Mending with awesome value: Shandin Hills Golf Club in San Bernardino

By Judd Spicer, Contributor

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- An aging golf course can be a lot like a waning car: A little bit of love can go a long way.

Shandin Hills Golf Club - 4th hole
Large traps guard No. 4 at Shandin Hills Golf Club.
Shandin Hills Golf Club - 4th holeShandin Hills Golf Club 9
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Shandin Hills Golf Club

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3380 Little Mountain Dr
San Bernardino, California 92405
Phone(s): (909) 886-0669
18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6517 yards | Book online | ... details »

As recently as the winter of 2011, visitors to Shandin Hills Golf Club in San Bernardino would likely have described a course that was riding with a dented bumper and busted tail light.

Enter the mechanics.

"In the early part of the year, the presentation of this course was pretty consistent with the state of golf for some other courses in the area," said Tony Chavez, general manager at Shandin Hills. "Courses with very little capital improvements done -- they just look old and beat."

Under new management since March of 2011, this mid-1980s Cary Bickler design is no longer running on fumes.

Earnest in their desire to re-establish Shandin as an "Inland Empire tradition," the new brass has put several hundred thousand dollars into the course, with improvements that include an updated practice facility, removal of dead trees and the re-sanding of all 78 bunkers.

According to Chavez, the reinvestment in Shandin is being echoed by tee sheets:

"What I'm starting to see, and the feel I get from the golfers, is that the players that were gone are starting to come back. And that's huge."

It's notable that even with the new dollars, the cost isn't coming out of the player's pockets, making Shandin an excellent value play. To wit: The track maxes out at $45 (to ride during weekend mornings) and can be walked for just $10 after 3 p.m. seven days a week.

"We're trying to appeal to the market," Chavez said. "We're giving a lot of value. And we're hoping that formula pays off in revenues at a later point. We're not here to chase a quick buck."

Shandin Hills Golf Club: Windows of approach

Shandin Hills Golf Club is indeed on the comeback trail, though such an expedition can prove long and winding. To be sure, there's nothing that can be done about the course's proximity to urbanity (i.e., highway traffic), which does impinge upon the degree of solitude provided by the San Bernardino Mountain surrounds.

Bobby Valenz, a mid-handicapper from Fontana called Shandin Hills "a really entertaining course with a nice practice area."

"The fairways are generous," he said. "But then there are a lot of greenside bunkers, and the greens are pretty fast."

The player with a sanguine outlook will enjoy a host of engaging par 3s and revel in the challenge of 48 greenside bunkers placed about welcoming and well maintained putting surfaces. Moreover, the sand is well placed at Shandin and requires careful study as every hole has multiple greenside defenses, often shaped as corridors for approaches.

"I think the person that knows how to bump-and-run has an edge here," Chavez said. "But the greens are so receptive that you can't help but try and throw the dart at it."

The most pleasing stretch at Shandin comes via the three holes preceding the turn.

"All of the par 3s are very scenic -- No. 7 especially," Chavez said. "And as you're hitting downhill, you're also dealing with breeze."

Shandin's longest hole, the 556-yard, par-5 No. 8 ensues as a fine (and aesthetically pleasing) test for all players before the impressive (and deceptive) 380-yard, par-4 ninth curls left off the tee and presents one of the course's two lake water hazards, placed greenside right.

"The ninth is a good hole," Chavez said. "It's short, but water comes into play and makes it challenging."

Shandin Hills Golf Club: The verdict

Those who haven't played Shandin Hills G.C. for a spell should surely consider a revisit. Courses on the mend don't change overnight, but the new management is earnest in its drive to bring Shandin closer to its initial vision.

Players in especially warm climates (such as the Coachella Valley) should investigate in the autumn months when cooler temps and great rates provide Shandin Hills extra lure.

A full practice facility is present, and clinics are available to all levels of player. Added value comes via the very affordable and pleasing snack bar.

Judd SpicerJudd Spicer, Contributor

Judd Spicer is an award-winning, veteran freelance writer hailing from St. Paul, Minn. After 12 years of covering MLB, NBA, NCAA and the active golf landscape of the Twin Cities, he relocated to the Palm Spring, Calif. region to further pursue his golf work and Champions Tour dream. Sporting measured distance off the tee, Spicer refers to his pitching wedge as his "magic wand." Follow Judd on Twitter at @juddspicer.

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