Golfin’ on the Dock of Bay

I recently took another 3-day trip to the Bay Area, centered around an NCGA outing at historic Lake Merced Golf Club on Monday. A friend and I drove up together on Sunday morning and we were able to squeeze in plenty of golf before and after that round Monday—despite some limited daylight thanks to the time change and NorCal courses not yet shifting their schedules to open earlier.

We only had one round on the slate for Sunday, though I ended up playing two…

San Ramon Golf Club • San Ramon, CA • 11/5/17

With Lake Merced being a somewhat expensive round, we opted for value the rest of the time. We bought a few discount vouchers and the golf was pretty inexpensive. At San Ramon, we had a voucher from GolfMoose that was a good deal.

We had an 11:07 tee time and were paired with a single. She ended up leaving after 9 holes. Another single caught up and joined us halfway through the front nine and we played with him the rest of the way. It was a busy day here, so we just relaxed and played at a 4:30 pace behind the other groups.

San Ramon is an older course, originally built in 1946 by Clark Glasson. He’s not an architect I know much about, but it looks like he’s had a hand in a number of courses throughout Northern California. Nothing that notable, though.

You can tell parts of this course were built long before any housing was added, so there are places where the homes will come into play. Otherwise, the layout is pretty spread out on the property. The front nine goes out and back with a relatively flat landscape. Then, the back nine goes up into the hillside a bit to provide some minor changes in elevation. I’d say the back nine was definitely more interesting overall.

The two standout holes are clearly the 9th and 18th, which are good finishers that run parallel to one another. The 9th is the obvious signature hole with a large island green complex. It’s a nice par-4 with a wide open tee shot and then a delicate shot over the water.

The 18th is another demanding par-4 with a water hazard cutting across the fairway in front of the green, basically making it all carry on your second shot. Beyond these two nice holes, there isn’t anything too distinctive about San Ramon. It’s a solid muni-level course that clearly gets a ton of play.

The conditions were okay. Some tee boxes were a bit chewed up, but were mostly fine enough. The fairways were decent overall, though a tad spotty and inconsistent in places. The rough was hit or miss, but mostly cut down and not too much of a factor. The bunkers had really nice, soft sand. However, they were not that well maintained. The greens were receptive, rolling at medium/slow speeds and bumpy at times in the afternoon. The 18th green was absolutely covered by goose turds.

San Ramon is a fine locals’ course and worth it if you find the right deal. Rack rates seem a bit high for what you get, especially on weekends, so I am glad we got a really nice price to make it more enjoyable.

Some pictures from San Ramon Golf Club (11/5/17):

We weren’t necessarily planning to play again Sunday, but the timing worked out well for me to squeeze in another quickie after we crossed the bay into San Mateo…

Mariners Point Golf Links and Practice Center • Foster City, CA • 11/5/17

I ended up playing this one by myself because my friend had already played it. It was a good choice because it was close to where we were staying and it is the only night-lit golf course in the Bay Area, paired with a nice practice center. It’s clearly a popular after-work stop for those not wanting to sit in traffic.

The price was a bit steep at $17 to walk nine holes, but I paid and got around the course very quickly. Only had to play through one twosome. Most of my time was spent taking pictures because it was such a beautiful clear evening and this course is in an awesome location overlooking the bay. I could see the city in the distance and the San Mateo Bridge, which is right next to the course. I couldn’t have picked a better time to play it because I had such nice sunset views to photograph. The lights were on by the time I finished, so I also got to see how well this place is lit up for nighttime play.

Though I end up playing a lot of stinkers, this is the type of short course that keeps me searching for more hidden gems. Not only does it have a cool setting and lights. The conditions were quite nice and the layout is fun. Mariners Point offers a 9-hole par-3 course designed by Bob Cupp and John Fought. The holes range from 101 yards up to 166, so you’ll get to use a variety of clubs. The greens are interesting and it’s a legit enough par-3 course that is more than just a “pitch and putt.” At the same time, the layout is relatively forgiving and very beginner friendly, which is what you want from a learning center. They really struck the right balance to make it appealing enough for experienced golfers while inviting enough to new players. To me, that’s everything a short course should be. Then, you throw the great waterfront views in on top of that and you have a real winner!

I mentioned the conditions were nice. It was lush and green throughout the course. The greens were a little bumpy that late in the day, but they rolled at good speeds and were firm, yet receptive enough. The all-grass tee boxes were a bit chewed up, but it was never hard to get a tee in the ground. Those who want to play it off the deck may find things a little trickier.

This is a great short course that I wish I had near me. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, but especially newer players and casual golfers who want a cool place to hang out, practice irons/wedges and have lots of fun.

Some pictures from Mariners Point Golf Links and Practice Center (11/5/17):

This next course I actually played on Monday morning. However, I will group it in with this post so I can let the Lake Merced review stand alone…

Emerald Hills Golf Course • Redwood City, CA • 11/6/17

I dropped my friend off at Poplar Creek as that was a course he needed to play. I had already played it, so I wanted my own new course to add to the list. Emerald Hills was the best option with limited time available in the early morning.

Emerald Hills typically doesn’t open until 7:30, but I called ahead and they told me to come out and play. They said it would be no problem to play earlier and then pay after I finished. So that’s what I did. I got out there a little after 6:30 and the place was deserted. I played and then finished right as the guy was opening the pro shop, so it worked out perfectly. I believe the price was $15 to walk 9 holes, which also felt a little steep for what you get here on a uncrowded weekday morning.

The “Hills” is well-deserved in the Emerald Hills name. This is not a flat course. In fact, it is very, very hilly. Most holes play uphill and then there are a few downhillers to balance things out. For a par-3 course, it is fun and interesting (and it’s a good workout going up and down all those hills). It’s also quite challenging with the elevation changes and very small greens that fall off in different directions.

The holes range from 100 yards up to 172, so again it’s far from your basic pitch and putt. The course’s only real claim to fame is that the 6th hole has the most registered holes-in-one of any course in Northern California. They say it has a bowl shape, but I didn’t see it. To me, it slanted more left to right, though the front right pin placement was inviting with that set-up.

All the greens here are tiny and hard to hold. Though the 6th is one of the easiest out here, I didn’t see why it is known to give up so many aces. I sure didn’t come close!

Beyond that, Emerald Hills is what it is. It’s a fairly enjoyable par-3 course. Conditions weren’t too inspiring. The greens were pretty good. Otherwise, everything else clearly shows the effects of the drought. It’s pretty dry and bare throughout a lot of the course, with the best grass being on and around the greens.

Emerald Hills is another decent short course, though I wouldn’t recommend it nearly as highly as Mariners Point.

Some pictures from Emerald Hills Golf Course (11/6/17):

The 6th hole:

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