Thursday, June 2, 2016

Roadrange: San Juan Hills CC, San Juan Capistrano CA

Last time I was out this way, I was really disappointed to find the driving range at Saddleback College, where I’d had some nice practices in past years, closed for good.

But Orange County is not exactly a golf wasteland and so where one door was closed, another open one was found without looking too far.

Even closer to where I’m staying happens to be a very fine driving range and full service practice center, right alongside the Interstate 5 Freeway. It's actually part of an 18-hole par 72 golf course across the road (which they call a “CC” but isn't really a “CC”) but for me right now, this here is the ideal place to set up camp for the next few days.

A nice seating where you can relax with a beverage and take in the action. (Although I never once saw anyone actually doing so.) Before I hit balls I think I should get up to speed on the California golf & travel scene.

I've always wanted to try all-you-can-eat range balls and I think that during one of my days, I'll go for it. Sounds a little bonkers but hey, you only live once right?

Sometimes it's the littlest details. That give away someone's true intentions. And when I see these bathroom doors, I feel assured that the people who operate this driving range are really and truly mad about golf. Places like these are far more than business establishments. They are people establishments.

Speaking of facilities, there's a few nice scum-buckets and brushes for your golf clubs.

The pitching and chipping and putting areas are pretty humble, but they are quite sufficient for the practicing of pretty much all manner of short shots faced in golf. There's even a proper greenside bunker. Which is to say if you’re a local resident who practices here, and you suck, don't blame it on these facilities. You can't. It’s all on you.

Looking eastward to the namesake hills.
They play music here and while some of the song choices were a little off, it is much appreciated. Golf's meant to be a leisure activity, even while you are busting your ass practicing and trying to improve. My home range has no sense of this whatsoever. It has all the joy of an empty conference room at a generic chain hotel. God I hate that place. I use it, I depend on it because of its proximity but make no mistake, I despise it. It represents all that is soulless and wrong with Golf America in 2016. I don’t care anymore. Chelsea Piers if you are reading this, I'm sorry but it’s true. I hate you. And with every out of town driving range I visit, I hate you even more.

I need to chill out. Thankfully there's a golden retriever sitting peacefully in some shade--a zen image if there ever was one. And the beer selection is surprisingly good. Not one but a few different IPAs.

Seriously though let's get to the meat of this already. The range itself. Here on the left hand side there's a pyramid of buckets out around 75 yards, and a junky old van/trailer chassis at about 150.

About 90 yards out is a sweet bull's eye. (I spent a lot of ammo trying for that one but only managed to hit it after an unsatisfying bounce.) Then there's the high school football goalposts planted in the center, around a hundred yards out. The height of most golf shots dwarfs those things, but it's fun to try to sting a low 3-iron or wood just over the crossbar.

Sorry for belaboring an obvious point but golf is a target game, and some people have figured out that when you're practicing you might as well have fun shooting at targets, and that the targets on the practice range don’t necessarily have to mimic those on a regulation golf hole. Some people have figured out that it’s more fun to shoot at buckets, cans, bullseyes, pumpkins, trampolines—all actual objects I’ve seen in my driving range travels--and just as good practice. God bless those people. Chelsea Piers, are you still reading this? Maybe you ought try some fun targets. Hey, don’t do it for me, do it for you. I’m pretty sure it’ll help business.

Anyways I came to SJHCC everyday for four days and never really got tired of hitting out into that range. If I got bored trying to hit the bull’s eye, I’d try to lob one in the cans, or plunk the van chassis. Or a field-goal attempt with a long club. If I got weary of whacking I could dip back into the chipping area and dink it around for a while. Whenever I got tired of it all, I just sat on a chair and zoned out until fresh and ready to hit some more. This is golf practice as God intended, I'm pretty sure.


  1. bkuehn "I love to play golf" 1952June 2, 2016 at 5:35 PM

    Dare I say it? What the heck ... TopGolf. ;)

  2. Huh, that looks like fun. I might have to check that one out. I've taken the kids to Lake Forest Practice Center a couple of times, but to play 9, not the driving range. We have a driving range in Orange with big bullseyes and some wooden planter box things within wedge distance, but that San Juan one looks rather novel.


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