice president of Lewis Operating Co., which built and owns the course. That design strategy meant fewer homes directly adjacent to the course and less sales revenue for the developer, but ensures the course's most memorable features aren't the nearby houses and condominiums. Robinson derides such courses as "golfaminiums."

"He kept us honest," Lewis said, "and turned this into a real golfers' course."

Golfers accustomed to Orange County prices will be thrilled to hear about the rates at Sierra Lakes. The weekend and holiday price, including cart, is $60. By comparison, Tustin Ranch is $135. During the week, Sierra Lakes is $42 Monday-Thursday and $49 on Friday.

Golfers of all skill levels will feel comfortable at Sierra Lakes, which, on smog-free days, offers views of both the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains. The fairways are generous and there's nothing tricky about the layout or the ample greens.

The course, carved out of a former olive orchard, plays 6,805 from the back tees, 6,435 from the blue and 5,324 from the red. With few forced carries and no environmentally sensitive areas bordering the fairways, you won't need to pack many extra balls.

You might lose a few, however, on the first two par threes. The fourth and sixth holes both require tee shots that carry lakes. The sixth is the course's signature hole and features an intimidating body of water in front of the green on the 195-yard hole.

But it's only 175 from the blue tees (and 161 from the white), giving those players a fair shot at hitting the green.

And that's typical for a course design that seems to have gone out of its way to be user-friendly.

"It's right there in front of you," head professional Rick Danruther said. "You don't see that much anymore. Most new courses are built on such small properties that they have to try to squeeze them in."

A unique drainage system handles all runoff from the course and the surrounding development. The water is collected in strategically placed waste areas and eventually percolates back into the ground water.

During dry times, the waste areas serve as giant bunkers on about half the course's fairways, including the huge S-shaped beach area on the 531-yard, par-five 18th.

Robinson said he's satisfied with the finished product.

"You're supposed to have fun when you are playing golf and be challenged, so that's the theory we have endeavored to create," he said. "It's a proper balance and we never know for sure if we have accomplished that until after people have played it.

"But I feel comfortable that we have done that in the case of Sierra Lakes."

CHARITY RECORD

The Toshiba Senior Classic announced this week that it has become the first Senior PGA Tour event to raise $1 million for charity in a single year.

Although the final round of the March event at Newport Beach Country Club was canceled because of rain, the tournament's net proceeds exceeded $1 million. The tournament was able to compensate sponsors for the shortened event and make a total donation of $1,001,000 to nine organizations.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, the lead charity and event organizer, received $900,000.

ANAHEIM CHAMPION

Pat Carrigan of Alhambra finished with a two-day total of two-under 140 to win the Anaheim City men's golf tournament Sunday.

Carrigan followed Saturday's round of two-under 69 at Anaheim Hills with a 71 at Dad Miller. Carrigan won by one stroke over Eric Wang of Cypress and three-time champion Hector Garcia of La Habra.

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