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The hills are alive at Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda, California

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
Black Gold Golf Club - No. 10
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The 10th at Black Gold G.C. is a dramatic par 3 over water. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)

YORBA LINDA, Calif. -- Just a few par 5s from the Richard Nixon Library and Museum is a tribute to one of America's other national treasures -- the almighty oil industry. Because once upon a time, there was black gold in these hills.

Now the greens of Black Gold Golf Club have replaced the oil fields of yesteryear, but this excellent daily-fee course still pays homage to an industry that once produced wealth here. If you need proof, all you need to do is look upon the driving range, which features some old oil derricks as background targets.

"We actually renamed the driving range the Oil Field," said Ross Judy, director of golf at Black Gold Golf Club.

For golfers, what's really golden is in the fairways. Find the short grass off the tee, and you have a chance to claim your reward.

At Black Gold, accuracy, opportunity and patience are key

Designed by Arthur Hills and opened in 2000, Black Gold isn't particularly long at 6,756 yards, but you have to pick your spots to be bold. Most importantly, you have to be accurate off the tee, because there are plenty of natural environmental areas to catch errant shots.

Hills is known for creating courses with a great variety of holes. Some, like the very first, are long, while the second, at 299 yards, invites long hitters to drive the green or at least get it close. Still, you have to pick your poison. On some holes the fairway narrows around the area you might land a driver, so laying up with a three wood or hybrid to find the fairway might be the percentage play.

That's not to say there's not plenty of room in the fairways. You just can't make mistakes off the tee, because it's native areas, rocks and hillsides for misses.

Greens are the other half of the battle at Black Gold

Black Gold Golf Club's greens are large, and there's a lot of slope. They also tend to run pretty quick, and they're not the easiest to read. Staying below the hole in most cases is a good idea.

"The rumor is, and I'm not sure if it's true, is that putts tend to break toward Disneyland," Judy said.

While the greens are in excellent shape, the fairways have a story behind them, too. The course opened with bentgrass fairways, but as so often is the case, it was difficult to maintain the purity of the bentgrass. So three years ago, the course, which is managed by Kemper Sports, underwent a five-year transformation from bent to Kikuyu.

So far, so good, as it appears the course is well ahead of schedule. Kikuyu thrives in Southern California, so it will mean a lot less maintenance, however golfers often have trouble with it as rough or around the greens. The club tends to get caught up in it.

Black Gold Golf Club: The verdict

No doubt, Black Gold G.C. is one of the better daily fees in the Orange County area. Now with the transformation to Kikuyu, the course looks as good as it plays. From the tee boxes are all sorts of great views on the hilly, almost mountainous, course.

While both nines are good, it really starts to get interesting on the back nine. The par-5 13th is a terrific risk-reward hole. A driver has to be placed perfectly, but if it is, it has a chance to run down a steep slope and leave an iron into the green.

The 17th and 18th holes are about as tough as any in golf. The 17th, though not long, plays uphill over a series of deep, penalizing bunkers. The par-5 18th has an extremely uphill tee shot. Miss it a little bit right near the cart path, and the ball can roll some 70 yards back down the hill toward the native area. Then, for good measure, there's a large pond and waterfall protecting the green.

The clubhouse at Black Gold is magnificent, with a large, outdoor deck, terrific food and a very well-stocked golf shop. Practice facilities are excellent, and the staff is available for lessons and clinics. The cars also have GPS.

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Black Gold Golf Club - No. 2Black Gold Golf Club - No. 13Black Gold Golf Club - No. 18Black Gold G.C. clubhouse

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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