Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club

I arrived at this course by accident, and everyone at the course was confused as hell as to how that happened. I initially planned to play Marine Memorial Golf Course in Camp Pendleton but did not bring the appropriate paperwork; securing a year pass to go on base is a bit of an arduous process. Being stuck in Oceanside, I looked north as I had heard good things about San Clemente Municipal Golf Course, but it was pretty crowded; they said it is similar to Torrey Pines. I called around a few courses and finally settled on Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo.  

The course was built in 2003 by PGA Pro Tom Lehman and Casey O’Callahan and played at slightly over 7,000 from the back tees. The course charged $125 to play after 2 PM, and after I took my cart to the range as a single, they paired me up with a guy and forced him to ride with me. It’s amazing how one minute you can be excited to play a new course, and they can ruin it a bit, and this was kind of indicative of how the experience on the course was overall. 

Arroyo Trabuco is a very scenic course. It winds around hills and canyons with hazards left and right on every hole. I would not recommend it for the casual golfer. The course was fun, but I would not say it’s very replayable. It is a slicer’s nightmare. While the fairways are vast on most holes and well maintained, it’s too harsh for many men who still insist on playing from the blue tees. It is very little rough, and the fairways run hard; you have to be very accurate off the tee. Course knowledge is also paramount, the course is a bit visually intimidating, and you need to know your lines. The guys I played with must have lost two dozen balls each, and understandably the pace was slow.   

The greens were also horrendous; very few putts were dropped this day.  They were rolling extremely slowly and were inconsistent throughout the course. I have played courses three times less expensive with better greens. My playing partner said he had been playing there for ten years, and this was the worst he had ever seen them. If the greens were rolling better, it would have been a better experience, but I left the course feeling conflicted about how to feel about it.
Another thing to note is the course website tries to justify its use of a demand pricing model by saying that the hotel and airline industry already does it. Not sure who this softens the blow for. It may be worth seeing once, but you are not missing much. I must note that the clubhouse, driving range, and restaurant are excellent. Still, I would rather spend a bit more at this price and play Monarch Beach. 

Notable holes

Hole 6 is a 295-yard risk-reward hole that most likely calls for an iron off the tee and then a wedge to an elevated partially blind approach shot over a ravine.  

Hole 12 plays 495 yards from the back tees. This hole requires two excellent shots to reach the green in 2, plays similar to Torrey Pines South hole 12. Birdie feels like an eagle here. 

Hole 18 This is fun. Phil Mickelson’s massive drive on hole 18 is commemorated with a plaque. The hole doesn’t play that long but requires two good shots to get it in two.

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