LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. - Valet parking. An address in Laguna Beach, one of California's trendiest spots. A walkable course with stunning canyon views. Post-round, golfers can choose between drinks on a beautiful patio overlooking the course or dining in a fantastic restaurant, The Harvest.
How much do you think this golf experience would cost?
A guess of $100 or more for a tee time makes perfect sense given the locale. The reality is less than $50.
Ben Brown's Golf Course at the Ranch at Laguna Beach is one of southern California's best-kept secrets and a great value. Most golfers haven't heard of it. You could drive by on the famous Pacific Coast Highway and not even realize the course exists. Towering canyon walls keep the course and the resort hidden from view. Some golfers probably frown upon the fact that Ben Brown's Golf Course is only nine holes and 2,241 yards long. The thing is, if you can look past the five par 4s playing less than 318 yards and a few rough spots in the fairways, you'll appreciate what a cool round of golf this is.
The course, dating to the 1950s, has been reincarnated under several names over the decades. No holes feel shoe-horned in or play too awkward given the lack of land. The layout makes great use of the Aliso Creek that eventually spills into the Pacific Ocean. The three most dangerous shots - the approach to the elevated first green and the par-3 tee shots at no. 6 (140 yards) and no. 8 (207 yards) - take on the hazard. I lost balls on both par-3 shots, proving this course is no pushover.
The rest of the round feels like a pleasantly peaceful hike through the canyons. The shorter yardage promotes a quicker pace of play, even if you walk. It's the perfect place to get a golf fix in and still be back at the pool or beach in less than two hours.