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Angeles National Golf Club provides Los Angeles-area golfers with a desert-style links challenge

By Katie Denbo, Contributor

SUNLAND, Calif. -- When Angeles National Golf Club opened in 2004, the Sunland course became the first Jack Nicklaus design in Los Angeles County. Less than 30 miles from Los Angeles, it didn't take long for the layout, located at the base of Angeles National Forest, to become immensely popular and praised for its beauty and conditions, even garnering Greenskeeper.org's Best Playing Conditions in Los Angeles County honors.

Angeles National Golf Club - hole 2
Angeles National G.C. is the only Nicklaus design in the Los Angeles area.
Angeles National Golf Club - hole 2Angeles National Golf Club - hole 1Angeles National Golf Club - clubhouse

In addition to becoming a high-end hangout for some of Hollywood's golfing elite -- actors Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle are two celebrities known to frequent the course -- Angeles National G.C. has become a hotbed for awards and honors since its debut. Ranked by Travel+Leisure Golf magazine as one of the Top 30 Best New Courses Worldwide and one of the Top Ten Best New Public/Resort Courses in the United States, the course saw ink in the 2008-09 edition of Golf Digest's "Best Places to Play" as well as in the 2007-08 Zagat Survey of America's Top Golf Courses.

To add to its noteworthy conditions, Angeles National Golf Club reached a pinnacle in 2009 when its clubhouse was finally completed. At 30,000 square feet, the Spanish mission-style structure replaced the temporary golf shop and grill, while introducing a new full-service golf shop and Agave Restaurant and Bar.

"It's an exciting time at Angeles National," said Head Professional Ben Krug, a PGA Professional. "We have our new clubhouse, pristine golf course and all grass driving range, and strive to treat players like members out here."

Angeles National Golf Club: The golf

Angeles National Golf Club is known for its challenging, yet immaculately maintained, conditions. Four sets of tees stretch from 4,920 yards to 7,087 yards, and it's from those back tees that Angeles National hosts several USGA, PGA Tour and regional qualifiers each year. The facility is a three-time U.S. Open Local Qualifying site (2005-07) as well as a five-time host of the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open pre-qualifying (2006-10). Come 2011, the local Tour stop will again host a qualifier at Angeles National Golf Club.

The golf course is wide and rolling, a desert-style layout where water comes into play on four holes thanks to two lakes. In a rarity of Los Angeles golf, there are no homes or structures flanking the course, and there are surprisingly few bunkers in play – just over 50 in all. Don't get too comfortable with the lack of hazards, though. Environmentally protected areas provide for an abundance of out-of-bounds shots, so bring extra balls and be prepared to find a few extras when searching for your own.

"The course is a spectacular one," said Bill Nelson, an Irvine resident who's played Angeles National several times since it opened. "I always lose my fair share of balls out here, but it's a real shot-makers course. If you can keep it in the fairway, the course is a satisfying test."

The scorecard and tee boxes are deceiving when approaching the holes. The second hole, for instance, called Cottonwood (aptly named for the cottonwood trees growing alongside the fairway), is the longest on the golf course at 585 yards, but if a player can carry a bunker on the right and cut the slight dogleg, he's in prime position for a second approach. The 11th hole on the other hand, called Pitch, looks like a drivable par-4 on paper, yet many golfers can't avoid the temptation of breaking out a driver and are thereby punished for both errant shots and shots too far right that lead to a tricky pitch shot to a sloping green.

Speaking of greens, Angeles National Golf Club's are fast and dynamic. On the 212-yard par-3 third, players are hitting to a Redan-style landing area that feeds the ball from right to left. The seventh hole could be the biggest doozie of them all: Called the Roller Coaster, this par 3 is guarded by a lone deep bunker, but the severely undulating green could feed a ball right into it. Knowledge of the course's greens can come in handy for controlling strokes.

Angeles National Golf Club: The verdict

While Angeles National Golf Club is a healthy test of golf equating to a 74.7/143 course and slope rating from the back tees, it provides a unique desert-like experience only a short trip from the big city's hustle and bustle. As the area's one and only Nicklaus design, guests to the course are in for superior playing conditions and a championship test of golf shared with PGA Tour and U.S. Open qualifiers.

Practice facility and golf instruction at Angeles National

Angeles National Golf Club offers private lessons and clinics for all levels of golfers, with instructors incorporating video and computer analysis into their sessions. Additionally, the course has a professional practice facility that features a driving range with natural turf hitting stations, short-game area, two putting greens and a private practice instructional area.

Katie DenboKatie Denbo, Contributor

A past editor and publisher of FORE Magazine, Katie Denbo is PR and Marketing Manager for the Pebble Beach Company. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and has traveled to golf resorts and properties all over the western U.S and Canada. Follow her on Twitter at @kdenbo.

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