Designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior and opened in 1960, the private course at Pauma Valley Country Club lies between the Wilderness Gardens Park and the Palomar Mountain State Park in San Diego North County. The club is one of less than a dozen in North America to have its own airstrip, allowing its more affluent members from further afield to land on the nearby 2,700-foot runway, enjoy their round of golf, then fly back home the same day.
Rather unusually for a course designed by its eminent architect, Pauma Valley has only one water hazard in play at the 411-yard 9th, where a small lake sits beside and behind the green. Other notable holes on the card include the left doglegged par five 11th and the 525-yard 17th, which is reachable in two by big hitters.
There’s a very interesting 50-minute YouTube video from 1964 in “Challenge Golf,” part of the “Shell’s Wonderful Word of Golf” series, where Arnold Palmer and Gary Player take on Jack Nicklaus and Mike Souchak in a better ball match play tie at Pauma Valley – it’s fascinating to see how decidedly bare the course looks from half a century ago, when most of the mature trees now lining the fairways had just been planted.
The overview from Ron is spot on. The RTJ, Sr. layout clearly espouses the trademark features which Jones embodied in a number of courses through his lifetime in course architecture. The issue with Pauma Valley is not that it has stayed true to its genesis, but whether that style has run its course -- no pun intended.
The totality of the holes is good but the formulaic Jones presentation can become regimented and hardily inspirational. A fair critique of many architects -- including Jones -- is how often do they replicate features time after time.
Turf quality and the overall presentation of the grounds is clearly done well and adds to the experience.
The California golf scene has certainly evolved in a number of ways since Pauma Valley entered the golf scene.
Pauma Valley is worth a look but for many who have become more enamored with a return to classical-based designs the Jones "look" can seem out of place.
M. James Ward
Pauma Valley is a very nice straight forward golf course. The Robert Trent Jones layout opened in 1960 and has well stood the test of time. I first played Pauma Valley in a US Open Sectional Qualifier in the early 1980's. I remember Corey Pavin still an amateur blowing away the field.
These days I try to play Pauma Valley on a regular basis and have gotten to know some of the courses finer points. I play the course at just under 7,000 yards and hit driver on all of the par 4's and 5's. These holes require an almost perfect balance between fades, draws, and hard hit straight drives. Approach shots to the greens are much the same, fade one draw the next.
Like so many courses built in the 50's, 60's Pauma Valley is good hole after good hole with none proving to be overly great. That said, the course does offer some fine golf shots. The drive on hole 8 is one of the most demanding on the course. A middle iron to the green on ten is the closest thing to a blind shot Pauma Valley has to offer. The second shot on 14 and the tee shot on the par 3 16th are both long irons, fades or draws are required depending on hole placement.
I have never liked the par 5 17th hole. In my opinion Robert Trent Jones didn't get the risk reward value right. Too often the hole is nothing more than driver, mid-iron, short iron.
Pauma Valley is a pleasant walk. The setting is pretty and the homes that border the course seldom intrude. The view from the 18th tee is worth moments look. The background is a nice par 4, the club house, and rolling hills in the distance. A nice ending to a nice golf course.