“Home by the Spring Water” – A Wonderful Day at Yocha Dehe

With today being Day 1 of the new Mayan calendar cycle in South America, I figured I’d pay homage to some native North Americans. As I drove northward to spend Christmastime with family in Northern California, I decided it was an ideal time to stop along the way and finally visit Yocha Dehe Golf Club. Though this course is relatively new (about 5 years old, I believe), it’s been on my wish list for awhile, so I am glad I finally got to play it today. It was well worth the wait.

Yocha Dehe (pronounced “yo-tcha de-hay”) is part of the Cache Creek Casino & Resort in Brooks, CA (just west of Woodland, which is just a little bit north of Sacramento). This Brad Bell design has been highly touted since its opening and is known for high-end resort service and conditioning. “Yocha Dehe” means “Home by the spring water” (Wintun tribe, I believe) and is laid out in a beautiful little valley along the edge of Cache Creek. There are multiple tee boxes here to suit your skill level, topping out at the black tees, which are a whopping 7,337 yards total!

I had my tee time booked for 10:00 today, but the weather forecast was looking worse and worse as the week went on. I was bound and determined to play the course no matter what, though. It was pouring all morning on my drive up until I got close to Woodland and it started to break. By the time I got out to the course, it was actually pretty sunny. But dark clouds were still all around so I knew it would be hit and miss all day.

I guess the threat of awful weather scared everyone else away because I was the only one listed on the tee sheet for the entire day! I pretty much had the course to myself and I was able to tee off around 9:30 to try and make the most of the weather window. I got some light sprinkles here and there, some heavy winds at points and other times when it was calm with bright blue skies. It didn’t start raining heavily again until I was finishing on the 18th hole, so I got the round in just in time. I did see another single heading up to the 1st tee when I was on the 9th hole, so he wasn’t quite as fortunate with his timing.

Yocha Dehe lives up to the hype. It’s a very beautiful course that’s also very fun and challenging. It was very soggy out there today with heavy, heavy rains all last night. Otherwise, the fairways are pretty much immaculate right now. The rough was gorgeous–medium depth and punishing with the wet conditions. The greens are also in great shape. They are receptive, deceptive and smooth (other than the many earthworms that were up on the surface because of all the rain). Considering this is their “off-season,” I was amazed how lush and green it was out there. Very impressive. The sand traps were in pretty rough shape because of the heavy rains, but luckily I was able to avoid them all day. The staff and service are excellent and this is a top-notch facility all the way around.

The course starts off with a majorly elevated tee box overlooking a fairway with the Yocha Dehe three-leaf logo painted in the middle of the fairway. It’s a great way to start the round. Then the front nine is pretty benign and straightforward after that. However, there is a lot of subtle undulation to the terrain, so there are very few flat lies on the entire course. Other than the first hole, there aren’t any major elevation changes on the course (holes 9, 10, 11 and 18 do have some moderate elevation changes).

The whole back nine was awesome with a lot of interesting holes and more water in play. Plenty of twists, turns and tricky angles on the back. Holes 17 and 18 make for one heck of a tough finish. The 17th is a great par-5 with an elevated peninsula green guarded by water on the right and framed with a cool-looking rock wall in front. The 18th is a long par-4 finisher with water all along the right. The tee shot dares you to bite off as much as you can as you hit over the lake.

I loved the 13th hole, as well, which is a long par-3 (254 from the tips!) cut in the middle of the vineyard that neighbors a few holes on the back nine. Holes 14 and 15 are also very memorable and unique holes, especially 15, which has a creek bisecting the fairway. The left fairway is the “shortcut” that’s has a much narrower landing area, while the right “safe way” fairway is more wide open, but makes the hole play significantly longer.

The practice facilities are also great with one of the coolest driving ranges I’ve seen and an elevated putting green near the first tee that gives you a view of the entire course as you prepare to play it. They have a fantastic-looking short game area, too, but I didn’t utilize it today.

For me, Yocha Dehe Golf Club lived up to the hype and I look forward to playing here again someday when it’s in peak season shape. I can only imagine how nice it looks and plays then.

Some pictures from Yocha Dehe Golf Club (12/22/12):

Driving Range:

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View from Putting Green:

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View from 1st Tee:

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13th Hole:

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View from between fairways on 15th:

Approach view on 17th:

View from the black tees on 18 below…yikes!!!

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