-- Pacific Links photo
Dove Canyon Golf Club, in the upscale master-planned community Coto de Caza, has always been known for it’s gorgeous curb appeal and Jack Nicklaus signature layout. Single-digit amateur players (and even Tour players like Paul Goydos) seem to congregate at “Dove” – giving the club a competitive aura. Not all clubs have this intangible feeling -- Dove Canyon carries it well.
No matter what level of player you are, this aura is important, even if you’re purely interested in the social or family aspect of a club (and Dove Canyon is very family friendly, by the way, with a very classy clubhouse).
Avid golfers use the club, and often travel 10-20 miles or more to get there, even when other choices are closer to home. So what is it about Dove Canyon that attracts these players?
First and foremost is the layout and conditioning. As a Jack Nicklaus signature course, the first part is almost a given. As for conditioning, that’s something that has been solid over the years, but is sure to get even better under the umbrella of Pacific Links International, which acquired Dove Canyon in 2013. (More on that later.)
Dove Canyon opens with a reachable par 5, which I love. Why not give everyone a chance to write down a par before getting to the “tough stuff?” Indeed, the back-to-back par 4s that follow the opener are nothing to sneeze at. The 2nd requires a corner cutting high fade (a classic Nicklaus hole) while the 3rd is long and tight off the tee, with a deceptive green you’ll be happy to find in two. The front nine also has some strategic “placement” holes and an excellent pair of par 3s, the latter of which is a downhill shot to a huge green, putting a premium on club selection.
But as downhill as the 7th hole is, it pales in comparison to the 10th, a truly gorgeous creation that shares a tee box with the 1st hole. My favorite hole on the course follows, the par-5 11th, with its daunting tree lined tee shot and two oak trees on the right side with magnetic tree wells. Trust me, it’s good to stay out of those. And since it’s not reachable for most average players, taking a 3-wood off the tee is a smart play if you have the willpower.
Strong par 4s and 5s lead you up and downhill until you literally “drop-in” to the 17th hole, another one of those scary par 3s only with trees to add another element of danger. Think Harvey Penick, “take dead aim” and get out with your 3. And don’t mind the huge swale in the middle of the green!
Finishing up, Dove Canyon’s 18th is one of the most memorable closers in Southern California. It has all the elements of a great hole: the stone clubhouse is in view, there is a lot of strategy required off the tee (a stream cuts across the right side), and the green is well guarded by bunkers, with a waterfall cascading down from the hillside clubhouse.
Dove Canyon is located in the Coto de Caza community of Orange County, off the 241 corridor toll road in Rancho Santa Margarita.
As I mentioned earlier, Dove Canyon is part of the Pacific Links International umbrella. That means Pacific Links members have access to the club. It also means that Dove Canyon now offers its members something that most other Orange County courses don’t, membership in the Pacific Links Golf Network.
Even if you just travel occasionally, you’ll have access to clubs in Hawaii, Las Vegas, West Virginia (The Dye Preserve!) and several other strategic locations with more to come. I’m a firm believer in alternatives to the traditional club membership and encourage you to check out the Pacific Links matrix of membership options, whether you’re interested in Dove Canyon, another of their clubs, or simply gaining access to all of them.
There are two chances to experience being a member at Dove Canyon. On Jan. 6 and 13, the club will host a 'Member for a Day' promotion, which includes green and cart fees and lunch at 'Jack's Den' restaurant for the amazing price of $75. For more information, contact the proshop at: (949) 858-2888.