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The Summer of Golf examined the sport’s post-pandemic popularity boom at local courses in South Orange County and showcased the play of each course through the eyes of our resident normal, below-average new golfer. Click here to read previous entries in this series.

By Zach Cavanagh

We’ve reached the end, dear readers.

The Summer of Golf has come to a close here on the sports page of the San Clemente Times, and it barely feels like we even hit the turn. That’s because there really is so much depth to the entirety of the South Orange County golf scene beyond just the five public courses in the three cities of San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.

There are certainly more courses just outside those borders that would’ve been perfect candidates for this series, especially knowing they are favorites of local area golfers. Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo is known as a tougher, high-end track nestled into the valley of Trabuco Creek. Ben Brown’s Golf Course at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a delightfully scenic and easy-going 9-hole course tucked into the Aliso Creek canyon, and it’s also an exquisite dinner spot.

For the new and average golfer, like myself, that the Summer of Golf was geared toward, I’d recommend Oso Creek Golf Course in Mission Viejo. It plays like a dream for beginners at only 3,670 yards and a slope rating of 102. It’s only a par-61 with 11 par-3s and no par-5s. It won’t be overly frustrating to a new golfer, and its green fees are some of the most attractive around.

And for those truly just picking up clubs and learning the game, the Lake Forest Golf and Practice Center offers extremely cheap fees on its 9-hole course and a double-decker driving range.

There’s certainly no shortage of golf in Orange County at large, but as this series has shown, it’s hard to beat the local amenities down here. The five local public courses offered a bit of everything.

Shorecliffs Golf Club in San Clemente gave an affordable price point and the promise of a bright future for the local course. The San Clemente Municipal Golf Course offered great views and great golf at a decent price, and it let you know the health of the local game with the competitive race for tee times. Talega Golf Club in San Clemente provided some of the best pure golf you will find, but it also gave the opportunity to compare what price, value and overall experience mean to you as a golfer.

Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point supplied the best of the best in terms of views, course maintenance and service and showcased how far the value of a course can go if the experience goes with it.

San Juan Hills Golf Club in San Juan Capistrano demonstrated what that full-day leisure experience can be at a golf course and, again, showed how far value can go at a course beyond just the golf or even a single visit.

Each course also offered golf lessons. I don’t mean golf lessons with a teacher, although they each do offer those. I mean lessons in the game, or how to approach playing the game.

Whether it was the narrow fairways of Shorecliffs, the battle with hills at the Muni, the fight out of the sand at Monarch, the length on the back nine at Talega or the doglegs at San Juan Hills, each course certainly possessed its physical challenges from which to learn. However, what I learned most from taking on this series is that mental approach.

First and foremost, I learned to get better at this game, you need to play and practice regularly to be able to implement those physical things you learn and keep improving. My game improved more in these five weeks than it had over any similar stretch just because I was going out there and swinging it each week. You have to commit to getting out there and playing.

The second part of the mental approach–and I know this can be hard with as frustrating a game as golf is–is to just take it easy. You’re not out there trying to qualify for the Masters. The LIV Golf Tour isn’t going to be sending you a $200 million offer. You’re out there to have fun. If you harbor that frustration through every single swing, you’re not going to have a good time, and, honestly, you’re probably going to ruin it for your group, too.

Paired with the mentality of playing the game “nice and easy,” especially for new golfers, try to limit your damage. You’re going to blow up on some holes. It will always happen. However, if you can limit the frustration and clear your head for the next swing, you can get out of that rough. You can make up that penalty drop. You can get out of the sand cleanly and onto the green. You can take a 2-putt instead of a 3- or 4-putt.

Again, all in all, the game is supposed to be fun. So, while the Summer of Golf has ended in these pages, summer is far from done, and there’s never a bad time to golf in South Orange County.

Get out there regularly, keep swinging those clubs, and have a good time.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at

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