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FOCUS ON GOLF | Road Trip / BLACK GOLD GOLF CLUB

It Might Leave You Gushing

February 20, 2003

Tired of struggling to find a tee time in Los Angeles, then, if you do, 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 new courses in surrounding counties where tee times are available and the golf is worth the drive. Here's a look at some of those courses.

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The drive: About 38 miles from downtown L.A.

Address: 17681 Lakeview Ave., Yorba Linda. (714) 961-0060.

Rates: $75-$95, includes cart. Discounts for Yorba Linda residents.

Overview: As municipal tracks go, this is about as good as it gets. Black Gold is owned by the city of Yorba Linda, but it's a far cry from the high-volume, low-maintenance muni layouts where golf usually isn't expensive but isn't out-of-the-ordinary either. Black Gold is barely a year old but lush enough to look far more mature.

The course traverses 219 acres of a former Shell Oil field high above Yorba Linda, wanders through environmentally sensitive areas that frame most holes. No. 12 has the highest elevation on any golf course in Orange County, at 750 feet.

There's a lot of home building going on around the course, and within the next 10 years, the remaining oil wells are expected to disappear as development expands. But there remains a wild quality as well, particularly after you make the turn to the back nine.

There's obvious effort at keeping the course in top condition, and multiple, large tee boxes on every hole ensure that the turf doesn't get worn there too. With five sets of tees, the course stretches from 4,937 yards to 6,756. You'll have good lies in the fairways, some very tough ones in the rough; the sand in the bunkers is consistent and the bentgrass greens, though still firm, putt true. Some excellent, long par threes and a great, par-five finishing hole to a water-guarded green at the clubhouse.

Free tip: Bring a few extra balls. There is no tree trouble, and the fairways appear fairly generous from the tees, but once you're off the fairway, those environmentally sensitive areas can gobble up balls quickly. In the fairway, nice lie; in the rough, challenging lie; in the scrub brush, bye-bye.

Nice touches: Old oil well drill bits are used as the tee markers; they make great cigar holders. A GPS system in each cart shows the hole's features and tells you just how far you are from the pin.

Snapshot to remember: If it's clear, you can see Catalina Island from several points on the course.

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