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.

TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

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Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

“Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”

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Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

“It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”