Eagle Crest Golf Club in Escondido is a golfer's paradise
ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- Most golfers will tell you that what they look for in a golf experience is a reasonably priced, well groomed course to completely (yet fairly) test their ability. San Diego's Eagle Crest Golf Club offers just that -- provided you have enough golf balls in your bag to complete the round.
Nestled in the valley of North County San Diego, just minutes away from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Eagle Crest is a golfer's paradise. Not the typical golf fare for the area, the course lies a good ways inland, away from the ocean views so often tied to San Diego. This course contains all the ingredients for an enjoyable four hours of golf: tight fairways, thick rough, and plush greens set in a beautiful desert atmosphere.
For a public course, Eagle Crest is kept in impeccable condition. The tee boxes are level and contain plenty of perfect grass from which to hit a clean tee shot. The fairways are in great shape and lined with deep, unforgiving rough. These deceptively fast greens are incredibly smooth, allowing your ball to roll true; choose a line and your ball will follow it.
Blind shots are few and far between at Eagle Crest; for the most part, what you see is what you get. There aren't many tricks to playing this course, assuming you can hit fairways and greens with some consistency. Accuracy, not distance, is the most important part of your game to bring to Eagle Crest.
This course, while fair, was designed to be challenging. There are houses, wetlands, or deep rough lining every fairway. If you can't find the fairway, you probably won't find your ball.
The first hole is a par 5 (467 yards from the whites, 492 yards from the blues), and depending on your tee time, you could be tempted to go after the green in two. In the morning, a wet fairway makes the hole play much longer.
If you don't quite have the distance to reach the green in two shots, greenside bunkers can swallow your ball -- and your chance at par. However, if you tee off in the afternoon, with a dry runway, the hole plays twenty to thirty yards shorter, leaving just a mid-iron to the green, and an eagle putt.
Eagle Crest's signature hole is the par-5 sixth (492 yards from the whites, 518 yards from the blues), flanked by homes on the left and an environmental preserve on the right. If you can put your drive through the narrow opening in front of the tee box, the hole opens up to a wide landing area. However, a group of fairway bunkers lines the left side of the fairway.
A good drive leaves approximately 240 yards to the green, tempting most big hitters to go after the green in two shots. Be aware of the pond that looms directly in front of the putting surface. If you leave your approach short, you're wet. The smart play is to lay up, leaving no more than a wedge to this well protected green. Making this hole even more spectacular is the huge outcropping of rocks to the left of the green, containing a beautiful waterfall that can swallow errant approach shots.
Hit your shot over the green and you may as well reach in your bag for another ball, as the environmental preserve that lurks behind the green is a black hole for golf balls.
Finishing off the front nine, the final three holes are a great test of every club in a golfer's bag. Number seven is a medium-length par 3 (180 from the whites, 197 from the blues) with small, flowerpot-shaped bunkers surrounding the green, reminiscent of the treacherous traps scattered throughout the many courses in the British Open rotation.
Number eight is a short par 4 (347 from the whites, 371 from the blues) that doglegs left, but if you try to cut too much off the dogleg, you could end up in one of the many fairway traps along the left side. Accuracy is a must on this hole, as it is possible to hit your drive through the fairway if you catch it well.
The ninth hole is another short par 4 (344 from the whites, 364 from the blues), this time with an elevated tee box. A pond guards this green as well, and hitting your drive too far off the tee may put your ball in the water. So a driver isn't always the smart play on this hole.
Eagle Crest Golf Club's back nine
The opening hole of the back nine is probably the most difficult drive of the day. Fairway bunkers line the right side of the 10th fairway, and a wooded area lines the left of this par-4. While the hole's official yardage doesn't strike fear into the hearts of golfers (405 from the blues, 419 from the whites), it plays much longer.
A long, straight drive is a must, as the green is slightly elevated and surrounded by traps. If you leave your drive short, reaching the green in regulation is impossible.
Eagle Crest Golf Club's 12th hole, another par 5, is a recipe for disaster for bold golfers who like to take chances. The hole begins with a blind tee shot on an uphill dogleg right. A good drive will bait many into going for the green in two. However, this 530-yard monster is virtually impossible to reach in two shots.
The landing area directly in front of the green is no more than 15 feet wide, with sand traps scattered all along the right side of the fairway. On the front left of the green lies a huge bunker at least 30 yards deep. Deposit your shot in this trap, and it may take two shots to get out.
Closing out the back nine, the 18th hole is another short par 4 (325 from the whites, 342 from the blues) with a marsh running through the middle of the fairway. Eagle Crest's picturesque finishing hole requires no more than a mid-iron off the tee, but demands accuracy from tee to green. This narrow fairway is once again lined by houses on the left and the environmental preserve on the right.
The approach shot is made more difficult by a multi-level pond to the right of the green. This two-tiered green is a three-putt waiting to happen if you put your shot on the wrong part of the green.
Eagle Crest Golf Club: The verdict
This magnificent golf course has something for golfers of all ability levels. Low handicappers will be challenged from the blue tees, and hackers will enjoy the well kept fairways and smooth greens, assuming they can find their shots off the tee. Average golfers will leave Eagle Crest totally satisfied with their golfing experience.
No matter how high or how low someone shoots at this course, there are birdies to be found among the pars, bogeys and "others." And that's what keeps people coming back.
April 21, 2003