Strawberry Farms Golf Club in Irvine: Secluded sand canyon golf draws big league stars
IRVINE, Calif. -- Mark McGwire will still be hitting the long ball this spring, it just won't be for the St. Louis Cardinals.
It will be at Strawberry Farms Golf Club.
McGwire, who broke Roger Maris' season home-run record in 1998 with 70, has been seen taking golf lessons at Strawberry Farms and just purchased two adjacent lots in the exclusive Shady Canyon area next door, which also includes the brand-new Shady Canyon Country Club.
Strawberry Farms G.C. was a natural for an ex-major leaguer like McGwire -- the golf club was developed by Doug DeCinces, former California Angel third baseman. Just inside the front door you will find countless photos of major leaguers who love golf from hockey, baseball, basketball and football -- folks like Roger Clemens, Deacon Jones, Sparky Anderson, Teemu Selani and Terry Donahue, just to drop a few names.
"We have so many professional athletes out here that you can lose count," said Strawberry Farms G.C. General Manager Rick Howard. "I'd love to take a photo of these guys sitting in a golf cart. Some of them are so big that you see a cart driving off and half of both golfers' bodies are hanging off the sides of the golf cart."
Strawberry Farms Golf Club was designed by Jim Lipe of Jack Nicklaus' design team and opened in 1997. The 6,700-yard, par-71 track traverses through former strawberry fields, and to this day, part of the acreage, as you drive into the property, is still farmed. It's a rare pastoral setting inside one of the world's most populated metropolitan areas.
The clubhouse will immediately grab your attention with its farmhouse look and authentic 1929 Nebraska windmill in front of the building. A big red barn sits just behind the clubhouse and is used for cart storage as well as banquets, weddings and corporate events.
Strawberry Farms, located near the University of California-Irvine, is also characterized by granite hillsides, rugged canyons, wetlands, waterfalls and a 35-acre reservoir that is the centerpiece of the back nine. The course also skirts the old Sand Canyon Creek and its rural charm makes you forget about the hustle and bustle of the nearby freeways.
"This is definitely the place to come when you feel big-city pressures getting to you," said Ralph Glover of Pasadena. "You don't hear any highway sounds back in the canyon and you just feel like you are out in the country, away from any kind of negative things that might be going on in your hectic life. The golf is great."
The 10th, a 337-yard, par 4, is intimidating from the tee, especially if the wind is in your face, but it's really not that scary. Your view is the huge Sand Canyon reservoir and the tee shot has plenty of opportunity to be wet.
The par-3 11th, is 180 yards of hit-it-straight golf. If you don't you will be in trouble. It borders the right bank of the huge lake.
When you reach the 631-yard, par-5 12th, you are back in the deepest part of Sand Creek Canyon and the scenery includes roadrunners, cactus, grass hollows, bunkers, mounds and the new fairways of Shady Canyon Country Club.
Heading home you will face water and the scenic risk-reward 18th, a 404-yard hole that features a rock wall to the right with water cascading down, a pot bunker and a steep drop-off left of the green to a deep ravine.
Strawberry Farms' fairways are Bermuda Tifway II and the smooth greens are SR1020 bent grass. You will love the conditions, the scenery, the friendliness of the staff and most of all the feeling that you are far out in the country. If you ever visited nearby Knott's Berry Farm, now an amusement park, way back in the 1950s, that's the feeling you get from a visit here.
February 21, 2002