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The Summer of Golf examines the sport’s post-pandemic popularity boom at local courses in South Orange County, and showcases 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

It’s the dawn of a new age at Shorecliffs Golf Club in San Clemente.

Well, almost, but even in the midst of a large-scale renovation project that will flip the golf course and bring a new modern clubhouse to the property, the shine of that new tomorrow pokes through all over the property.

“Every day we’re getting inquiries about ‘when’s it gonna be’ or ‘how’s it gonna be,” Shorecliffs Director of Operations Landi Morgan said. “So it’s been percolating a lot of enthusiasm in the community.”

The clubhouse structure—along with a future 55+ resort apartment community on the site of the old driving range—is taking shape. The clubhouse will be brought up to date with other local contemporaries by featuring a sports bar and restaurant along with a new pitching and putting practice area and two hi-def simulators to make up for the loss of the driving range.

Construction continues on the new clubhouse and a 55+ apartment community at Shorecliffs Golf Club. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

Hole No. 1 has been split into two holes (1A and 1B) to accommodate the current loss of hole No. 8 (although, 1A and 1B will remain split and become the new Nos. 10 and 11 when the course flips, and No. 8 will become a triumphant new No. 18 leading up to the clubhouse).

“Our food truck and our beverage cart are the only ‘service’ that we’re able to accommodate at this point,” Morgan said, “and most people when they want to go out to golf, they want to relax with a drink or a bite to eat at the clubhouse afterward. However, we’ve got that brand new one coming up, so people do enjoy seeing the progress.”

However, while there is still plenty of work in progress at the start of the course, there is plenty of renovation already completed that shows the promise of what’s to come at Shorecliffs.

The current No. 9 hole was one of the first to receive its beautification, and it will serve as the new No. 1 hole, as the course alignment will flip upon completion of the renovation, with the front nine being on the inland side of the 5 Freeway and the back nine on the coastal side. The tee box is surrounded by bushes of tea roses with a running stream and curated water feature next to a shaded picnic area.

Hole No. 4 is another which is almost complete and showcases lush grass and expertly manicured tee box area, once again surrounded by the tea roses. Down the hill from No. 4, you take the long drive to the current No. 5 through the canyon that was the old No. 5 and future signature No. 15. The canyon has gone from a dry, dusty construction site to another lush stretch with a window to the ocean.

“We are a little bit unique, because we’re going through some construction, we aren’t quite as busy as some of the other courses,” General Manager Jim Vaughn said. “(The construction is) a bit of a turn off to some people. It’s still busier here than it’s ever been, but there’s still room to grow, and that’ll be when the construction is done.”

Construction on both the course and clubhouse is scheduled to be done in December or January.

This means there’s plenty of days ahead of playing the course in its transitional state. And how does Shorecliffs play for the normal, below-average golfer?

The Round

Honestly, I was terrified of how the first played round of this series was going to go, and ultimately, by my low standards, it wasn’t all that bad!

Did I finally break 100 on my first time out? Oh, definitely not. I shot a 46-over-par 114 from the 5,012-yard white tees. Get that out of the way now.

However, the thing that’s encouraging to me and should be encouraging to plenty of other new golfers is the length of the round. With a 7 a.m. tee time, I completed the full 18 in four hours. An early start, but you can finish just before lunch and still have plenty of day ahead. You (or your family) won’t have to worry about you wasting an entire day on the course at Shorecliffs.

For how my personal round went, nothing is more emblematic of the day than my back-to-back on Nos. 15 and 16.

On the par three No. 15, which is a difficult par three with a wide valley to span and four bunkers around the green, I sunk a clean par and nearly chipped in for birdie. All in all, one of the best single-hole performances I’ve had yet.

On No. 16, which is a very long and narrow par five, I followed up with an 11. No out-of-bounds shots, no drops, no penalties. Just a topped ball skittered down the 440-yard long track several yards at a time. (I almost holed a chip shot again to save quadruple bogey, but alas.)

After loosening up on the opening stretch of holes, which included a breakfast ball on No. 1, a pair of three-putts, hitting from the wrong tee box, my best stretch was from No. 4 through No. 9.

Nos. 4 and 5 were single bogies, with a chip off the flag stick on No. 5. No. 6 was the outlier with a quad bogey, but it still finished with a rare two-putt. No. 7 was another two-putt bogey off a pretty great approach shot. No. 9 was a double bogey, but I cleaned it up with a smooth 15-foot putt to take the turn with confidence.

That confidence was quickly eroded, as so often happens in golf, but it’s that spark of confidence that makes you believe you could do it again at some point. Do it again, consistently and over a full 18 holes.

It’s what keeps me coming back, and what will take me back out to Shorecliffs this weekend and to a new stop on our South Orange County tour next week.

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 zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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