Strawberry Farms Golf Club in Irvine: Secluded sand canyon golf draws big league stars

By David R. Holland, Contributor

IRVINE, Calif. -- Mark McGwire will still be hitting the long ball this spring, it just won't be for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Strawberry Farms Golf Club
Strawberry Farms Golf Club has a rural charm that will make you forget about the hustle and bustle of the nearby freeways.
Strawberry Farms Golf Club
If you go

Strawberry Farms Golf Club

4 stars out of 5 (based on 1 reviews)
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11 Strawberry Farms Rd
Irvine, California 92612
Orange County
Phone(s): (949) 551-1811
18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 71 | 6700 yards | Book online | ... details »

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.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Slow play and bad PR.

    jj wrote on: Feb 25, 2009

    I was very disappointed to find after we played that the course restricts to only cart path on Monday and Tuesdays. It causes very slow play and a lot of walking because all of the course is roped off. We were told in the parking lot after play that this restriction existed on only these two days because players used discount golf coupons on these days.
    Too bad will not go back.


  • Bad service

    bigmccullum wrote on: Feb 15, 2006

    Would be a nice place if the pro shop guy (stocky caucasian guy about 5' 9) was better trained and less annoying.
    This staff is a jerk. He's very rude when we asked for information and gave us first time players a bad impression of the establishment. We were at the Strawberry Farm pro shop on Monday, 2/13/06 in the afternoon.
    Not going back for sure.


    • RE: Bad service

      bigmccullum wrote on: Feb 15, 2006

      The pro shop guy on 2/13/06 afternnon could be a caucasian or fair skinned Hispanic.


  • poor treatment

    Gary White wrote on: Aug 9, 2005

    Mr Howard is very hyped up on the big names that play the course but not the club members.
    -Disorganized check-in desk
    -Bag drop often not attended
    -No food service at the turn
    -Sometimes they are there to clean your clubs at the end of your round, some times not
    -Slow play, often stacked up.
    It's too bad. Its a pretty and challenging course. Just down the street is a very classy course, Oak Creek. Same price as Strawberry. But great service,
    all the touches of a class place. Towels, bottled water, air to clean your shoes, spike replacement, and great bag team. And the course is in great shape.
    I think we will keep our membership only at Oak Creek.


    • RE: poor treatment

      bigmccullum wrote on: Feb 15, 2006

      Thanks. I absolutely agree. I've the "membership" here as well as Oak Creek. I prefer Oak Creek.
      Strawberry Farms has dropped in standards.