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General Is a Major Surprise

Road Trip / Tired of struggling to find a tee time in Los Angeles, then, if you do get one, playing 5 1/2-hour rounds on the weekend? If you don't mind getting behind the wheel for a while, there are plenty of courses in surrounding areas where tee times are available and the golf is worth the drive. Here's a look at some of those courses:

August 14, 2003|Mike James

The drive: About 65 miles from downtown L.A.

Address: 16700 Village West Drive, Riverside. (909) 697-6690.

Rates: $20-$29 to walk (add $11 for cart).

Overview: If you're looking for one of those modern layouts with perfectly manicured fairways, pool-table-level tee boxes and the landscaping-intensive look of the world's five-star golf resorts, General Old is not the place for you. But if you're looking for a good test of golf that won't leave you feeling as if you've been fighting through barrancas, tricked-up bunkers and target-golf fairways that are harder to hit than a one-iron, this course is definitely worth the trip. Don't be misled: General Old might appear fairly benign off the first tee. You can see where you're supposed to hit the ball; there's nothing gimmicky to get in the way and the hazards are for the most part defined and right in front of you. But if you miss the fairways, you can expect to see a lot more bogeys than pars. General Old has been around since the mid-1950s; it's a classic design with tree-lined fairways and lush turf that springs slightly under your feet. Shots in the fairways sit up nicely; shots in the rough might not. There are several dogleg par fours, though much of the course is pretty straightforward, with only moderate elevation changes. Virtually every hole is bracketed by sand traps that catch shots that stray much to the right or left. The course isn't terribly long, only 6,797 from the back tees, so if you keep your tee shots out of trouble, and you keep your second shots pretty much on-line, you can score here, meaning there is nothing unfair about this course. It's a very solid layout that penalizes bad shots and rewards good ones, something that isn't always true on a lot of tricked-up designs.

Free tips: The practice greens are very fast and true; the greens on the course generally aren't quite as sloped, so they might putt a bit more slowly, though they also putt very well. Also, take plenty of water during the summer months; it gets pretty hot in the afternoon in this area.

Nice touches: For budget-conscious golfers, this is about as good as it gets.

Snapshot to remember: The last day we played General Old, we were treated to an air show of massive cargo planes taking off and landing at nearby March Air Force Base. These planes hovering overhead seemed big enough to house the massive new putting green that is about to open near the clubhouse.

-- Mike James

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