Pros: Solid practice range with 64 stalls, 4 practice putting greens and several chipping greens and bunkers
Cons: The 18 hole course is not in very good shape
I live just down the street from Rancho San Joaquin, so this is where I practice 99% of the time... And will play twilight rounds here too. I try to avoid playing too much golf here as the conditions are typically poor, and the pace of play is sloooooow.
The golf course is owned and operated by American Golf. And the 18 hole course, unfortunately takes a back seat to the practice area. The range has lights, so it is open until 10:00 PM every day. And the range is where American Golf makes serious bank as the heavily populated Asian community here in Irvine loves to practice. They have automated ball dispensing machines which are open until 9:00pm at night. And from 5:00 PM until close, the range is very busy.
The course is built on an old land fill, many state this is the reason for the courses poor drainage. And thus why you'll find a lot of standing water on the fairways and rough... A lot of muddy areas where water lies and just doesn't soak into the ground. Unfortunately, this leads to poor playing conditions as the fairways damp and muddy in many low lying areas. In fact, if you are looking for courses to play based on quality of playing conditions, then you should probably forget about playing Rancho and go somewhere else.
The thing about Rancho is it is a solid course to just get out, hit golf shots on a decent layout and challenging course, and putting on semi decent greens and green complexes. The bunkers, rough and fairways are not good - and often times poorly maintained (bunkers are usually very poor). They really need to get a better greens keeper, and this has been an issue that has plagued the course nearly all of 2012.
The greens could be really solid, but unfortunately, the course gets so much play, that they tend to be bumpy in areas. I believe a big reason why the greens aren't as solid as they could be is that they send golfers out in 7 minute intervals - and allow fivesomes... So the greens can get a little beat up with the heavy play. And you'll find a lot of pitch marks that aren't repaired. Which also makes the greens not as good as they could be.
There are two par 3's, #8 and #15 which are nearly twins and sit side by side... Both uphill - with greens sloped from back to front. There are pin placements on both greens that can be punishing, and when the pins are in the difficult locations, these two holes can back-up and have people waiting for the group ahead of them to putt out.
Pace of play at Rancho always seems to be an issue... Having the 7 minute intervals for tee times, combined with letting fivesomes play is a big proponent of slow play. Be ready to spend 6 hours for an 18-hole round. That is pretty standard practice for Rancho.
The rates are usually very good - and you can get tee times very easily from www.golfzing.com. The typical rate will range anywhere from $56 to $27 depending on day/time you play. So this is something that makes the course playable for me, is the fair price combined with its close proximity from where I live.
The practice area as mentioned above, has lights. It has 64 hitting bays coupled with four practice greens and several chipping areas and practice bunkers. I'd say the practice area, given it has lights is one of the better areas to sharpen your game in the Orange County area. It definitely needs to be upgraded, and according to guys I speak to that work at the Practice area, American Golf is looking to make some upgrades to the practice facility. Hopefully these changes come sooner than later as the conditions are quite poor.