Over the past 20 years of entertaining clients in Los Angeles, I have chosen Malibu Country Club as a venue more times than I can recall. Although it is a public course, it has the feel of a private facility. You can join their client list and reserve tee times well in advance, and the greens are just about as good as those on private courses. The clubhouse could use renovation, but playing the course is truly relaxing and fun.
Designed by William F. Bell, Malibu Country Club opened in 1977. It became the subject of great controversy in the mid-1980s when the owners wanted to develop housing around the course. Malibu West residents and the National Park Service (the Santa Monica National Recreation Area surrounds the country club) were concerned about storm water runoff polluting the canyon’s streams. So far, no homes have been built, and the National Park Service carefully monitors the amount of fertilizer in runoff from the course. In 2006, Malibu Associates bought the course for $30 million. It remains a beautiful escape into the area known as “L.A.’s backyard” — and is a shot maker’s delight!
Hole 1 (398 yards, par 4)
Play your tee box drive to the left center of this fairway. Shots on the right side are tucked too far, and you will have difficulty reaching the green. You might be able to draw the ball and clip the left side of the green from this position, but it is very difficult. Your approach shot is usually a long-iron or wood; the hole plays slightly uphill all the way to the green. Players who don’t use enough club often come up short on this hole. Watch for the large bunker on the right of the green.
Hole 4 (488 yards, par 5)
You tee off to a valley below, then the fairway takes you uphill to the green. From the tee box, you need a near-perfect shot to the center of the fairway. If you stray to the right, you might find yourself among pine trees; to the left is the dead zone — out of bounds and full of rattlesnakes — so take your pick. Your second shot is a make-or-break based on your position. I have seen many great drives go slightly left and get blocked by a small grove of trees. Last time I played, I hit a screaming 4+ wood, which veered too far left. I thought the ball was gone, but it had bounced off the hills and landed in the rough near the green.
Hole 5 (236 yards, par 3)
The length and tight landing area make this a difficult par 3. You tee off from the elevated box to the green below, which is protected by traps on the front and back left. Many players come up short or end up too far right, where the ball often hits the cart path and rolls out of bounds.
Hole 6 (476 yards, par 5)
This is a dogleg right from the tee box, with the green tucked away on the left side. From the box, you can cut the corner a little, but cutting too much will find you either up in the hills (and out of bounds) or in a small creek along the right side of the fairway. Drive left or straight, and you will roll off the fairway into harm’s way. If you hit a good long drive from the position “A” tee, you can make the green in two. On the same round, I brought out my trusty 4+ Callaway wood and slammed a shot, cleared the trap in front of the green and rolled on the left side of the green. I putted in for birdie. It was do or die, since I had a 6 on the previous hole.
Hole 13 (504 yards, par 5)
I call this wonderful par 5 “on top of old Smokey.” The tee box is elevated about 200 feet to a relatively straight valley that climbs uphill, an easy hole for those who can hit three perfect shots. Drive your ball center, avoiding the lines of pines on the left and right. Errant shots are playable, but will cost you a stroke as you weave out of tree branches. This green is not reachable in two, so take out the club you feel will get you to about 130 yards from the green; beware of the trees that continue left and right. From here you ha ve an easy approach to the green.
Hole 14 (444 yards par 4)
This is the No. 2 handicapped hole and is difficult to reach in regulation. Your drive should not be a problem, as the fairway is quite wide, but balls straying left and right will get hung up in the trees. The green is tucked to the left of the fairway and is elevated. Big hitters might get the ball to the top of the green, but it is unlikely — most come up short and chip on. Beware of the trap guarding the front.
Hole 15 (158 yards, par 3)
I teed up first on this hole — I had nothing to lose, as I carded a seven on the 14th. From the elevated tee I nailed a 9-iron back left of the green below. A trap right front and a hill on the left can cause havoc. Steve, Bill and Gary all brought their “A” games and landed on the green, much closer than I, and tapped in for pars and birdies. I 3-putted!
Hole 18 (433 yards, par 4)
Golf is a story of defeat and success, and this is where my partners fell off their game as I quietly tapped in for par. From the tee box you are driving the ball to a downhill fairway with out of bounds on both the left and right — not to mention plenty of signs reading “Beware of Rattlesnakes!” I hit a pop-up, so my approach was a do-or-die shot to the green with a 5-wood. I hit a slight fade that landed on the green for a great finish to an up-and-down round. In the end, it was a beautiful day at my “home course” on the West Coast!
Malibu Country Club
901 Encinal Canyon Road
Malibu, CA 90265-2405
tel 818 889 6680
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