On a mission
An OC private club initiates non-equity options to entice players
If golf isn’t enough of a challenge for you, Mission Viejo Country Club has something you might want to see. It’s called “Mission Impossible,” the nickname given to the private course by former Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray.
The Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout earns that moniker primarily from the Kikuyu grass in the fairways and rough and the fact that players can’t run the ball on to greens because many are elevated or abutted by bunkers or water.
“Anybody looking to play competitive golf or play on a course that will test you, this layout provides that,” said head golf professional Chad Pettit. “Anyone who is serious about golf will enjoy the challenges from tee to green.”
Getting a look at the course prior to a couple months ago meant knowing a member or getting a full-equity membership. But, for the first time in the club’s 48-year history, seven non-equity membership options are now available. It was a move that needed to be made, said general manager Steve Vlahos, because of regional competition and to be more versatile for people searching for a private club.
“It was in the works a little before I got here, but I knew that was the direction they wanted to go,” said Vlahos, who was hired a few months ago after spending three years in a similar position at Pauma Valley Country Club. “This is a progressive club with a great membership. It’s ready to be launched into the 21st century and do things differently. We’re excited about these new opportunities.”
The new non-equity membership options include Financed, Ambassador, Diplomat, Corporate, National, Junior Executive and Legacy. All have the option to upgrade to a full Regular membership, which has a financial equity of approximately $13,500. Of the new options, Vlahos anticipates Ambassador being the most enticing because a person’s $5,000 deposit will be returned after a year if he or she passes on renewal.
“We’re basically showing our confidence level in the course and club with that option,” he said. “A deposit refund isn’t done very often.”
Having confidence in your game will be needed for newcomers teeing it up on a layout that stretches from 5,180 to 7,145 yards depending on tees played. An indicator of the track’s toughness is the course record of 67 at a site frequented by players such as Beau Hossler, Cameron Tringale, Mark O’Meara and Brendan Steele.
But the course has beauty to go with the beast, with subtle elevation changes, a nice use of angles, frequent views of Saddleback Mountain and a strong quartet of par-3s, of which three play from elevated tees, adding depth to the round. The only par-3 without a tee box above the green – the 205-yard third hole – requires a pinpoint shot to a narrow green at a 45-degree angle with a lake in front and a steep-faced bunker from back to front in the rear.
Standing on the clubhouse patio gives new players a look at what’s in store, as both the first and 10th tee boxes lead to broad, sweeping fairways with gentle bends to the left. As with most of the par-4 and par-5 fairways, finding your ball shouldn’t be a problem because many of the pepper and sycamore trees are shot-shaping elements rather than hindrances and off-line shots generally get stopped by the Kikuyu rough that is more sticky than long.