A private setting with public access at Malibu Golf Club

By Katie Denbo, Contributor

MALIBU, Calif. -- Thoughts of Malibu, for many people, include visions of sparkling beaches, crashing waves and a flawless southern California coastline replicated in many movies and television shows.

Malibu Golf Club - hole 7
Malibu Golf Club's par-3 seventh, at 194 yards, requires all carry over the lake to get to the green.
Malibu Golf Club - hole 7Malibu Golf Club - sixth teeMalibu Golf Club - hole 1Malibu Golf Club - hole 6
If you go

A few miles inland, though, Malibu offers sprawling acres of undisturbed mountains, ranches and tucked-away flags that make for a destination among the Los Angeles golf scene.

The public Malibu Golf Club is one of these hidden enclaves, navigating through Encinal Canyon and into the Santa Monica Mountains.

It's long ranked as a popular venue for celebrity golf tournaments -- like the Women in Film Celebrity Golf Classic. And some big industry names -- country crooner Glen Campbell and actress Tea Leoni, for instance -- tee it up on a weekly basis.

Many players choose to escape the chaos of the nearby city in Malibu. Malibu Golf Club's reputation of peace and quiet, while providing a private club experience, has drawn people to the area since the facility opened in the late 1970s.

"I like to say that Malibu Golf Club is how golf in Los Angeles was meant to be played," said Dan Mehelin, general manager of the club. "It's a beautiful setting, a great test of golf, and it's one of the best-kept secrets in L.A County, while only 45 minutes from downtown. People feel like they're escaping when they come to play out here."

Malibu Golf Club: The golf course

Malibu Golf Club is a 1977 Billy Bell, Jr. design that winds players up and back into the Santa Monica Mountains. An abundance of Italian cypress trees and other foliage flanks the 6,600-yard golf course from the first hole, adding a feeling of maturity but also requiring the use of extra balls if golfers struggle with their aim off the three sets of tees. Well-manicured Bermuda fairways are primarily narrow. Straight hitters benefit greatly, but a few holes provide wider and flatter landing areas. Greens range in size from small to medium, so a solid short game benefits.

Thanks to the golf course's position within the canyon, elevation changes are abundant. The first hole, a straightaway 398-yard par 4, gradually creeps uphill, while the next several play tight and angular. The most difficult par-3 hole comes on the fifth hole, a 236-yard shot on which, depending how the wind blows, club selection may vary from normal.

There's not much water on the golf course, but what water exists certainly can come into play. The 476-yard par-5 sixth hole requires a carry over a creek. A mishit left will land in a lake. The par-7 seventh, at 194 yards, requires all carry over the lake to get to the green. The dogleg, par-4 ninth also makes players approach the green over another water feature to round out the front.

As a whole, big hitters could be humbled at Malibu C.C., as control takes precedence from the back tees over length. With other tees set at 6,176 yards and 5,613 yards, golfers get their choice of different tee shot angles and more comfortable yardages from long par 3s.

"There are few courses in the area at this price, and of this caliber, that offer such a peaceful day of golf," said Jim Nelson of nearby Simi Valley. "You come out here and know you'll be golfing with few distractions. No traffic, no neighborhoods or noise -- just a nice day of golf in the hills."

Carts are required at Malibu Golf Club (walking is not permitted), although the GPS-equipped cart is included with the green fee.

Malibu Golf Club: The verdict

If you're looking for the beach and open views of the ocean that Malibu's image may communicate, you won't find them at Malibu Golf Club. If you're looking for an idyllic day in the footprint of the Santa Monica Mountains, this golf course provides an abundance of canyon views, elevation changes and a sense of peacefulness.

Don't be fooled by the 6,600-yard length, either; narrow fairways require some thought off the tee, while small-to-medium greens mean chipping and putting skills should be sharpened ahead of time. For the setting and quality of golf, the $65 to $100 green fees, including cart, provide a great value. And for another $25, golfers can test their game again with a same-day replay.

Practice facilities and instruction at Malibu Golf Club

Although Malibu Golf Club does not include a driving range, it does feature a netted hitting bay and complimentary golf balls to warm up a swing. Additionally, Malibu has an expansive chipping and practice putting green that rolls very true to the on-course greens. Malibu golf professionals offer individual and group lessons.

Katie DenboKatie Denbo, Contributor

A past editor and publisher of FORE Magazine, Katie Denbo is PR and Marketing Manager for the Pebble Beach Company. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and has traveled to golf resorts and properties all over the western U.S and Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @kdenbo.

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