The Orange County city of Yorba Linda is perhaps best known as being the birthplace and final resting site of President Richard M. Nixon, and the area’s top daily-fee option for golf, Black Gold Golf Club, is almost, but not nearly, as tricky as Dick was.
It is very appropriate that a golf course named after oil and routed on a piece of ground that still yields the commodity be a little bit slippery and difficult for a golfer to get his or her hands around.
Black Gold GC, opened in 2001 when things were really cooking in Orange County, was fashioned by Arthur Hills, who knows a thing or two about playing tricks on golfers.
The track was routed on a site of a mostly tapped-out oil field on land donated to the city of Yorba Linda and makes the most out of its small footprint. It is set on a rolling terrain among scads of hills, valleys and canyons and Hills had to do quite a balancing act to fit the holes in, especially on the tight back-nine.
The designer moved more than 2 million cubic yards of dirt before there was enough space to build tees, fairways and greens and to eventually fashion a challenging 6,756-yard par-72 layout.
“The Black Gold site was one of the hilliest we’ve ever worked on,” Hills said. “We’ve never moved even a million yards of dirt on any other golf course that I can remember. And because of all the cut and fill, we had to do a ton of re-vegetation of the slopes above the golf course.”
There are still several active oil wells on the site. Hills said they capped the ones that were actually impacting the property, and the existing layout came very close to at least one of them. Surprisingly, there weren’t any outstanding environmental issues to deal with and all has been well in the 14 years since the course’s debut.
On a clear day, visitors can view Catalina Island and the Pacific Ocean from several spots along the course. The gorgeous 12th hole presents the highest elevation point in Orange County.
Designed as a canyon-style course, Black Gold GC’s five sets of tees ensure the course’s playability for all handicaps. Despite the site’s considerable roll, the majority of the course’s landing areas are flat and mainly treeless.
The layout’s most memorable quality may be its smooth putting surfaces, which can be challenging for course rookies to gauge. Take heart in this tip: the greens break toward Disneyland, which is about 10 miles to the southwest.
The greens complexes at Black Gold GC are medium in size and quite undulating, with swales and collection areas waiting for miss-hit approaches.
Black Gold GC’s closing hole is a winding, 535-yard par-5 with a tough drive uphill between out of bounds left and a hazard right. From there, the hole flattens out and has a lake that will threaten both a second-shot layup and a ballsy approach to the green in two. A cool waterfall rests at the rear of the putting surface.
Despite the nature of the surrounding terrain at Black Gold GC, there’s a surprising amount of flat space – and it looks as though it’s always been that way, with plenty of native vegetation bordering the golf property. It’s like you’re leaving the city and enjoying golf as nature intended it.
Black Gold Golf Club has received several honors, including a rating of 4½ stars by Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play and a ranking as a Top 3 Best Public Golf Course in Orange County by the Orange County Register.