Over my career, I have played the Babe course (as it is fondly known) countless times. It is named after Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, whom ESPN ranks in the list of the top 20 best athletes of all time. The course is part of the Pacific Palms Hotel in the City of Industry, not too far from the hot spots in Los Angeles. The Pacific Palms Hotel is also home to the Ike, or Dwight D. Eisenhower Course (reviewed in Global Traveler, September 2011). While the Ike is fairly open, the Babe is just the opposite; many consider it one of the most challenging courses in Southern California. It used to be more difficult, but it appears a friendly greenskeeper cleared some of the trouble areas.
William F. Bell is the architect of both courses, which is fitting, as Zaharias and Eisenhower became fast golf buddies. The sport does bring people together, often those who just associate over the game.
The day my foursome teed up at the Babe, we played one of our favorite games, “wolf,” which features alternating partners and chance. Joining me were two executives from Singapore Airlines, Ken Bright and Eric Orlanes, and GT’s West Coast Advisory Board member, Frank LoVerme.
Hole 1 | 361 yards, par 4
This course is known to be so difficult and narrow, it really intimidates golfers, and I think we talked our way into disaster. The first hole is one heck of an opening, as you are perched high above the fairway for your drive. This dogleg right runs all the way down the hill with out of bounds on the left and a high slope on the right. I have blown my drive through the turn and left out of bounds many times. This time, my years of course knowledge came into play and I drove my ball to the left and beyond the fairway trap. From here, an easy pitching wedge should have landed me on the green but came up short. It seems the greenskeepers cleared the bramble left and right for a little more opportunity to succeed on the first hole.
Hole 8 | 419 yards, par 4
This hole plays much longer, as you hit off the tee to a slight downhill but turn again, just a little to the right, to an elevated green. The second shot needs more gusto to make the putting surface. Let’s not put the horse before the cart — your tee shot must favor the left side of the fairway, as a tree to the right can block your approach. My partner, Eric, and I slapped each other on the back after our near-perfect, sideby- side drives. Ken and Frank disappeared right and looked like a scouting party foraging for nuts and berries. On my approach shot, I remembered this hole plays long and I took more club than logic told me. I hit a fairway wood perfectly — it was beautiful, and Eric cheered — but landed short of the green by about two feet. An easy chip close to the cup gave me a par opportunity. The rest of the team had to listen to my boasting!
Hole 9 | 308 yards, par 4
The yardage makes you think this is an easy hole to master, but the Babe has a trick up her sleeve at every turn. From the tee box, this hole is so narrow the course long ago installed a series of four nets stretched between high telephone poles on the left. To the right a huge hill can either deflect your ball back into place or hold it high forever. I had an anemic drive to the right in front of an annoying tree, which blocked my shot to the green. Frank killed his drive to the left, and as he was my partner, I gave him an “Atta boy!” Eric and Ken disappeared like billy goats into the hills. Frank and I both bogeyed and won with little opposition.
Hole 11 | 526 yards, par 5
I cannot tell you how many times I made the same mistake on this hole. First, your tee shot has to be straight and accurate. It’s a very narrow hole, and most golfers veer right — this will put you in some lovely pines. I was lucky to land on the fairway, so I was not in harm’s way. The next shot has to be long and hug the right of the fairway so you can make the last-minute left turn to the green. If you come up short, you have to loft a shot over the trees to the green or punch out to the right. Once again, I sent my ball over the trees, clipping a branch and luckily landing still in play but about 20 yards short in the rough. I was happy with this: I chipped short of the two-tiered green while the rest of my group slashed through pinecones and pine needles. I secured the bottom of the cup with a 20-foot putt up the slope for double par, which pleased me to no end.
Hole 17 | 195 yards, par 3
I have to cover this par 3, since I played it so spectacularly. It is a beautifully landscaped hole with a pond in front. On the day we played, there must have been 40 little black ducks foraging between the green and the pond and the yellow flowers blooming at the tee box. Three bunkers guard the green, and golfers often come up short or overshoot. I muscled an iron slightly past the hole and two-putted for par. My partner, Eric, was pleased.
Hole 18 | 564 yards, par 5
The finishing hole ends at the defunct funicular, which used to take golfers (with carts) from the 18th green up the hill to the clubhouse. I think legal minds decided this was a disaster waiting to happen. In all my years of playing the Babe, the “White Elephant Funicular” has been out of operation. The key on 18 is to keep your ball in play. Frank and I were teamed again — I hit a lousy drive, landing just right of the right fairway trap, and Frank landed in the same bunker. Eric and Ken kept in play, raising the ante. I threw caution to the wind and used my 3-wood to thread through the trees to advance down the fairway. Frank did the same with his sand shot, while our foes met dual disasters in the rising hills on the left. We continued to the green and walked away with another bogey to take the championship!
The Babe Didrikson Zaharias Course
Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms
1 Industry Hills Parkway
City of Industry, CA 91744
tel 626 810 4653
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