Goin’ Down to Cowtown…

Other than driving along the I-5 on my way between Southern and Northern California, I haven’t spent too much time in the Central Valley. So when Greenskeeper.org put together a “GK Plays” get-together at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club in the small town of Stevinson (just a bit south of Modesto area), I wasn’t too intrigued initially. As you know, I’m no stranger to driving to some remote places for golf, but this definitely seemed out of the way even though I had heard some good things about the course.

Anyway, after the Mt. Woodson GK event, I went out to dinner with a few of the guys and they really pumped up Stevinson Ranch to a point where I felt compelled to come along. In the end, I figured it was the best excuse I’d ever have to venture out to this area for a golf trip.

There were four of us in the carpool on Friday morning. That was also an adventure since I am so used to solo road trips, but it was nice to have good conversation and camaraderie on the lengthy drive. We met up in Santa Clarita and piled into one of the guys’ Suburban with a lot of golf stuff and supplies.

We eventually got out to the course and it was a nice day out there. Pretty hot, but not as bad as we feared. There was also plenty of wind in the afternoon, which cooled things down a bit even though it made the course play much tougher.

I didn’t know a ton about Stevinson Ranch before we got there, but knew it was basically more of a links style layout amongst the farmland. It was built in a wetlands area, so it’s known as a “Savannah” style course.

We had a great time out there on this wonderful course as we played Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. On Friday, we had eight players out there and then 10 on Saturday. We stayed in these little cottages on the property, which were pretty cool. One of the guys abstained from golf Friday afternoon in order to barbecue up some great grub–tri-tip steak with a Mexican theme (tortillas, fresh salsa and the biggest bowl of guacamole you’ve ever seen). It was delicious as we all hung out by the pool and fought off the mosquitoes. It was a beautiful night out there–perfect temperature!

Regarding the golf course, Stevinson Ranch was a very enjoyable layout with lots of challenging aspects. The key here is to stay out of the trouble, which I was able to do for the most part. Definitely stay out of the long native grasses that frame the course. Those areas will simply eat your ball up and you are not likely to find it. Then there are many nasty grass bunkers throughout the course, which is an interesting stylistic choice I really liked. Still plenty of sand bunkers as well, which you also want to avoid.

The course was in excellent shape. A number of the tee boxes were a bit sandy, but level. Fairways were great and first cut of rough was thick and cut perfectly. The grass here just grabs your club, so it’s tough to hit out of even if your ball is sitting up. The greens were excellent, even though I had trouble reading them. Sand traps were solid. The sand is soft and heavy because of the wind this course gets. A bit crusty on top, but very soft underneath.

The service and staff here were great. We ate several meals in the saloon/restaurant in the clubhouse. Food service a bit slow, but the food was delicious! All the girls that worked in the bar and ran the beverage carts on the course were gorgeous, so that was a nice bonus nobody expected in such a remote area.

Even though this course is out in the middle of nowhere, it’s a very worthwhile stop if you are on the road in this area. They keep it in amazing shape and it’s a great layout that will challenge golfers of all levels. They do have many sets of tees, so be sure to play the tees that are right for your skill level. Don’t be tempted to bite off more than you can chew.

Some pictures from Stevinson Ranch Golf Club (6/15/12):

The one weird thing I was thinking during the whole stay at Stevinson was the fact that it is weird for the Golf Nomad to drive so far, spend a night on the road and only get to play one course (even if it was a great course).

After we finished our Saturday morning round at Stevinson and had a nice, relaxed lunch in the clubhouse, we hit the road once again to make our way home. We were giving another guy a ride back to Bakersfield, so we drove along the 99 this time. Perhaps the Nomad spirit rubbed off on the other guys, but we all decided we hadn’t had enough golf yet. We stopped at Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club in Dinuba (a bit south of Fresno) to squeeze in some super twilight golf. I had never heard anything about this course, but a couple of the guys had played it before and knew it was a good track and potentially in great shape this time of year.

There were only a few other groups out on the course as it was well over 100 degrees and there is absolutely no shade to be found on this course. We were able to squeeze in 14 holes as a relatively slow-moving fivesome before it got too dark. This was a fun course. It’s a great links layout also out in the middle of Cow Country. A ton of bunkers on this course that need to be avoided if you want to post a decent score. They are all well placed and can be penalizing. This course also features thick native grasses framing every hole that should be avoided at all costs. Lots of undulation in the fairways and greens, which is expected on a true links style layout like this. The course looked beautiful as the pink sunset created a stunning glow across the tall grasses and undulations of this course.

The course was in excellent shape, as well. From tee to green, it was green and lush out there. The ball ran a lot on these fairways, but the fairway grass was excellent to hit off of for approaches. The rough was cut down pretty tight, which adds some challenge as balls tend to roll through it and into trouble (bunkers or native grass areas). The greens were in excellent shape, though there were a lot of unrepaired ball marks that we had to help fix up.

Just like Stevinson, this is a very nice course in an unexpected setting. It was well worth the stop and I would highly recommend it if you are in the Fresno area.

Some pictures from Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club (6/16/12):

The extra round definitely added to a long drive home. By the time I got home to Irvine, it was after 2:00 am. So needless to say I’m tired today. I kept nodding off while watching the U.S. Open, so I am now writing this blog as I watch to keep me more alert as it comes down to the wire.

Next weekend, I’ll be on the road again for a short little trip up to Ventura. So more great golf is on the way!

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