Maderas-A Johnny Miller Masterpiece

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When Johnny Miller is discussed in golfing circles, different images come up depending upon the age of the golfer. Today’s younger golfers know Miller as a straight forward, tell it like it is golf commentator. Golfers fifty and older remember him as one of the word’s premier players in the early 1970’s and 80’s. What most golfers don’t realize is that Johnny Miller, winner of 24 PGA TOUR events, including the U.S. and British Opens, has become one of the world’s top golf course designers. Since working as a consultant on his first golf course design in the mid-70’s, he and his company, JMD, have 24 completed golf courses around the world and have 10 more in the design or construction phase. Recently I had the opportunity to play Maderas Golf Club, which Miller designed in collaboration with Robert Muir Graves. Located in the foothills of Poway, about two hours south of Orange County, Maderas Golf Club opened in November, 1999. In 2003 and 2004 it was ranked the #1 golf course in San Diego County and the #6 golf course in California by the Zagat Survey.

A semi-private club, Maderas has lush contoured fairways, large undulating greens and plenty of challenge. Although Miller’s design gives the course a tight look, the fairways are fairly wide and quite receptive. However, proper club selection is key as shots must be made uphill, downhill, and over rock outcroppings, canyons, lakes and creeks. To help with your club selection, pick up a course yardage booklet available in the well-stocked pro shop. When playing Maderas, the real fun begins on each and every hole once you reach the green. The greens are fair, but their size and undulations, when combined with tough pin placements, can make two putting a relief, three putts common, and four putts a distinct possibility.

The key to playing Maderas according to General Manager Jack Kirkpatrick, is to “play the right tees” and there are six sets to choose from. The longest are the black tees at 7115 yards with a 146 slope and 75.6 course rating. The course record from the blacks is 63 held by two players, Charley Hoffman and Steven Eshbach. Hoffman shot his record score while playing in the final round of the 2004 Gateway Tournament, when, according to Assistant Pro Cole Duncan, “the tees were back and the pin placements were nasty”. Eshbach, who was 19 at the time, shot his 63 from the tips this past March while playing Maderas for the first time. As a 13 handicapper, I found the blue tees quite a challenge at 6654 yards, a 138 slope and a 73.1 course rating.

My favorite holes were the Par 4 fifth hole, Maderas’ number one handicap hole and #17, the shortest of the course’s Par 3’s. One of the toughest Par 4’s in San Diego, #5 is a 460-yard downhill dogleg left with its fairway guarded on the left by three enormous bunkers and a hazard, which runs the entire length of the fairway. At 165 yards from the blues, #17 is also a downhill hole. Its changing wind conditions, and long and difficult two-tiered green, will make you forget that its rated the easiest hole on the course.

If you need a quick tune up or a series of lessons before tackling Maderas, John Darling, and Maderas’ four teaching pros are available by appointment to assist you with your game. Darling, a former head instructor with the Golf Digest Schools who has taught five State Junior Champions, brings 31 years of experience to golf instruction.

Following your day on the course, take a few minutes to visit The Grille, Maderas’ informal yet elegant restaurant, where a full bar and a complete luncheon menu await you. The beautiful setting, combined with the emphasis on service that is so evident at Maderas, makes The Grille an ideal stop after a round of golf as well as a wonderful site for wedding receptions, corporate outings and/or banquets. Join the likes of PGA Pros Cory Pavin, Dennis Paulson, John Cook, Ricky Barnes, Phil Mickelson, Scott Simpson, Kevin Stadler and LPGA Pro Hee-Won Han, all of whom have played Maderas. Once you play Maderas, you will realize that Johnny Miller is not only a world champion golfer and an outstanding golf commentator, but also a masterful golf course designer. For tee times and/or more information, call the golf shop at 858-451-8100 or visit the Maderas web site at For tournament and corporate play information and assistance, call Bob Maggiore at 858-217-2555. Please note that many more of Chuck's articles can be found in his Article Archive.