What’s new at Old Ranch Country Club?

Plenty. After 50 years, the course is undergoing a renovation and re-invention of its playing experience. Here’s a look at the upgrades and how they complement a quintessential Southern California country club experience, right in Seal Beach.

ractice Has Been Made More Perfect – The improvements begin before you’ve even hit the course. Walk past the newly laser-leveled practice range and you’ll discover a re-imagined short game area, which now features a multi-purpose practice bunker. Members can use it as a fairway bunker and fire shots down the range and then can turn toward the practice green and hone their shorter sand shots. The pins added to a generously sized practice green make it ideal for more precise chipping practice.

The warm-up sand session is recommended as the course has a few strategic bunkers, particularly around its par-3s, where you may be able to save yourself some shots.

New Greens, New Experience – A crown jewel of the course’s renovations and improvements is found as you make your way to the practice green. After only two months to grow in, the new bent grass greens roll true and smooth – and give you a great feel for what you’ll be experiencing on the course.

Of the new greens, new superintendent Benjamin Alford says: “It’s a whole new species, but it’ll be good for the club and a whole new experience once it grows in. The members will love it.”

Past Club President Jerry Waletzko has played mature bent grass greens elsewhere, and looks forward to the greens at Old Ranch rolling “like billiard tables.”

While already rolling smooth, golf balls may eventually roll like pool balls. But know this: The greens are anything but tabletop. The greens at Old Ranch are sizable and undulating, making for a number of tricky pin positions. The breaks are more the subtle variety than the bigger sweepers, making for reads the members know by heart and that newcomers get to discover that will make the difference between more birdie and fewer bogeys.

Playable yet challenging – The course itself is playable yet challenging and should be inviting to a range of players. The course opens with four scoreable mid-length par 4s that ease the players in and offer opportunities to score early. A pure ball striker – read: straight hitter – will do well here.

Water dots the course but is more an aesthetic than a strategic obstacle on most holes given some sound course management.

The back nine opens with a drive-able par 4 and later moves to the gradual dogleg right par-4 12th, which “many members regard as the best hole on the course,” according to Waletzko. Find your fade and you might find birdie. Otherwise, a recovery from the trees is required. The course is largely forgiving, but there are obstacles to be encountered if you don’t find the fairway.

Alternate Tees, Please – Many prefer the member tees (gold), but Waletzko and others like to change it up from time to time and play hybrid tees (a mix of the teeing positions) that allow for some tee shots that provide unique views and, in a few cases, more challenging tee shots, such as the shot that’s through a tunnel of trees and over a marsh on No. 3.

“It’s nice to mix it up sometimes,” Waletzko says, “because of the views you get and the shots you get to hit.”

Wildlife Abounds – Even if you’re not making birdies, you’ll notice them aplenty on the course. The course hosts bluebird houses and you’ll notice a number of ducks and other waterfowl as well as the occasional hawk circling the course. Then there’s Gretchen, the friendly local swan and course mascot. She’s been known to take a stroll through the practice putting green on her way to the clubhouse before taking a leisurely swim in the lake shared by the 18th green and the 10th tee.

Walk This Way – Given the undulating and sometimes mountainous topography of many Southern California courses, a walkable course can be a challenge to find. Well, you’ve found one at Old Ranch. It’s perfect for an 18-hole stroll with the clubs on your back or pulling a complimentary pull cart. Turn on your FitBit and walk your way to an aesthetically pleasing 10,000 steps and hopefully a few birdies. Walking also provides the perfect pace to take in the numerous beautification projects the club has undertaken in the past two years. The greens are verdant and lush, and so are the surroundings.

No. 18 – Your round concludes at the signature hole, the par-4 18th. The lake encroaches on the left but doesn’t completely cross the fairway of the tee shot landing-zone for this strategic par-4. Depending on your tee shot, and the wind factor, your fairway can run out at around 260-280 yards, making for a decision on the tee. Do you hit a driver or check down to 3-wood, hybrid or even iron for the more precise player? Even if Gretchen is the only birdie on 18th during a round, members and their guests can, adjourn to the grand clubhouse overlooking No. 18 and celebrate another sunny in Southern California at Old Ranch Country Club.

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