Going Back to (Northern) Cali, Part 3: Something’s Wrong with This Sandwich

The third day of my most recent trip to Northern California was an interesting one. The best laid plans don’t always work out, but I’ve been known to improvise. On this Saturday, I got to revisit one of my favorite Norcal tracks. I also encountered something quite awful. This article is going to be a roller coaster ride for sure. This particular sandwich has two good pieces of bread with some rather rancid stuff in between.

The actual trip was centered around a Greenskeeper.org “GK Plays” outing at Yocha Dehe Golf Club in the late afternoon. It was GK’s first really big outing in the northern half of the state, so I was happy to support it and it was a good excuse to play that wonderful course again. 

A friend joined me for the last two legs of the trip. Well, for the parts that mattered anyway. We were set to get a really early start on Saturday with a 5:49 tee time at Diamond Oaks. We had purchased a Costco voucher and everything, but they did not have our reservation in the system. In fact, the pro shop guy was kind of rude about it and we were forced to scramble for a backup plan…

Wildhorse Golf Club • Davis, CA • 7/22/17

Fortunately, we got turned away so early we still had time to get out at other courses that don’t open up until a little later. Wildhorse was originally going to be the second round for the day after what we expected to be a quick first-out-of-the-gate round at Diamond Oaks. My friend called over and the pro shop guy at Wildhorse was awesome. He told us to get over there as quickly as possible and he’d get us out just behind a few of the early bird members.

We motored our way from Roseville back toward Davis, and we were teeing off at Wildhorse a little before 6:20. We had to hop around at one point on the back nine to avoid a slower threesome ahead, but we still finished in just over two hours. The price for a Saturday morning round was $50. A bit steep by this area’s standards, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Though we’ll need to go back and play Diamond Oaks sometime in the next couple months before the voucher expires, I feel confident we got the better end of the deal at Wildhorse. I’m quite sure it’s the better course of the two. 

Wildhorse was designed by Robert Muir Graves. I tend to find his courses enjoyable and this was no exception. It’s not a layout or setting that will really wow you. It has a somewhat familiar feel as some other Central Valley and Sacramento courses I’ve played. It’s kind of a heathland/savannah style layout (farmland links, if you will). There aren’t too many houses around the course as only a handful of holes border some residential areas. Beyond that, it goes back and forth through some lightly wooded areas, environmental hazards and some wispy long grass around the edges. 

I’d say the 14th and 15th holes are the highlights of the course. The 14th is a nice par-3 over water. The 15th is a tricky par-4 that might require some long hitters to lay-up in front of the big natural hazard. Once you are safely positioned, then you still have a fairly demanding shot toward the green. The greens here are on the large side with some good undulation as you might expect on a course of this style. Nothing too crazy, though.

Wildhorse was in good overall shape. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were mostly nice. Everything was very wet and overly saturated with watering, so there was no roll-out and some sloppy divots. I’m certain it would play better a little later in the morning once it has dried out some. The rough was a bit spotty in places, but adequate where it mattered. The greens were very soft and rolling well at medium speeds. The bunkers were wet and compacted early with okay sand.

As the only public regulation 18-hole course in Davis (or nearby Woodland for that matter), Wildhorse is a good, quality option for locals to enjoy. If you happen to be in the area and are looking for a place to tee it up, you should be satisfied with your visit.

Some pictures from Wildhorse Golf Club (7/22/17):

The day started off on an odd note, but the morning round ended up pretty good. However, it altered our plans slightly. My friend has already played all the short courses around Sacramento and had no interest in playing them again, but I knew that was my best way to make the most of the remaining time I before I had to be up at Yocha Dehe. 

So we split up and I went solo for a couple of really crappy short course rounds. Bear with me on these next two reviews or just feel free to scroll down to the Yocha review. The following images may be considered NSFW.

Sunrise Golf Course • Citrus Heights, CA • 7/22/17

In short, Sunrise Golf Course earns the dubious distinction as THE WORST golf course I have ever played. I have played plenty of stinkers over the years, so that is saying something. 

This place was absolutely terrible and I can’t imagine how the golf course is staying in business. They do also have a disc golf course, and the layout is very serviceable for that purpose. In fact, I wish I had brought my discs with me instead of my clubs this time. 

They have a small driving range here and that seems moderately popular. Otherwise, they need to close the regular golf course and just focus on the disc golf and/or driving range business.

I ended up paying $25 to play the nine holes with a cart. It was obviously not worth that, but at least the cart helped me get it over with faster. It was one of those rounds that really makes me rethink my goal to play “everything” I can.

Sunrise is a par-31 layout with four par-4s in the mix. The lengths of holes are adequate, with the par-3s ranging from 130 yards up to 165 and the par-4s ranching from 274 yards up to 348.

Otherwise, there is nothing positive to say. The conditions are absolutely abysmal here. There is barely anything resembling grass on the property. Most of it is just dirt, sand, weeds, acorns and whatever else is just there with no noticeable maintenance whatsoever. The “greens” are just a mess with nothing salvageable. I can’t even find the words to describe how bad things were.

So I will leave it at that. Of all the crappy little courses I’ve encountered, Sunrise takes the cake. I rarely root for courses to fail, but this place needs to be closed immediately and roped off as a natural disaster area.

Some “pictures” from Sunrise Golf Course (7/22/17):

(You may want to avert your eyes.)

OK, so there is some decent looking grass on the shot above. I take it all back!

Nevermind. I reinstate my “worst course ever” claim. Check out that beautiful 9th green above!

Not even Sunrise could break my spirit as I had time to work my way back toward Yocha and squeeze in one more junker…

Woodland Meadows Golf Resort • Woodland, CA • 7/22/17

This name may not sound familiar to anyone, including locals. It used to be called Mountain Valley Golf Center and the name just changed recently. If you think about it, it’s funny that they went from one oxymoronic name to another. You can’t be a mountain and valley at the same time, nor can you be a woodland and meadows. WTF people?

Speaking of the name, please note the “Golf Resort” in the new name. I don’t know how they can call themselves a resort if there is nowhere to stay. The place is literally just a smelly (literally smelled like pee inside the pro shop/bar) trailer and a maintenance barn. I guess a stay and play package involves a sleeping bag out in the parking lot? By the way, as bad as the pro shop smelled, the actual bathroom was unbearable. I held my breath and got in and out as quickly as I could.

Conditions were not good here either, but they were light years better than Sunrise. There was at least some reasonable grass coverage from tee to green. The greens had serious issues as most were at least 50% burnt with giant patches of bare sand. Where there was grass on the greens, it was actually not too terrible. 

This is another 9-hole executive (or just a par-3 course depending on which tees you play). There are some forced-in black tee boxes that you may or may not be able to locate at times. From what I can tell on the scorecard, there are a few par-4s if you play the black tees (or for the ladies, as well). It’s kind of confusing. I just played the blues and considered everything a par-3 to keep it easier.

It just plays in a fairly open area around some ponds and trees. Those come into play a few times, but overall it’s a pretty simple and forgiving layout. There’s not much else to say.

It is what it is. It seems like they have a decent amount of local regulars that don’t seem to mind. I think the price was $20 to play the nine holes with a cart. Again, worth a little extra to get around quickly. I had to play through a couple groups, but they were all nice. 

If I hadn’t played Woodland Meadows right after Sunrise, I probably would have been harsher. Still, I would say to anyone, don’t bother with this place.

Some pictures from Woodland Meadows Golf Resort (7/22/17):

To quote Young MC, “every dark tunnel has a light of hope.” Or maybe I was like Andy Dufresne crawling through 500 yards of s#!+ to come out free on the other side. Whatever metaphor you want to use, better things awaited me on this day…

Yocha Dehe Golf Club • Brooks, CA • 7/22/17

I first played Yocha Dehe (part of the Cache Creek Casino/Resort—a real golf resort) back in December 2012. You can read my original review here.

Like Bodega Harbour the day before, the weather this time was vastly different. That first time, it was raining off and on. The conditions were soggy, but everything was super green and lush throughout the course and the surrounding hillsides of this beautiful valley setting.

This time, it was hot and dry. The surrounding hills were a light gold color, which provided some nice contrast with the green grass of the course. On the unfortunate side, they had done some turf reduction here since my last visit (the drought definitely hit this area hard). They didn’t do much with those bare areas, so that took some away from the aesthetic presentation (especially the great view of the course from the clubhouse or the severely elevated first tee box).

The heat of the very hot summer this year also took its toll. Three fairways had big sections closed off and were playing as GUR because they were so damaged. The starter was upfront and apologetic about this, and it’s good they take such measures to get the repairs made correctly. Beyond that, there were a few more brown and thin spots throughout the course that you might not normally see here. Overall, I would still say the conditions were really good. They just weren’t up to the usual Yocha Dehe standards. I rarely ever read any bad reviews of this place, so the high expectations are warranted no matter what time of year it is.

Now that all that is out of the way, I want to focus on the positives. Yocha is a really cool course with a very fun and challenging layout. The first tee shot is epic with a 150-foot drop down to a wide open fairway. For whatever reason, the logo is no longer painted in the middle of the first fairway like you’ll see in my original review and photos.

The front nine is solid. There are a few memorable holes, but it’s not overly exciting. It keeps you engaged just enough until you make the turn. After that, this course gets more and more interesting with just about every hole. The 10th, 11th and 12th holes feature elevated tees and play along the hillside. The 13th is a neat (and long) par-3 set in the middle of a vineyard. The 14th is a demanding dogleg right over a hazard. The 15th is a unique par-4 with a split fairway and all sorts of strategic options to consider. The 16th is another nice par-3 over water.

Then, you have the gauntlet finish of 17 and 18. The 17th is a short, but deadly par-5 with a slightly elevated green that is very well-protected by a water hazard. Only the bravest will go for this green in two. For the “smart” people who lay-up, it’s still an uncomfortable approach over the water and rock wall surrounding the green.

The 18th is a beast of a finisher, with similarities to the infamous 18th at Goose Creek in Southern California. It is a long dogleg right hole around the lake. The green is elevated and rather well-protected. It’s a very demanding finishing stretch capped off by a stunning 18th.

I found myself more in awe the first time I played here. This time, there were some slight disappointments with the conditions and I also already knew what to expect with the layout. However, I still loved the course and will continue to consider it one of the best of the best in Northern California. It is out of the way and more expensive than most Sacramento area courses, but it is worth the effort and expense. It is highly recommended.

Some pictures from Yocha Dehe Golf Club (7/22/17):

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