Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bishop Country Club - Bishop, CA

Every year my friends and I visit the Eastern Sierras in June for our annual “Guys Fishing Trip”. This year marked the 9th year that we have been going up, and every year presents a new adventure. It seems that every year we have gone up there, we have always talked about wanting to squeeze in a round of golf as well. Usually the course that is discussed most often is Bishop Country Club located in Bishop, CA. I assume we talk about that course most often because you can’t miss it driving up to the Mammoth and June Lake area. It’s located directly off the 395 just as you enter Bishop. So this year I called the course a few days before our trip and spoke to the manager asking if we could play the course and review it. He was very accommodating and more than happy to welcome our group. So our group headed up the 395 early Wednesday morning and arrived in Bishop around 1:00. The staff was amazing at BCC. From the generosity of the management, to the pro shop help and service. I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with them. What a great start to the round.
The first thing I noticed when we began our round is the overall course layout. Even from the first tee, the course seemed to be wide open which definitely helps the beginner golfer. But as I played the course, there were also challenging holes including long par 3s and occasional water hazards. You also notice the view as you start playing. It’s really amazing to be teeing off with a large mountain range as your backdrop.
I was also impressed by the conditions of the golf course. I know that Bishop can get pretty hot in the summer, and I was planning on seeing dry fairways and sun-scorched greens. On the contrary...the course was well maintained and watered, and the greens were in great shape. This was another pleasant surprise.
Hole #1 started with a pretty traditional 377 yard par 4. You don’t want to hug the left side of the fairway on your first tee shot. The fairway is not only adjacent to the driving range, but also is lined with trees and a fairway bunker. A few of us found that out the hard way.
Hole #2 is a wide open par 5 measuring 523 yards and is reachable in two shots. My brother-in-law and I both were on in two. His two putt and my three put was the difference between a birdie and par. From there, hole #3 is a par 4 with a slight dogleg to the left. Large trees guard the left side at the dogleg, and a perfect tee shot is placing the ball directly over those trees to a short second shot to the green.
Hole #4 is the first of some lengthy par 3s measuring 193 yards. Going long on this hole will find your ball down a slight slope in dried grass and dirt behind the green. Hole #5 is a 489 yard par 5. Water guards the front of the green making a long second shot a gutsy play. A tee shot with a slight fade is ideal since a large tree also guards the front left of the green.
Moving on through the rest of the front nine, all of the holes and conditions played nicely. As stated before, the fairways and greens were in good condition, and the rough was just thick enough to drastically slow your ball down on errant tee shots.

“The course is forgiving enough, allowing you to make a few mistakes if you follow those up with quality shots. I would highly recommend packing your golf clubs next time you plan on visiting the Eastern Sierras.”

As we moved to the back nine, the course greeted us with a few more challenging holes than the front nine in my opinion. It all started with the par 5 tenth hole measuring 558 yards. I noticed on this course that since it is so open, longer hitter can definitely attempt to reach most of the par 5s in two shots. A slight breeze in the afternoon will temper some expectations though.
Hole #11 is a short 397 yard par 4. My most memorable shot was on this hole. After I bombed a long drive down the right side of the fairway, I had about 90 yards left. But I was located on an upslope behind a huge tree. I took out a pitching wedge knowing I was going to need a little more club to hit it so high. The second shot barely cleared the tree and settled on the middle of the green. I’m sure the flight of that ball was higher than it was long.
I feel that hole #12 is the toughest hole on the course. It only measures 392 yards for a par 4, but the tee shot has numerous possibilities for producing high scores. First of all, large trees are scattered throughout the fairway making accuracy important off the tee. On top of that, water carries down the entire right side of the fairway gobbling up any slices or strong fades.
As we finished up the back 9, the four of us had an amazing time. How often do you get to play golf in the mountains where you can spot trout swimming in the creeks that run throughout the course? Overall I played pretty well shooting 8 over par. The course is forgiving enough allowing you to make a few mistakes if you follow those up with quality shots. I would highly recommend packing your golf clubs next time you plan on visiting the Eastern Sierras. We have been talking about doing it for years, and we were finally glad we did so. Thanks again to Bishop Country Club for their awesome hospitality, and we’ll see you next year.

Bishop Country Club is located at 1200 S. Hwy 395, 1 mile south of Bishop on Highway 395 in Bishop, CA. Their phone number is (760) 873-5828, and their website is


Friday, January 22, 2010

Friendly Hills Golf Course : Whittier, CA

For this month’s golf course review, I had the privilege of playing golf at Friendly Hills Country Club located in the hills above Whittier. This historic club and golf course was established in 1968. Many who are not familiar with the area are not aware that Friendly Hills Country Club exists. I was even told by Dave Goodrich, General Manager/COO that many Whittier locals in the area are even unaware of the country club’s location. After having the chance to play the golf course and tour the facility, I highly recommend taking the time to get to know this private club. I was impressed not only with the club and golf course, but also the courteous staff as well.

Friendly Hills Country Club is more than a golf course. The club boasts numerous activities for a great overall country club experience including swimming, fitness, tennis, dining, annual socials, and more. Friendly Hills offers 4 lighted tennis courts with a professional teaching staff. The club offers junior tennis and special events such as Ladies Day, Twilight Tennis, Mixed Doubles, and a pro shop for all of your tennis needs. Friendly Hills also offers a heated Olympic-size swimming pool. Along with their main pool, they feature 1 and 3 meter diving boards as well as a toddler pool. The club has a swim and dive team called the Unicorns, and they regularly place high in the summer Sunkist League competition. After a long tennis match or swim, you can take time to work out in their fitness center, which includes elliptical trainers, bikes, treadmills, free weights, and machine weights.

To go along with all of these activities, the club boasts casual and elegant dining for the members. The upstairs restaurant offers gourmet a la carte dining on Thursday and Friday evenings with elegant ambience that is both intimate and magnificent. Their vaulted high-beamed ceilings and stately chandeliers help accentuate bay windows which offer panoramic views of the golf course. With a menu of American and Continental cuisine complemented by their extensive wine selection, you will surely find something to satisfy your palate.

Their lower dining room and grill offers an opportunity to meet friends for a quick bite before a round of golf or entertain business associates while overlooking Friendly Hills' signature first tee and eighteenth green. Available six days a week for breakfast and lunch, the lower dining menu selection appeals to those either looking for a relaxing lunch experience or something “on the go”.

Speaking of the first tee, what a great way to get introduced to this golf course. The unique first tee of Friendly Hills is located on a small island surrounded by water. This was definitely a first for me and a clever element at the beginning of the round. This was my first time playing Friendly Hills, and I was impressed with the course and the layout as well. The dramatic elevation changes designed by James Wilfred “Billy” Hines makes this a challenging and scenic golf course. Many of the holes on the course offer a view of the ocean and Catalina Island on a clear day. As we arrived early in the morning, we warmed up on the grass driving range and putting green. As our practice came to an end, we were introduced to Dave Goodrich, General Manager and COO of Friendly Hills. Dave decided to play the first nine holes with us and help familiarize us with the course. His course knowledge and guidance was a plus as I tackled this course for the first time.

As I spoke of earlier, the first hole tees off from an island surrounded by water. It makes for a fun and interesting tee shot. The first hole is lengthy playing uphill and measuring 567 yards from the back tees. Dave informed me that he has only seen two players actually making it on the green in two. Hole 2 is a par 3 measuring 191 yards, and the day we played the flag was tucked in the back right corner. As we putted on this hole, I noticed the elevation changes of the greens. Dave informed me that many of the greens on this course had some heavy elevation changes and that approach shots were critical to good scoring. As the round progressed, he wasn’t kidding. Hitting the right iron into the greens proved the difference between a one or two putt vs. a three putt or more.

Hole 3 is an interesting par 4 because the club provides two different sets of tees boxes. Dave told us that the tees boxes were changed on a regular basis. The first tee boxes require a fade, while the other tee boxes require a slight draw. This was another unique feature to this course. The fourth hole was a beautiful elevated tee with a view of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. With a downhill drive and an open fairway, this 458 yard par 4 plays a little easier than the yardage suggests.

The 5th hole is a uniquely laid out par 4. With the yardage at only 319 yards, it seemed easy enough. However, teeing off presented a serious left dogleg required an iron off of the tee rather than a driver or 3-wood. Knowledge of this green was key, as there is a severe elevation change with a shelf on the left side of the green. Knowing where the pin is placed will help on your approach shot. As we continued with the remaining front nine holes, Dave helped us with the optimal drive location for each hole and approach shot placement. As we finished the front nine, we stopped in for a quick casual bite to eat before tackling the back nine. Thanking Dave for his assistance with the front nine, we moved to the back nine.

Hole 10 is a short par 4 measuring 339 yards. Accuracy off the tee though is crucial here, because if you lose your tee shot on either side, there will be trees to deal with making it tough to get on in regulation. As we moved to hole 11, a 388 yard par 4, we noticed a water hazard on the right side of the fairway. This hazard definitely comes into play with a driver or 3-wood, so play it safe or hug the left side of the fairway. As we moved on to hole 12, there are heavy trees on both sides of this short par 4 making your tee shot accuracy all that more important. Hole 13 is a long par 3 measuring 199 yards. This green is guarded by bunkers in front and the wind may be in your face, so make sure you have enough club to carry onto the green.

Moving on to hole 15, this shorter par 5 measuring 499 is more difficult that the yardages suggests. The tee shot is fairly narrow with danger to the right. Going for this green in two can be tough, with trees heavily guarding the fairway and a water hazard in front of the green and to the right. This green also was severely elevated from back to front with two tiers, so flag location is important to be aware of. The 16th hole is a long 221 yard par 3. This hole also seemed to play a bit further than the yardage indicated due to the slight breeze in our face. As we played 17 and approached 18, the hole presented a great view and challenge. This par 4 measures 393 yards and plays downhill. But there are a few issues to contend with on this hole. First, if you go left you more than likely will be OB or stuck in the trees. Going right will put you either OB or stuck behind a large tree guarding the green. A perfect tee shot on this hole is to start it down the right side of the fairway and let it run to the middle or left-center of the fairway. Then it’s just a short pitch into the green.

We thoroughly enjoyed playing Friendly Hills, and were very appreciative that Dave Goodrich invited us out. Memberships for the country club are extremely reasonable, and they are in the middle of rebuilding the locker rooms and other areas of the club. With all of the activities, events, and services they offer, you owe it to yourself to contact them today to find out more information about joining. You can reach Dave Goodrich by email at, or by phone at 562-698-0331. He will be happy to assist you with any questions you may have. I’m looking forward to returning to the club and playing this golf course again.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hacienda Golf Club : La Habra Heights, CA

My golf course review is a little different this month. Normally my reviews consist of public courses, however this month I am reviewing a private course and golf club. We figured that since the core readership of the Hills and Heights Newspaper is located in the La Habra Heights area, that we should take the time to review a golf course that is local and appreciated by many. I had the opportunity to speak with Mark W. Costa, Vice President, Marketing & Membership Development at Hacienda Golf Club and he agreed to have their golf course and club reviewed. To be honest, Haceienda Golf Club is one course that I was unfamiliar with as well as the La Habra Heights area in general. Mark told me that I am not alone and that many people are not familiar with the close knit community and golf club. After having a chance to view the course and learn the history behind it, I gladly accepted the invitation to visit and review this historic course.

The Hacienda Golf Club was originally established in 1920 by Alphonso Bell. The course was designed at the same time by William Watson, one of the most prolific and well-known golf course architects of his time. I was not aware that this golf course was one of the first courses established in Southern California. In 2005, John Harbottle renovated the golf course while remaining true to the William Watson design. Hacienda Golf Club has been host to many golf tournaments including Ladies U.S. Open Qualifiers, USGA Amateur, and a possible LPGA tournament in the future. Beautifully laid out in La Habra Heights, this par 71 6,925 yard course is a golfer’s dream.

When we arrived at the club, I was greeted by the helpful and friendly staff. Since I had never been in the La Habra Heights area, I really didn’t know what to expect. This course and club is tucked away in the beautiful hills and surrounding homes with a view to the Pacific Ocean from the clubhouse. The modern and lavish clubhouse that was built 4 years ago was one of the first things to catch my eye (see photo on next page). The architecture and design of this building is exceptional. Mark informed me that during clear days and evenings it’s not uncommon to see Catalina from the patios.

We warmed up on the driving and putting range before our round. I noticed that the practice greens were amazingly manicured, and it turned out that the entire course mimicked the practice greens. These greens were some of the nicest greens I have ever played. They were a little quick, but it was nice to line up a putt and know that it would stay online as compared to some local public courses in the area. I was warned before the round from a friend that the greens were too fast, but I disagree. They were quick, but very fair and smooth.

We had the honor of playing with the course superintendent, Rafael Barajas. Being a quality golfer and the superintendent at Hacienda for 15 years, his knowledge and history of the course made the round that much more enjoyable. Teeing off on hole 1 you are greeted with an elevated tee box to the fairway below. The black tees play 405 yards, and a fairway bunker lines the left side that can come into play approximately 100 yards from the green. The views from the first tee are amazing, with tree-lined fairways as far as the eye can see, and the view of the L.A. Basin and Pacific Ocean beyond. Hole 2 again played from a slightly elevated tee with room on the left for an errant tee shot. Hitting a slight draw on this 485 yard par 4 is an ideal play as you prepare for the lower-tier green.

Hole 3 is a tight dogleg right par 4 measuring 325. The green is blind and guarded by trees and a slight hillside, so laying up with a long iron, utility, or 3-wood off the tee is the best play to a well guarded green. Hole 4 is a par 3 measuring 185 yards. This green is also heavily guarded by bunkers, so assess where the flag placement is before deciding on a club. Hole 5 is a slight dogleg right par 4 measuring 475. Stay clear of hitting your tee shot to the right as it poses hazards.

Hole 6 is a long 235 yard par 3 with a small creek to the right of the green. If you are going to miss on this hole, miss to the left. Hole 7 is a par 5 measuring 585 yards. An ideal tee shot is playing a slight draw into the fairway. The second shot on this par 5 is usually pretty lengthy, and bunkers are placed in front of the green making a “run-up” shot nearly impossible. If you have the length and carry, you may be tempted to go for it. For the rest, a nice lay-up is your best play. Hole 8 is an interesting 445 yard par 4 in that it has 2 different fairways and 2 elevation changes. Your drive will be down the upper fairway which drops off at approximately 285-290 yards. From there is a large downhill shot to the green below. If you have a good look at the green, take one less club to account for the elevation change.

As you finish out the front 9, you will be faced with a 400 yard par 4 that has fairway bunkers to your left, and a stream to the far right. A false front guards the green to this fairly straightforward hole. As you make your turn for the back nine, make sure you take advantage of the free water and apples at the 10th tee. We joked around that the apples were some of the best we’ve ever had. Rafael assured us in a joking manner that they were “known” for their apples.
As you tackle hole 10, keep in mind that this 510 yard par 5 has a drastic dogleg to the left after your tee shot. Make sure that your tee shot is long and straight to take advantage of your approach shot. If your tee shot is short, you will find that laying up is a necessity as you will probably not be able to see the hole due to the dogleg and uphill green location.

Hole 11 is a relatively short 315 yard par 4. This hole has a severe dogleg to the right. Hitting a long iron or hybrid off the tee is probably your best play as you will have a short iron or wedge into the green. Hole 12 is a mellow 145 yard par 3, but don’t let the length lull you to sleep. Missing this green to the left in the large bunker will make an up and down par very difficult. The green is deep in length, so use that to your advantage when deciding on clubs, especially if the distance is in between clubs for you. Hole 13 is a pictuesque 445 yard par 4, with a dogleg to the left. Shorter hitters will hit driver off the tee, while longer hitters will hit 3 wood. The second shot requires a carry over a small ravine. If you leave your second shot short, you may roll down into the rivine below, making for a difficult and blind third shot onto the green.

Hole 14 is a 430 yard par 4 with trees on the right and out-of-bounds on the left. A well struck tee shot may still find its way into the rolling fairway, making for a slightly hidden or blind tee shot into the green. Hole 15 is a 380 yard par 4 that doglegs left. A tee shot with a slight draw will give you the best opportunity to find the lower elevation green. Hole 16 is a beautiful par 3 measuring 200 yards. This green is heavily guarded with bunkers on either side, and large pond in front. Make sure you use enough club to carry the water hazard. Missing right is the easiest miss with the right bunker being the most shallow out of the bunch.

Hole 17 is a 530 yard par 5, and can be tough if you are too long off the tee as I found out. There is a valley that runs across the fairway, and if you are too long your second shot will either be a blind shot or you may be faced with a downhill lie as I was. If you are playing from the blacks this probably won’t be an issue. But if you are playing from the whites or reds this definitely could come into play. The course finishes up with a 430 yard par 4. Trees guard the left and a fairway bunker guards the right. The approach shot to the green may be met with prevailing winds, so take that into account before selecting a club.

What a round of golf. Such a challenging and fun course. The course conditions couldn’t have been better, and these greens were indeed the best I have ever played. I am anxious to play again just to have the honor of playing on such true greens and maintained fairways. After the round was over, we met with Mark and Rafael in the grill and bar inside the clubhouse. We all enjoyed a time of amazing food and great company, talking about our round and the club in general. I noticed a few things about the club that I wanted to ask Mark about. I noticed that there was a swimming pool at the club, and Mark informed me that in the near future they will be redesigning both the swimming pool area and the driving range as well as bringing in a workout facility. The swimming pool is available to all members and friends, and features swim meets as well as a children’s swim and dive team.

After we finished our meal, Mark showed us around the clubhouse. Hacienda Golf Club not only features a grill and bar, but also a fine dining restaurant as well. This beautifully laid out dining room and bar overlooks the L.A. Basin below and is first class all the way. The clubhouse also features one large ballroom sub-divisible into two smaller rooms for weddings or private events. When asked how many people are currently members at the club, Mark informed me there were approximately 400 members. Of those 400 members, 40% are local while the remaining 60% reside in the surrounding areas.

Hacienda Golf Club offers 3 different memberships. They offer their Regular Equity Golf and Young Executive Golf memberships which include the use of the golf course and all facilities. They also offer a Social Membership which includes the use all of all facilities excluding the golf course. All members are allowed to bring guests as well to the club for golf and events. Speaking of events, the club is always looking for new ways to entertain its members. In September, they are hosting a “Supper Club on the Heights” featuring a performance by Grammy award winner and Oscar nominee Melissa Manchester. This will feature a show by Melissa Manchester, along with a four-course gourmet menu designed by their award winning Executive Chef Shushan Madenlian.

If you have been curious about becoming a member at Hacienda Golf Club or even if this is your first time hearing about it, you owe it to yourself to give Mark Costa a call and find out more information about this great club. Whether using it for family, social, or business opportunities, you will not be disappointed. This golf club exudes luxury and class with a welcoming attitude. Mark Costa can be reached at 562-694-1081, ext. 119 or by email at You also can find out additional information about Hacienda Golf Club online at

Corey Bogardus received his B.A. degree in Graphic Design and Fine Arts from Azusa Pacific University. He is the Editor-In-Chief of the Hills and Heights. He also heads up a company known as Trinitas Creative, a design firm which produces print and web graphics for companies such as the Hills and Heights. He has established himself and his company as a leader in design trends and effective marketing. You can visit them online and view their work at
His love for sports includes college and professional football, golf, basketball, hockey...and the list goes on. He is an avid golfer, and understands the finer points of the game.