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ON THE GREEN

SCPGA Courses Will Offer Variety

Golf: From back tees they'll be tough, but average players also will be able to have a good time.

May 17, 2000|MARTIN BECK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A golf course built by club professionals is bound to be tough. Guys who work and play at the same course day after day would quickly grow restless on a layout that wasn't challenging.

So it's no surprise that the PGA of Southern California Golf Club at Oak Valley and its two courses scheduled to open July 1 near Beaumont have some daunting statistics.

How's this for scary? The courses play about 7,400 yards from the back tees and have slope ratings of 141 and 144 yards. For comparison, PGA West's Stadium Course, so difficult that the PGA Tour no longer uses it, has the highest slope rating in Southern California at 150.

Golf architect Lee Schmidt, who designed the courses with partner Brian Curley, admits the PGA of Southern California courses are intimidating from the tips.

"If you go all the way back,' he said, "it's torture."

Fortunately, however, the SCPGA doesn't plan to put recreational golfers on the rack. The rear tees will be used only during significant professional events and from the more forward tees, the courses are more safe and sane.

Monday, the SCPGA previewed the Champions course, giving a small group of journalists a chance to play it at a manageable 6,348 yards.

The club, on nearly 500 acres of land across Interstate 10 from Oak Valley Golf Club, won't open for another month and a half. Set at an elevation of 2,500 feet in San Gorgonio Pass, the courses wind through rolling foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The courses continue the trend of new places to play in outlying Southland areas. The club is about 65 miles from central Orange County. Greens fees for the courses are moderate, $50 during the week and $75 on weekends and holidays, including cart. The walking rate for juniors 17 and under is $15.

The two courses--the other is called the Legends--have some significant differences. The Legends course plays through canyon areas dotted with many old-growth oak trees. Wind is less a factor there than on the Champions course, which has a more wide-open feel. The bunkers on the Champions course have wavy, ragged edges while the Legends' bunkers are more traditional. The SCPGA didn't want one course to be better than the other.

Even at 6,348 yards, the Champions course is plenty challenging with a 129 slope rating. Early users haven't found it overly punitive, however.

The fairways are wide enough, there are few forced carries from the regular tees and plenty of bailout areas.

"We want to provide the opportunity for people to go away feeling they've had a chance to make a birdie or two," said Jeff Johnson, director of golf operations.

Higher handicappers can get in trouble and probably will lose a few balls in the thick native grasses and brush. But the club plans to take some of the sting out of lost balls--and hopefully speed play by limiting searching time--by having its marshals give away free replacement balls to players who hit into the wild.

"We don't want people to feel we're trying to take them for everything they've got," head professional Scott Wilson said.

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