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|On the new Birch nine at Ashwood Golf Course, no. 4 offers golfers water and bunker challenges. (Josh Reynolds/Golfpublisher.com)|
APPLE VALLEY, Calif. - Ashwood Golf Course in Apple Valley, Calif., is a pleasant place to play golf. Now, before the yawns break out, let's take a quick look at the word "pleasant" at Merriam Webster:
1: having qualities that tend to give pleasure : agreeable a pleasant day
2: having or characterized by pleasing manners, behavior, or appearance.
And that is what Ashwood Golf Course is all about. It gives you pleasure and can be characterized as having pleasing manners, behavior, and appearance. Plus, there's water on several holes and some risk/rewards big hitters will love. Mainly, however, Ashwood is a course made for those that don't hit it quite as long, though it still gives big hitters some chances to pull out the driver.
With it's great conditioning and service, Ashwood is also a delight for women and the elderly, and was designed as such as it neighbors the Jess Ranch Master Planned Resort Facility. A sprawling layout replete with trout farm lakes and golf, Jess Ranch is not far from busy High Desert streets, yet manages to remain insulated. The golf course was previously called "Jess Ranch Golf Course" until 2005, when it was taken over by Billy Casper Golf and the name was changed to Ashwood.
For the high-handicapper, Ashwood will be a challenge. For a mid-range handicapper, Ashwood is the place to jot down some birdies. For a low-handicapper, the sky is the limit, provided you don't get overly aggressive.
When Casper took over, they immediately decided to build a new nine holes to add to the previous 18. The new nine - Birch - blends in perfectly with the other two, giving players several unique options for the round. Each nine has its own holes that will challenge you with water hazards, and each have a few holes where scoring is made easy.
Ashwood is a par 65 that plays to about 5,000 yards from the tips depending on the runs you play, so a low handicapper and strategic player can tear it apart using a seven-iron, a pitching wedge and a putter. The word "Strategic" is the key, however, because once a player starts seeing par 4s they can reach with their driver if they hit it just right, strategy can go out the window, as can scores.
"It's a good course for working on your short game, that's for sure," said Dean Roth of Victorville, Calif. "You really just can't resist bringing out your driver though."
Take the No. 2 hole on the Mesquite course. Playing at just 285 yards from the back tees, it's a course with a wide open fairway led to a green tightly guarded by bunkers. Go too far to the right, and there's water. Too far left, there's out of bounds. While the thoughtful golfer pulls out a medium iron like a favored five-iron and plunks it in the middle of the ample fairway with a perfect pitch approach, the gung-ho go for it. Few will make it, but some do. But the traps never stay hungry for long.
The No. 4 hole at Birch is the best new hole on the course, and maybe on the compound. A 200-yard par 3, you will have to carry it the whole way to a green that has a slight false front and is also guarded by a huge bunker. It's a tricky hole, even from the white tees.
For players, the biggest challenge will be the wind, which is why early-morning play is always advised at Ashwood. As the day progresses, the wind starts howling, and suddenly easy holes become dreadfully complicated. Take the No. 8 hole on Mesquite, which plays to just 152-yards from the back tees, over water. It also is a hole that resides smack in a wind tunnel and can be ferocious some days.
"I had to drop three clubs last time," said Lee Best of Reno, Nev. "I was using a 5-iron from the white tees the wind was killing the ball so much."
Ashwood is a really nice course and has only gotten better with Casper's team in charge. The service is above-average friendly, conditions are consistently spectacular, all the more impressive when you take account that it's in a desert. It's a class place.
The golf is enjoyable, but one can see some lower handicappers feeling some tedium with a day that consists of risk-reward shots that continually land in areas where strategic chip shots are necessary.
But the combination of the great scenery of the nearby mountains, an excellently-conditioned golf course and a fun play are hard to beat. And then there's the final kicker - low green fees. You'll rarely pay more than $33 for a round with a cart, and prices are lower in twilight hours.
January 7, 2008
William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in Solvang is a romantic, classic Western-style getaway amid the wine lovers' setting of California's central coast. And there's some great golf, too, with 36 holes of diverse play on site for both the public and resort guests.
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