Situated close to the city of Irvine in Orange County, the course at Shady Canyon Golf Club is laid out on an expansive 300-acre site and it’s another big budget Tom Fazio design that made its debut in 2002.
Fairways are routed past rocky outcrops and stands of trees through Shady Canyon and East Shady Creek and they follow the natural contours, rising and falling as the land dictates.
On the front nine, the 568-yard 9th ends the outward half in fine style, veering left to a green fronted by water that cuts across the fairway. Closing the inward nine, the 474-yard home hole is a real tester as its fairway crosses both Shady Creek and East Shady Creek en route to the green.
Most locals consider this to be the best golf course in Orange County. Given the topography, demographics, and weather of the region, its a bit surprising that this course would top the list. Nevertheless, it's an outstanding course to play and can be challenging for the high-handicappers due to tight landing spots and tricky greens. But the course, facilities, and staff are first class. Well worth the effort of trying to get on.
My enduring memory of Shady Canyon will undoubtedly be the hospitality shown by the members and staff, alongside a brilliant collection of par 3s to rival the best in California. Think Pasatiempo's looks, yet slightly more playable than the (not-so) short holes at LACC North, two other courses with excellent sets of par 3s. This was only my 10th course in California, but my first Fazio design, so it's difficult to comment on the architecture, but an enjoyable routing that requires a cart, even for a seasoned walker.