I had an amazing opportunity this weekend to go out and play Fairbanks Ranch Country Club as a guest. It was the nicest course I had ever played. All the amenities you could ask for, so here’s my review of the place. If you ever get invited, you must check it out.
Course: Fairbanks Ranch Country Club
Address: 15150 San Dieguito Road, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
Holes/Yardage: 18/~6600 yards
State-of-the-game: The weakest part of my game for a long time has been putting, and I’m busting my ass to make it the strongest. Another weak part has been green-side chipping. I’ll miss the green in 3. Then 1 chip and 2 putts, where I want to 1 chip and 1 putt for par. I just got a new driver and I’m crushing that about 270, 280. My approach irons are work-in-progress with some other things I need to work on.
First thoughts: This course was overwhelming. It’s freaking beautiful. I get there and there’s a grass driving range, which is something I haven’t seen since I got to California. There are a few pristine putting greens. I’m wearing a nice Nike golf polo and Nike golf pants and I get told to tuck in my shirt. I’m trying to find a cart and a worker takes my bag and sets it up on the cart for me. The cart comes with tees, a few towels, a ball/club cleaner, and even a TV to guide you along the course. I was overwhelmed and a little nervous going into the first tee. I learn that the course is set up so that there are 3 sets of 9 hole courses: Lakes, Ocean, and Valley. We’re playing Ocean and Valley. I head to the driving range about 45 minutes before my round to make sure I’m loose and ready to go.
The group I was playing with was playing from the whites so that’s what I decided to do as well. It ended up being about 6400 yards and very windy.
Lakes – Don’t bring your new Pro V1 set here. You’ll lose all of them. A lot of high weeds makes it easy to lose a ball while you need to club-up because you’re hitting into the ocean breeze the entire time.
#4, 300-yard par 4
My first 3 holes started out rough and I was excited to see this one. It’s a dog-leg right but you can see the green from the tee-box. You have 2 options: 1) Attempt a 240 yard shot over water and onto the green or 2) Layup 170-180 yards and then have a 120-yard approach. If you attempt the green like one of my partners did and got it on, you will reach a false front. He was on the green but had a 50-foot putt that was uphill. He 3-putted for a par. I laid up, not feeling like I could hit my 3-wood a reliable distance. I had 120 out, hit my ball over the green by about 50 feet and chipped in for par. Both of us got pars in different ways. If I was playing this course often, I would try for the green at some point, but this is a nice test of course-management skills.
#9, 430-yard par 4
This is where the course becomes difficult. There’s water all along the left almost like #18 on TPC Sawgrass at The Players Championship. When you’re playing this course for the first time, like I was, you’re not exactly sure where to aim. I ended up pulling my drive a little and going into the water. However, even if you end up on the fairway, the pin was middle left, and there was water jutting out just a little bit to make you cautious. This hole becomes a test of wits, and being able to block out any water fear.
Valley – The greens were very firm so you’d think putts would be rolling fast but they didn’t. Greens were firm and hard to get something to stick on them, but once you were on, you had to hit your putts fast.
#17, 160-yard par 3
I liked this hole a lot. It’s a little bit downhill, there are bunkers and then water all along the right-hand side. You can’t miss right, but going left brings in some tree-trouble that is unwanted. It was a shorter hole but still provided a challenge given the water. The green goes greatly uphill from front to back and with a front pin location this hole provided quite the challenge. I ended up hitting my iron straight but a few of my playing partners struggled with their tee shots and thus struggled with the hole.
I love this course. I’d play it again. It’s high-quality and oh man do they take care of you. It’s just very difficult. I missed a lot of greens as they are tucked away behind greenside bunkers. I’m usually up to about 6-10 GIR, but I only had 3. Fairways are very easy to hit though. I would like to believe if I played this course again I’d improve by about 5 shots because it’s such a feel course. You know the yardage on every shot but, and especially on the Ocean course, the wind plays such a large factor. If you get invited down here, please play it.
Final Grade: 9.7/10