Get a taste of Pete Dye at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, California
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- The Sky Course at the Lost Canyons Golf Club facility north of Los Angeles offers the chance to taste some of Pete Dye's diabolical traditional touches.
In recommending this course to someone, I would point out that, at 6,750 yards or so from the gold tees, a slope rating of 143 is too low. I would also stress patience. This isn't a golf course that yields anything easy. When Dye goes all out, the result is a golf experience that will linger and linger.
He fit the course to the land and did well to account for steep rises and drops in elevation. It's definitely a cart course. It has back-to-back par 5s on the front, the former a twisting, uphill snake, the latter a "blast and blast again" through the flatlands. But the grind gets dramatic on the front's last three holes.
The bunkering around the long, par-3 seventh, the prevailing wind on the uphill, par-4 eighth and the long, forced carry into the wind over a small lake on the ninth tee constitute a stretch that can ruin a scorecard of the avid amateur. It can also do damage to the game of a major championship winner, such as Fred Couples, whose name stands next to Dye's as co-designer.
Perhaps that's why the course has such demanding features: It's been designed to hold competitive tournaments.
Lost Canyons' Sky Course: How it plays
Both nines open with short par 4s. Both play downwind in the prevailing afternoon breeze for a 3 wood/lob wedge combo. But typical of Dye is that the greens are well protected, and their uphill approach shots make it difficult to judge distance.
Both approaches have to be very precise to get close to the pin. The first green is quartered with ridges for difficult putting. The right side of the 10th green is guarded by a sheer wall of grass that raises nearly 40 feet. And it is Bermuda, which means the ball tends to hang up on the steep slope, creating a stance more familiar to mountaineering than golf.
The bunkers left of the par-3 second is pure Dye -- a sheer wall of grass rising at least eight feet from the sand to the putting surface. Naturally, the bunkers are on the left side of the green, and the wind predominately blows right-to-left.
The 11th hole -- a 435-yard, dogleg-right par 4 that rises from the tee and then slopes down towards the green -- might be the best on the course. A good tee shot leaves one 170 to 190 yards out, and with the green set against the backdrop of a steep, rocky, brown sage-covered Santa Susanna Mountains, it gives off an "end of the world" look.
Typical of Dye, the 12th tee sits behind the green. And that one is a downhill, 580-yard par 5 that has a slanted landing area that can kick the ball further toward the green. Of course, miss too high on the right, and you're faced with more uneven lies out of longer grass. As a friend says, "No bueno."
Of note is that I did not see a ball washer on any hole. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places. Also, it had been a week of punishing heat in the valleys north of downtown Los Angeles, and the Sky showed the wear. Yet Dean Weinstein, of Anaheim, drove more than 60 miles to play it.
"It was a good deal on GolfNow.com, so I thought I'd try it," said Weinstein. "It's not easy the first time around. It's a pretty tough course."
Lost Canyons Golf Club's Sky Course: The verdict
The topography is hilly and rocky land, but add in Dye features such as steep bunker complexes, near-vertical walls protecting greens and the need for a high degree of precision to judge uphill and downhill approaches, and the Sky at Lost Canyons adds up to a demanding examination.
The yardage isn't so punishing, just the recoveries from errant shots to the greens. That's where Pete Dye exacts his pain. In interviewing him more than 10 years ago when he was designing Trump National, he told me the secret to his courses.
On approach shots, he said, if you're short or long but in the middle, you'll be fine. Miss on the sides -- like a slice that comes in sideways -- and he'll make it difficult.
For those who want to know what tough golf can be, the Sky is as good as any in terms of a stern test. At the same time, there's nothing wrong with taking it easy. In that vein, it's a "1-up" course. If you normally play one set of tees up from the back -- traditionally called the "blue" markers -- try the Sky further up, meaning shorter.
That would be 6,200 yards or so, and it's plenty. It saves on the Advil.
August 28, 2012