Unfinished Business in the Central Valley

I’m just about done with my public course list in the Central Valley, but I also had some unfinished business that had been lingering. Yesterday, I was able to revisit two courses in the area and make things a bit more complete…

Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club • Dinuba, CA • 8/4/16

Back in 2012, some friends and I were carpooling home from Stevinson Ranch (sadly now closed). We were itching for some more golf, so we stopped and tried to squeeze in an evening round at Ridge Creek Dinuba. We were only able to get through 14 holes before it was too dark to continue. Actually, we played the first 13 and then skipped over to 18 in order to head in. You can see my original review here along with pictures of the late great Stevinson Ranch.

I’ve been wanting to come back and play this course. Not only is it a really nice course, but I wanted to get through all 18 holes here. It is not a convenient course. Dinuba is kind of in between Visalia and Fresno, but then also to the east. Yet out there amongst the cow pastures and almond orchards, there sits a great golf course.

Ridge Creek Dinuba is what they call a “heathland” style course. It utilizes a lot of links design elements, and in some ways heathland is just a fancy term for an inland links style course (since technically “links” is a reference to the type of land those old seaside courses are built on).

I was playing along with a group from Greenskeeper.org. A few of us drove up from Southern California together and then other players were local, so it was a fun outing. There was hardly anyone out on the course on a Thursday, so we basically had the place to ourselves. After a nice breakfast on the patio and plenty of time to warm up on the excellent, large practice area here, our groups teed off a little before 11:00. It was hot out, but not nearly as toasty as it has been in this area.

Ridge Creek Dinuba features a very pleasant layout. With the gently rolling terrain and design style, many holes do kind of blend together. The course does have plenty of bunkers and lots of deep native rough areas lining the holes. These are to be avoided at all costs. If you can stay out of sand traps and steer clear of the really deep grass, then a good score can be had. The fairways are wide and forgiving, and the greens are very large.

It was nice getting to play the handful of holes that I missed previously, as well as see the whole course in full daylight. Unfortunately, it’s a tough course to photograph mid-day because it’s hard to get dramatic perspectives. I guarantee my photos do not do the course justice.

Some of my favorite holes ended up being on the latter stretch of the back nine that I didn’t experience before. The 14th is a great par-4 with the best bunkering on the course running up the middle of the fairway toward the green. The 15th is a beast of a par-5, tipping out at over 650 yards from the silver tees! The 16th is an awesome short par-3 that plays completely different from each set of tees. We had time to kill, so we played them all. Then the 18th is another monster. It’s a par-4 that is over 500 yards from the tips and well over 400 from any other set of tees.

The course was in excellent shape overall. I was really impressed given the oppressive heat this area gets. The tee boxes were nice. The fairways were really fantastic. The primary cut of rough was also lush and consistent throughout. They do leave the old/dead grass clippings throughout the rough here, so you’ll see a lot of brown in the photos. However, the actual grass in the rough was really great and green. Of course, the outer areas of rough are super nasty and you never know what kind of lie you’ll have (if you find your ball at all).

The greens were also in very nice shape, rolling at medium speeds. The bunkers had good sand. It could probably be a little softer in the greenside bunkers given the difficulty those shots present. They are deep and tough to escape.

This really is one of the best courses this area has to offer and it’s a nice value. I highly recommend it to anyone heading through the Central Valley. It’s worth a stop and you’ll be surprised at just how nice a course it is.

Some pictures from Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club (8/4/16):

Though it was a long drive to Dinuba and back, I was in a carpool and not expecting to play any more golf. However, we had some daylight and were feeling spry, so we decided to check out another course that I not-so-gently suggested…

Valley Oaks Golf Course • Visalia, CA • 8/4/16

Valley Oaks was definitely a geographically convenient option as we worked our way back home, but I had an extra agenda and I was thankful my friends were on board with stopping here.

When I first played here back in 2014, I only had a chance to play two of the three nines. That time, I played the Oaks and Lakes nines (you can read that review here). I’ve been needing to come back and play Valley. However, with so many other courses left to play in the Central Valley, it wasn’t a huge priority. This trip turned out to be the perfect time to finally take care of this unfinished business in Visalia.

We just stopped in without calling ahead and we could see the course was really wide open. We checked in and paid our $31.25 (with carts), and asked if we could start on the Valley nine. The guy said no problem, so we teed off a little after 5:00 and enjoyed a brisk evening pace. Normally, the routing would dictate that we play the Oaks nine after Valley, but we opted to play Lakes instead. I knew from before that it was the more interesting of the two, and ultimately it’s easily the best nine of the three if you ask me.

We finished our 18 in less than three hours, with a little daylight to spare. The price seemed a little steep for late twilight, but since we finished a full 18 holes, I ended up feeling okay with that rate.

The Valley nine is pretty similar to Oaks. From what I understand, these are the original two nines, and then Lakes was added later. There are some wacky routing spots on the two nines we played yesterday, so some holes may have been mixed around when they expanded to 27.

Valley has some very severe doglegs and traditional tree-lined fairways. It is flat and not overly difficult as long as you stay out of the trees. It’s a pretty standard old Central Valley kind of course. The Lakes nine is more open, but has a more interesting look with undulation in the fairways. It also includes some big water hazards (hence the name) in play on the final four holes.

The course was in okay shape. It was playable enough, but nothing near what we got in Dinuba. The tee boxes were okay, but some were pretty beat up and thin. The fairways were decent. They were definitely on the thin/firm/dry side, but I never really had a bad lie. The rough was spotty, but cut down and not much of a factor. It was pretty nice around the greens for the most part, though. They had done some turf reduction since my last visit, so there are a lot of bare hardpan areas in between holes now. I wasn’t in a bunker, so no comments there. The greens were very beat up and disappointing. Just a ton of ball marks, new and old. Really bumpy surfaces with so many pock marks, and compounded by the natural late afternoon bumpiness.

The course was in nicer shape the first time I played it. It’s a muni that gets a ton of play, so it’s no surprise it’s a little worn out in the late summer. The greens were pretty bad, though. It’s still a solid local track.

Some pictures from Valley Oaks Golf Course (8/4/16):

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