Constructed during the summer of 2001 and opened on April 25, 2002, Rustic Canyon looks and plays differently than most California golf courses. Some might call it a “links” style course. That’s certainly an appropriate description for many of the design features, particularly the native shrubbery and sand soil found on the property. However, we hope Rustic Canyon is a distinct offshoot of the Scottish links: a ranch-style design more closely allied to the look, feel and playing character of certain courses found in Australia. Rustic golf.
You will soon notice a few things about the design and maintenance of Rustic Canyon that may initially strike you as atypical. These same elements will hopefully make Rustic Canyon unique. The primary design goal was to “place” the golf holes onto this beautiful sandy landscape, as opposed to rearranging the land to fit our design ideas. Virtually all of the fairway undulations and even some of the green contours you will encounter were here long before we arrived. They were simply waiting to be uncovered. Thus, the sequencing or routing of Rustic Canyon was created to take advantage of these interesting natural elements. This “minimalist” approach to the land explains why the front nine has three par-3’s, three par-5’s and a shorter total yardage than the longer back nine. This imbalance might look odd on the scorecard, but we are confident that by the end of your round, you will have attempted a full variety of shots. Also, do not underestimate the tilt of Happy Camp Canyon in judging distances or reading your putts. From the thirteenth green at the top of the canyon down to the fourth green on the lower west end of the property, there is 243 feet of elevation change. Remember, putts tend to break toward the Reagan Library toward the southwest!
You may also notice that the greens often have large, sometimes undulating openings featuring the same bent grass strains in the “approach” areas as you will find on the putting surfaces. These approaches were as carefully conceived as the greens themselves, with the idea of inspiring an element of golf found on Scottish and Irish links but rarely found in America: the bump-and-run shot. With the porous soil here, these approach areas will play firm and fast year-round. So don’t be afraid to try alternative shots into and around the greens. Though we welcome you to try the traditional high, floating shot, we think you might find just as much success and pleasure in using of variety of shots around the greens. There is nothing wrong with pitching a 6-iron that stays low to the ground, or even striking a putt from 30 yards off the putting surface. All we ask is that you care for these areas around the greens as you would the greens themselves, by repairing any ball marks you may find and replacing your bent grass divots in the approaches so that maintenance crew can later repair these areas with bent seed.
As evidenced in the great works by architects such as George Thomas, Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Alister MacKenzie, the timeless designs provide players with wide fairways to choose a preferred avenue of attack at various hole locations. By modern standards, the fairways at Rustic Canyon are extremely wide. This was intentional because we strongly believe in making golf fun. Besides giving you room to make mistakes, even more golfing interest comes from having the chance to place your shots on certain sides of the fairways for your preferred angle of attacking the green. We have constructed what we hope are intriguing green complexes with a variety of pin placement possibilities that will allow you to maneuver your way around Rustic Canyon differently each time, all depending on the days hole locations. Hopefully you will take advantage of the room necessary to find the most comfortable way to the hole. You might also want to make a note of how certain seemingly “safe” places to play are not always the best areas to approach the day’s hole location from.
Another element giving Rustic Canyon a distinct Southern California flavor is the native plant material. You will see patches of California Coastal Sage Scrub on the hills and numerous rare plants in the wash are running the length of the entire canyon. This wash is an environmentally sensitive patch vital to the thriving habitat that was here long before the golf course, so we ask that you not stray past the red stakes marked with green tops. This will allow the native wildlife and vegetation a chance to proper. Staying out of these areas is also for your own safety: poison oak and rattlesnakes have been known to proper in these areas. Also, a note regarding the occasional brown or sandy patches on the areas immediately outside of the fairways. This was intentional to prevent irrigation from reaching the native grass areas. We want to minimize lost balls while also helping to make a subtle transition from the lush fairway turf into the rugged earth tones surrounding the golf course.
One final tip to help you get around Rustic Canyon: scout out the hole locations on forthcoming greens as you play. The sequencing of the holes and even the drive into the course provide an opportunity to scout the days pin placements. The tilt of the canyon makes judging distances even more difficult. So any advantage you can give yourself, particularly with hole locations, should help you score better. We’ve found that simply seeing a pin placement in advance will allow you to take make a more confident stroke. Local knowledge is important to making any course enjoyable to play on a repeat basis. We hope that the design of Rustic Canyon not only excites your senses the first time around, but that there are enough design subtleties to create interesting golf for years to come.