With reasonable weather this year, I was excited to get more golf in while visiting Northern California for Christmas. Today presented the opportunity to visit Gold Hills Golf Club in Redding. It was about a 45-minute drive from where we were staying in Corning, but good golf is quite spread out in the northern part of this state, so you take what you can get.
My brother and I booked a 12:00 tee time, which was the first time at their discounted “twilight” rate of $45 with cart. That’s still a little steep, but much more appealing than the morning rate that was over $80! The price has always been the main deterrent for me playing here in the past, so at least the lower rate made it palatable.
I think you’d have to be a little crazy and desperate to pay that full morning rate, especially given the course’s current winter conditions. However, it is somewhat understandable. From what I can tell, Gold Hills is Redding’s only public, regulation 18-hole course. There are a few private clubs in the area and a number of small 9-holers, but that certainly adds to Gold Hills’ appeal for locals and anyone visiting from out of town.
Mt. Shasta Resort and Lake Shastina are great options not far to the north, but I wouldn’t mess with either of those in winter. And, of course, Sevillano Links (now The Links at Rolling Hills) to the south is a far superior winter option with much better rates and conditions, if you don’t mind driving 45 minutes.
That all said, Gold Hills is a solid course with an enjoyable layout and good playable conditions. I emphasize “playable” as it doesn’t look pretty right now, but the playing surfaces are still fairly good and consistent throughout the course. More on that later, though.
It’s appropriate that the word “Hills” is in the name, because that’s what you get here at Gold Hills. Not every hole has elevation changes, but most do. I wouldn’t categorize it as a “target” layout, though, because the course is relatively forgiving from tee to green. When you get to the greens is where the course gets a little more challenging.
There are very few dogleg holes. Most play very straight. The only trick is that they play significantly uphill or downhill, and often times both. In other words, some holes feature a downhill tee shot and an elevated approach, while others require a tee shot straight up and over a hill that reveals a fun downhill approach view.
The back nine stretch from 15-18 stood out most for me. The 15th is a signature par-5 with a small pond guarding the front right of the green and nice rock wall features for aesthetic appeal. The 16th is a long, uphill hole that is a tough one.
The 17th is a fantastic short par-3 with an elevated tee and a gorgeous view of the mountains in the background. Lastly, the 18th is a straightforward one with some of those aforementioned hills in play. Uphill tee shot, downhill second shot and then slight uphill approach.
The trickiest design element at Gold Hills in my mind is what I will call the “ant hill” green complexes. Most have false edges on at least two sides (many times three), so just-missed approaches will roll down the hills and leave you with an awkward chip. The greens themselves generally seemed somewhat crowned with a high point near the center, making it tough to judge short shots or get putts to stop once past the hole.
As mentioned, winter conditions were in full effect here. The fairways and rough were 90% brown with dormant bermuda grass, but they were consistently mowed and very playable. It looked splotchy and ugly, but I never really had a bad lie. The greens were firm and medium/quick, though the speeds did seem to vary a lot and got bumpier as the afternoon went on, so I found myself frustrated with the surfaces.
I wasn’t in any bunkers, but they looked pretty thin. The good news is that most of them have very small lips, so putting could be an option from some of the greenside traps. The greenest part of the course was the nice tee boxes they recently redid for the 18th hole. They looked sharp and showed a glimpse of how great this course could look when lush and green.
I’ll give Gold Hills a slight pass for the winter conditions, especially since they do keep it so playable in harsher weather. However, I still think they should offer cheaper rates during these months to make up for the fact people aren’t getting the course anywhere near its best. I do hope to come back here again during a better part of the year to see what this course is really supposed to look like, but I’ll still be looking for a deal to make it worth my while.
Some pictures from Gold Hills Golf Club (12/27/13):
After my round, I took a brief pit stop to check out the Sundial Bridge, which has become one of Redding’s biggest landmarks since opening in 2004. It’s a neat pedestrian bridge spanning across the Sacramento River. I got there just in time for some great sunset lighting and ran around to take pictures from a variety of vantage points: