Montesoro leaves a good impression on golfers with its beauty and impeccable condition. The reason is quite simple: It is a private course. Guests of the Borrego Springs Ranch and Spa have access, but only a limited number of golfers are allowed on the course at any one time — when we played, we never had to stop and wait at any hole.
The course is owned by the owners of Borrego Springs Ranch, hence the reciprocity for guests of the hotel. It has an interesting history: Originally built as a 27-hole course, it was redesigned by Tom Fazio and his team into the current 18-hole layout. Both the course and the hotel are located in the 900-square-mile Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is the largest state park in California.
The course is ranked in Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play” and has wonderful views of the mountains, desert vegetation and flowers and fescue grass — all within 600 feet of elevation change. David Hunter, director of golf, has been named one of America’s Outstanding Golf Instructors by Golf Digest and is a PGA professional and a Callaway Master professional. He offers insights into your game as well as the course history and design.
Hole 2 (543 yards, par 5)
Avoid landing in the traps lining the right side or the high grass on the right and left. An interesting aspect of this hole is the twin trees that grow in the center of the fairway. Make sure your second shot clears them and is either left or right; your approach to the green, which is slightly elevated and turns slightly left, depends on how you position yourself in respect to the trees.
Hole 6 (519 yards, par 5)
Make sure you take a breather to admire the beauty of this hole — wildflowers surround the tee box, and the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains act as a backdrop. The design features a dogleg right with four bunkers at your landing area. I nailed a ball off the tee box; it landed left of the right bunkers but unfortunately rolled in — just a bad break for me. If you can keep a good drive in play on the fairway, you can get to the green in two for a potential birdie or eagle. I am not sure if this is a Fazio signature, but Hole 6, like many at Montesoro, has traps midway to the green, three of them about 100–120 yards out.
Hole 8 (498 yards, par 4)
This is the No. 1 handicap-ranked hole, solely due to distance. There appear to be plenty of landing areas off the tee on this slight dogleg left. A trap to the left is perfectly positioned to catch your errant drive from the box. At the green, more traps guard the left side; if you are approaching from this area, you must make your ball stick or it will roll off.
Hole 10 (213 yards, par 3)
A little oddity in the course design is the inclusion of two back-to-back par-3 holes, Nos. 9 and 10. However, 10 is a pretty hole, with a pond on the left and two bunkers front and back. The hole plays about 20 yards more than it appears from the box. On the day we played, Bill Noonan came up short to the right but chipped on the green from his difficult position, and my shot came up short left. Any shot too far right is dead due to high grass and brush.
Hole 11 (556 yards, par 5)
As you pick your target of attack from the elevated tee box, note the water that runs the entire left side of this long par 5. I slammed a 5-wood that looked great from the box but landed slightly short of the green. On the right side is a large trap which you will need to avoid. Balls will roll off this green — a true Fazio signature design.
Hole 12 (333 yards, par 4)
The course is designed like a true private club and, as first-time players, we missed the tee box on this hole and had to back up the path. The hole really has no surprises; it is ranked No. 18 on the handicapped level. A series of traps lies on the right side of the fairway, with one on the left. Position “A” would be right cen ter. Try to avoid the sloping hill on the left (where I landed and made this hole more difficult to play). Your drive should leave you out about 100 yards for an easy par.
Hole 13 (455 yards, par 4)
This hole is laid out as a dogleg right, with lots of traps on the right side, including two large ones. The green has one bunker in the front, which is high and deep. My chip to the green appeared too hard at first, but climbed to the back and around to stop within two feet of the cup. This made for an easy tap — I would like to say it was for birdie, but it was for par.
Hole 18 (577 yards, par 5)
Hole 18 is a beautiful ending to a beautiful course, with the clubhouse as backdrop. The par 5 has a big lake on the right — obviously something you want to avoid. Again, Fazio wanted to play games with me — my perfectly hit shot from the tee box cleared the lake, but spun back and rolled about 25 yards, back to the lake. Mr. Fazio, that’s not right! From your better position, a little more left, your next shot needs to avoid the traps which lie a little short of the green (about 90 yards off). Chip up for your par and head back to the clubhouse, where you drive your cart through a little stream — a nice finishing touch.
Montesoro Golf Club
1881 Rams Hill Road
Borrego Springs, CA 92004
tel 760 857 4537
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