Play this course, you will not be disappointed!
The course described above is none other than Hunter Ranch. This par 72 golf course, developed by Kenneth H. Hunter, Jr. who also developed two other well-known golf courses (La Purisima and Sandpiper), is a great course for both novice and skilled players. Rated 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest, Hunter Ranch is expensive relative to other courses in the area; green fees are $55 for 18 holes without a cart while other courses are around $23. Thus, the course is never busy; the locals are seemingly not willing to pay these "high" green fees and the course cannot benefit from being near a major metropolitan area. For those able to get to Paso Robles, CA, a great course at a great value awaits you. I drive over 200 miles from San Francisco to meet a buddy of mine who also drives 200 miles from Los Angeles - Hunter Ranch is the perfect stage for me to kick his butt in a $5 nassau. I have a 11.2 handicap and I absolutely LOVE this course. It easily ranks within the top 10 courses that I have ever played (I have probably played over 200 different golf courses in my lifetime). The reasons are numerous and are outlined below:
Not only does the course play quite different from each set of tees, but the front 9 is also very different from the back nine. These differences make the round very challenging and tests your ability to hit different type of shots. The holes on the front nine have relatively large landing areas for your drives (although they are well bunkered) while the holes on the back nine are tight. My favorite holes on the course are (1) #6 - a 495 yard par 5 with a tree in the middle of the landing area for your drive forcing a tricky lay up shot to a well protected green, (2) #10 - a short 308 yard downhill par 4 to a very back-to-front undulating green past a small creek with a large oak making approach shots from the right difficult, and (3) #11 - a 346 yard straight par 4 with a downhill approach shot over a large lake.
Courteous staff working the clubhouse and restaurant add to the enjoyment of the golf course. There are mens and womens locker room facilities that provide an ample area to change and freshen up before or after your round (just bring your own padlock). The food at the restaurant is great - try the beef tri-tip sandwich if you get a chance!
Having played the course over 20 times at various times during the year, I can attest to the overall great conditions of the course. I think that most golfers will agree that the single most important aspect that affects the playability of a course is the conditions of its greens. Well, the greens at Hunter Ranch have always been excellent - they are very fast and roll true. The undulating greens are difficult but not outrageous and add a positive experience to the round.
If you get a chance to play the course, here are some suggestions that may lower your score:
Hole #2 - Unless you're a big hitter, its going to take all you have to get to this uphill par 4 in regulation. Even a good drive over the bunker at the dogleg will leave you a 180 yard uphill shot to a severely back to front sloping green. If you are a good wedge player, better to layup and try to get up and down from 80 yards out.
Hole #4 - Hit your approach shot to the left side of the green. If you miss it a bit further left, you will usually get a favorable bounce off the hill onto the green.
Hole #5 - Placement is key for your drive. This short 312 yard par 4 requires the use of an iron to position the ball right center of the fairway for the best approach to the green. Any shot left of the fairway is dead (just ask Dave my playing partner ;-))
Hole #11 - You cannot see the lake from the tee, but you want to hit a straight drive down the middle 185 yards to be in the best position to attack this green bordered on two sides by water. Be wary of using your driver on this hole; hit it too long and you will be left with a severely downward sloping pitch to the green.
Hole #12 - Again, position off the tee is crucial on this dogleg left par 4. Avoid at all costs hitting your drive left of the fairway (either short or long). Your ball would most certainly be lost near the creek if you do.
Hole #14 - 156 par 3 usually playing into the wind. Take one extra club on this hole to avoid the ravine protecting the green near the front. If you are a good bunker player, being in the back bunker is not a bad place to be."