Golf in the Sacramento foothills: Amazing beauty and unbeatable value

By Travel ArticlesJune 22, 2012, 9:11 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- As you move northeast along Interstate 80 past Sacramento, the transition from farmland to foothills seems to happen in an instant during the 75-mph transition from the state capitol to the northeast suburbs of Roseville and Rocklin.

Gone is the flat farmland of alfalfa fields and groves of almond (pronounced ehh-monds in the local vernacular) and pear. The land undulates in a slight but steady rise-and-fall pattern. Sky-blocking oaks and maples stand with pride and the occasional rock outcropping -- granite mostly -- pops up like an unannounced party guest.

From a golf architect's point of view it is land redolent with possibilities. Elevation changes and large natural features provide instant character, though it has to be said that the up-and-down terrain means carts are all but mandatory on some courses.

Many were built to serve as centerpieces of real estate developments, but the economic downturn of the past three years has forced some private clubs to undergo ownership changes and even open their tee times to the public in order to increase cash flow.

To benefit of the golfer, this region brings together unique topography in which famous architects like Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Kyle Phillips have laid some of their best work.

'Golf in northern California right now,' said Frank LaRosa, a golf journalist and radio broadcaster in Sacramento, 'is very good but pretty cheap.'

Morgan Creek Golf Club

Morgan Creek Golf Club
Location and topography: Rolling terrain west of Roseville.
Plays like: A heathland course (Sunningdale).
Design features: Phillips' top creation (Kingsbarns in Scotland, among the world's top 30, depending on whose list you consider) is a links course. But Phillips loves heathland courses, which like links feature firm ground but has natural grasses, large trees and creeks and ponds as hazards. To this setting Phillips added challenging links-style bunker complexes and tricky greens. The course is now 10 years old and has had some holes 'softened' (meaning, large natural grass areas have been cut back) to make it easier for the higher handicapper. Nonetheless, the easy-to-walk routing coupled with the blend of short and long holes, particularly on the back, makes this an amazing walk for the rate.

Turkey Creek Golf Club

Turkey Creek Golf Club
Location and topography: Off Highway 65 east of Lincoln through heavily wooded groves (oaks mostly) and rock outcroppings.
Plays like: Classic Midwest course only with more trees.
Design features: Head Professional Ramon Gonzales said Turkey Creek stands alone. 'There's no setting like this anywhere near here,' he said. Large rock outcroppings are confined to the course; 100 yards off Turkey Creek property they disappear. Architect Brad Bell utilized the gentle undulations, rocks and trees as guides, and by the time you get to the back nine you feel you're in a wooded wonderland. The par-4 18th features two forced carries over small lakes, which are the dregs of the former quarry that occupied the land years ago. Many might find it tight but the short transitions make this modern course easy to walk.

DarkHorse Golf Club

DarkHorse Golf Club
Location and topography: Near the small town of Loomis but with an Auburn address amid heavily tree-covered hillsides.
Plays like: A ride on an untamed horse.
Design features: Architect Keith Foster laid a course that can be visually intimidating thanks to plenty of large bunkers filled with reddish-brown sand and topped with natural grasses. It can be a frightening look. In fact there's plenty of landing space but also definitely areas to avoid. Some holes have hard edges (wetlands and fall-offs). The back nine has more elevation changes yet also plays easier, though the uphill, snaking par-5 11th is the toughest hole on the course. Some of the views of the course are breathtaking, particularly the par-4 17th.

The Ridge Golf Course

The Ridge Golf Course
Location and topography: Up and down tree-lined hillsides in Auburn.
Plays like: A classic Robert Trent Jones Jr. course but with more elevation changes.
Design features: Mostly deep bunkers next to large undulating greens to go along with uphill, side hill and downhill lies. Jones makes you think off the tee, particularly on the shorter par 4s. There are times he wants you to fly bunkers, other times to lay back. Throw in elevation changes that add more factors to shots, particularly on approaches to the greens, and you have a course that requires some tactical forethought. But the more you play it the more you learn to appreciate its challenges.

Winchester Country Club

Winchester Country Club
Location and topography: Mountain-like terrain amid the higher foothills town of Meadow Vista east of Auburn.
Plays like: A magical cart ride through Shangri-La with this Robert Trent Jones Jr. design; devilish tricks to overcome.
Design features: This course opened in 2000 and stands as the last in which son, RTJ II, worked with his famous designer father, Robert Trent Jones Sr. It's a course not meant for the faint-hearted as Jones' sprawling bunkers and expansive greens and their large humps and slopes make for a course where every shot can cost you on the scorecard. It's also a course where he was unfettered pretty much in terms of land use. He laid out 18 holes in which the front nine climb through evergreen and oak-covered hillsides, with the back nine dropping through wetlands and expansive meadows. All of which have punitive bunkering and greens designed -- if one is not in the right portion -- to induce three-jacks.

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)