Holiday Trip 2017, Part 1: Starting in Sacramento

If you’ve followed this trip over the years, you’ll know I usually end up in Northern California and Southern Oregon over the holiday break because that’s where a lot of my family and friends live. 2017 was a little different as we decided to spend Christmas at my brother’s house in Vancouver, WA (just across the river from Portland). That opened up some more golf possibilities for me, though it also presented more winter weather challenges to go further north than usual.

Ultimately, I ended up playing eight rounds scattered across an 11-day adventure through Northern California, different parts of Oregon and Southern Washington.

The first day found me working my way north. The Sacramento area was the perfect place to stop for a round or two…

Foothill Golf Course • Citrus Heights, CA • 12/21/17

This round was not actually in my original plans. However, I had a 12:10 tee time booked over at Teal Bend and I way over-budgeted my drive time to Sacramento. I was there quite early and had plenty of time to kill.

Foothill was the closest short course option geographically and I also had a bone to pick with this place. I have stopped by the course several times during Sacramento visits the past few years and I can never seem to catch it when it is open. It seems they open late and close early. Either way, I thought I’d give it one more try. This time, they were open!

I paid my $10 to walk the 9 holes. I started on the fourth hole at the recommendation of the girl in the pro shop. That got me out ahead of the guy mowing the greens and a twosome that was on the third hole. It worked out well because I never encountered anyone else and I got around the course as quickly as I could.

Foothill is a pretty basic par-3 course. Depending on how far you can hit your wedges, it may be considered a “pitch and putt.” The holes range from 100 yards up to 155 and a few bring some slight uphill/downhill elevation changes in play to affect the perceived yardage. Otherwise, it’s a very straightforward and wide open little course that is best served as a short game practice area or beginner’s layout.

Conditions were decent for winter. It was semi-dormant throughout, but the tee boxes weren’t too beat up and the greens were actually pretty good. They were soft and rolling well at medium speeds. The slopes come into play on the greens as some downhill putts can be more slippery than expected.

Beyond that, there isn’t much to highlight about Foothill. It’s a very simple par-3 course that is well-suited for novice players, seniors and kids who want an affordable place to learn the finer points of the game.

Some pictures from Foothill Golf Course (12/21/17):

Next, I made my way over to my main course for the day…

Teal Bend Golf Club • Sacramento, CA • 12/21/17

I was already looking at Teal Bend as a good option in the north part of town since I still had a lot of driving to do after my round. Then, as I was searching for hot deals on GolfNow, I came across a deal I could not refuse. They had a 12:10 tee time at Teal Bend for only $12!

The course was actually pretty busy. It was a nice clear day, though it was still a bit chilly and windy. I should have savored the “cold” weather in Sacramento, though, because I was in for much colder temperatures the following days.

I was paired with another single and a friendly Ukrainian couple. We teed off right at 12:10 and kept pace with the groups ahead. The group ahead kind of slowed down on the back nine, so we pushed them all the way in. Still, we finished right at 4:00 for a good overall pace.

I’ve heard good things about Teal Bend as one of the Sacramento area’s better mid-range options. Ultimately, I really liked the layout and the setting is good, as well. There are no homes around the course. You do get some air traffic noise because the Sacramento Airport is next door and Beale AFB is not far up the road. However, the course still feels pretty isolated and peaceful.

Teal Bend was designed by Brad Bell and has some subtle architectural qualities that I enjoyed. Most holes have at least a slight dogleg one way or the other with trees and native hazards lining either side. None of the holes run parallel to one another. The greens are big and have some tricky undulation. The bunkering is also kind of interesting, especially in the fairways. Most holes have a well-placed bunker or two to impact your tee shot strategies.

The standout holes at Teal Bend would have to be 9, 16 and 17. The 9th and 16th are nice par-3s over water. The 17th is a very interesting par-5 that doglegs hard right around a water hazard. Longer hitters will be able to cut off a big chunk of the corner by going directly over the water and some big bunkers beyond it. Shorter hitters are forced to take the long way around as a traditional three-shot hole.

Unfortunately, winter conditions were not great here. I wasn’t surprised because I’ve encountered similar conditions at other Sacramento area courses in the winter—especially cold, dry winters like they’ve had so far in Norcal. Teal Bend was basically completely dormant from tee to green. The rough was dappled with some green patches, but otherwise it was totally brown throughout.

The dormant colors definitely took away a lot of the natural aesthetics of this course and they also impacted your sight lines off the tee. With no major distinctions between fairways and rough (the bunkers also kind of blended in), it didn’t present well.

Teal Bend is a course I’d like to go back and play another time when conditions are nicer. I know this is not its typical look throughout most of the year and I almost feel bad posting any pictures of it in its winter state. The first few pictures show how the overall course looked to give you an idea. Then, I tried to pick out the most flattering images, mainly shots from around the greens. The layout is solid and the setting is nice, so I know it’s better than what I saw. It’s what I encountered, though, so be warned if you play there during the off-season.

I will say that the playability of the course was still mostly fine despite the dormant grass. It was reasonably maintained. The greens rolled smooth at medium speeds and were easily the best part of the course. However, I did feel the softness of the greens varied a lot from hole to hole. Some seemed super soft while others were quite firm.

For $12 I can’t complain much, but I would like to see this course another time to make my complete judgment.

Some pictures from Teal Bend Golf Club (12/21/17):

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