Going Back to (Northern) Cali, Part 1: Sonoma County Style

I recently returned home from another four-day adventure in Northern California. It’s nice to take road trips up here because there are still so many courses I need to play in just about every region.

This trip happened to center around replaying two of my favorite Norcal courses. In fact, Bodega Harbour and Yocha Dehe were easily the two biggest highlights of the trip. It was interesting to plan a whole trip around courses I’ve already played, but these are two I’m happy to visit any time and it was the perfect excuse to plan a lot of other golf!

I drove up Thursday morning with the plan to “ease” into the trip with some afternoon play once I got up there. I still ended up playing three courses…

Foxtail Golf Club • Rohnert Park, CA • 7/20/17

This was a good choice for a number of reasons. I was set to meet up with friends on Friday morning at Bodega Harbour, so I wanted to keep the first two days of this trip focused on the North Bay Area. Foxtail was a great option because it features two full 18-hole courses, so I could kill ideally two birds with one stone. Also, they had cheap hot deal times available on GolfNow.

North Course

I knew North was the better course of the two based on every review I’ve ever seen. Therefore, I wanted to start on it to make sure I at least got it in that day. I bought the 12:27 hot deal for $26. I arrived much earlier than anticipated, but the pro shop guy was nice and told me I had to wait and check in a half-hour before my time in order for it to process. I did that and he sent me over to the first tee.

Now, it is a bit of drive to the North Course from the main clubhouse. You have to cross the busy street intersection and then work your way over by the Doubletree hotel. There, a starter awaited along with several other players getting ready to go out. He commented how unusually busy it was that day, but told me to hang out and he’d get me out as soon as possible.

A sevensome (you heard that right) went off as I was chatting with him and that seemed very concerning. No wonder it’s so slow out if they’re allowing that kind of crap. He said that technically only five of the guys were playing and two of them (one player with their rider) were dropping out after just a few holes. That did actually happen. However, there were still five guys left and they were all playing every shot. I guess they were just sneaky and lied to make it work in their favor.

After the sevensome, he let out a twosome and said he didn’t want to put me with them because they were good players (or at least long hitters) playing a big money game. Instead, he put me and another single together to follow these guys. So, now you have a sevensome and two twosomes in succession. Great plan! Fortunately, the sevensome-turned-fivesome eventually let both of our twosomes through and it was smooth sailing after that. It really wasn’t as busy as he made it seem because we didn’t push anyone else until late on the back nine. The whole round took about 3 hours and 45 minutes, which was just fine after a bizarre start.

Anyway, enough about that. It was just too strange and frustrating to not mention.

I’m not sure the exact history of either course at Foxtail. I believe they used to be two separate courses that eventually joined under a new name. There is a plaque by the 10th tee of the North Course that says it used to be called Mountain Shadows GC. Also, Google Maps still shows a marker as Roberts Lake GC. Then, the South Course has a similar plaque that refers to it originally as Rohnert Park Municipal Golf Course. Whatever they used to be called, they are both part of the Foxtail complex now.

Both courses, I believe, were designed by Bob E. Baldock. One of the appeals, however, is that they are very different courses.

The North Course is a bit more open, but overall more interesting layout. It goes back and forth through a residential area, with each nine circling out and back into some more wooded sections. The terrain is flat overall, but there are plenty of big trees in play and several water hazards. The setting is pretty nice with some golden foothill views framing the holes from behind. I found myself reminded a lot of Paradise Valley GC in Fairfield, just with more pine trees instead of oaks. The review will be similar. Pretty good, but ultimately nothing that distinctive.

The best hole is easily the 10th, which doglegs right hard around a big lake and forces some interesting risk/reward decisions. All the greens of Foxtail North are huge and the 10th features one of the trickiest with a steep slope from back to front toward the water. There was a front sucker pin on Thursday, so that made for some slippery downhill birdie-to-bust putts if playing it safe on the approach.

Conditions kind of mirrored the design. Solid, but not overly memorable. It was pretty green and lush throughout, though maybe a tad on the shaggy side. A few tee boxes could use some leveling out, but they were mostly in good shape. The fairways didn’t provide much roll, but I always had good lies to hit from. The rough had good coverage. Not too deep, but just enough to make you work on some shots as the ball tended to sit down in it. The greens were firm. Well most were, and occasionally you’d find a surprise soft spot when you were expecting a big release. They rolled pretty well at medium-fast speeds. The bunkers were kind of a mess. A few had nice new sand, but were not well kept. Most had this dark gray hardpan sand that you wanted to avoid. Hopefully they’ll eventually get the new sand in all the traps and players/staff take tend to them as needed.

Foxtail North isn’t a must-play, but it’s clear most people prefer it over South. For the right price, it offers an enjoyable and solid local golf experience in Rohnert Park.

Some pictures from Foxtail Golf Club (North) (7/20/17):

South Course

I was able to get out immediately on the South Course for a replay round. They gave me a great replay rate and I headed over to the first tee. Another single was in front of me and he was cheering on from the 2nd tee when my 3-wood approach hit the pin, dipped all the way in and somehow back out of the cup. What looked like a miracle eagle became kind of a disappointing tap-in birdie.

We joined up together and followed a slower threesome in front of us. However, he left after nine holes and so did the threesome ahead. I got to run free for the first half of the back nine before running into some slower groups for the final few holes. The round still only took about 2.5 hours, which was fantastic.

The South Course definitely has a different vibe and feels more like a traditional parkland-style muni. The front nine runs back and forth and then the back nine goes out and back. The back nine probably resembles the North a bit more than the front, but is still more straightforward in design. The South isn’t super long, toping out at 6,492 yards. However, I felt it looks and plays significantly tighter than north. The trees definitely infringe more, especially on tee shots, and there isn’t as much bail-out room. Though the North probably requires more strategy to score well because of doglegs and hazards, the South demands accuracy. It is mostly straight ahead, so you have to stay out of the trees and other danger zones or a big score can add up quickly.

The 3rd hole is probably the closest thing to a “signature” hole on the South. It’s just a short little par-3 over water and really nothing to get that excited about. There’s plenty of room for error as long as you don’t leave it short.

Conditions on South were similar to North from tee to green, but probably just a slight step down on every level. There were more inconsistencies to be found on this side, though overall still pretty good and better than expected. The greens were much softer and slower on South, but they were at least consistent and the putting surfaces rolled very smoothly.

Though neither course really wowed me, I would probably still give the nod to North over South. However, mine probably isn’t as big a margin as most people’s.

Some pictures from Foxtail Golf Club (South) (7/20/17):

After two fairly quick rounds at Foxtail, I still had a lot of daylight remaining, so I decided to try and squeeze in a short course…

Sebastopol Golf Course • Sebastopol, CA • 7/20/17

I called over to make sure they’d still be open. The guy in the pro shop said he was planning to close around 6:30, so to get over there as soon as possible. I arrived about 6:25 and they were super nice. The price was $12 to walk nine holes.

It was a really nice evening, so there were some players out on the course ahead of me and I eventually caught up. Still, the whole round took only a little more than an hour to complete. It’s definitely a workout as it goes straight up and down a hillside.

From the moment I pulled up to Sebastopol, I could tell it was going to be one of those short courses that would hold some nice charm. Whenever I visit a new short course in a rural area like this, it’s usually something surprisingly good or it’s even worse than hoped. Fortunately, Sebastopol was the former.

The setting here is beautiful with lots of trees and plenty of green grass on the course. Being on a hillside offers some beautiful views with the foothills in the background. Sebastopol (like just about everything in the North Bay Area) is wine country and also seems to have a large artist population. It is very secluded and the course reflects the town’s spirit.

Sebastopol is a par-31 9-hole layout (par-33 for the ladies). However, the longest par-4 is only 216 yards. The steep hillside the course is on does impact those measurements a bit. For instance, the 4th is a straight uphill par-4 at 185 yards. Still should be a par-3, but it’ll at least make you work for it.

The 8th hole is the standout hole here. It is only a 197-yard par-4 with a slightly elevated tee box. The green is tiny (all the greens here are tiny and most are domed) and sits directly behind a water hazard. There is a little bail-out room long, though it sure doesn’t look that way from the tee. I thought it was do-or-die with a super high and soft shot to hit the green. Some people will just hit an iron and lay-up to play it as a proper par-4.

Conditions were pretty good. Like I said, it was looking pretty lush and green. It wasn’t always consistently cut or the same grass everywhere, but it was pretty good for a course of this caliber. The greens were decent, as well.

It’s not worth going so far out of the way for, but it’s a fun little side adventure if you just happen to be in Sebastopol.

Some pictures from Sebastopol Golf Course (7/20/17):

This is a story I have to add…

When I arrived at Sebastopol, there was kind of a strange old man just sitting/laying by the practice green. He didn’t say anything when I arrived. However, he was still hanging around when I left and I was the last one to be there. He started to walk out the parking lot as I got prepared to leave. Then, he flagged me down and asked for a ride.

It was very awkward and I wasn’t really comfortable doing it, but he seemed harmless and it was worth it for a good story. I gave him a ride into downtown Sebastopol, where I dropped him off at a bar (though he already smelled like one). His name was Walt. He told me some of his tall tales and how he is often hanging around the golf course. Oh, and he likes the Burger King pancake special, as well. Odds are if you ever visit Sebastopol Golf Course, you might have your own Walt encounter. Say howdy and he’ll be happy to chat with you (a lot) or catch a ride back into town.

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