February in the Bay Area, Part 1: The Delta Checklist

This week, a friend and I spent two days up in the greater Bay Area. Two days were spent in the East Bay and the third was up in the Napa Valley. When it came to the East Bay, our first focus was on the San Joaquin Delta area before we moved down toward San Ramon on the second day. For both of us, it really was a checklist tour of the remaining courses on our Delta checklists (with the exception of private Discovery Bay CC, which I haven’t been able to access as of yet).

This region has seen some struggles in recent years. Roddy Ranch was the best-regarded course around and it closed. Shadow Lakes just closed very recently. Fortunately, I was able to play both of those before they met their ends. Bethel Island was the other course on the checklist that I hadn’t played. It looks like they shut down in 2015 to supposedly renovate, but it seems like they never reopened and probably never will.

We drove up early Wednesday morning to arrive in Brentwood for our first round of the trip…

Deer Ridge Country Club • Brentwood, CA • 2/21/18

Deer Ridge is the sister course of the aforementioned and now-defunct Shadow Lakes. For a time, both were considered semi-private, but still pretty readily accessible for public play. They would trade off which would be open to the public at any given time. With Shadow Lakes having closed, all the attention has focused back on Deer Ridge. This one is more embedded in the actual residential community (Shadow Lakes was/is located across the street with a different facility), so it makes some sense why this would be the one to keep running. It does sound like the future of the golf course Deer Ridge may also be up in the air, but I guess we’ll see what happens.

We had booked the earliest tee time we could, but arrived just before dawn. Once the pro shop opened around 6:30, we were able to check in and we ultimately teed off around 6:40. Prior to the trip, we were concerned about weather conditions (primarily frost delays, but rain might also be a factor). Overall, the weather turned out much better than expected and didn’t deter any of our original plans. In fact, Wednesday turned out to be the nicest day of them all with clear skies and little wind. Wind would be an issue the next two days and cold temperatures kept things chilly every day.

We had the course to ourselves being first off. They did have a big shotgun outing starting at 9:00 and we were able to finish our 18 right as they were starting to head out to their holes, so it worked out perfectly. I bought a GolfMoose voucher for this round ($49 for 2 players) and also had a $25 gift certificate I won at a Greenskeeper.org outing, so it was only $12 each for the round. Hard to beat that deal!

The layout at Deer Ridge was designed by Andy Raugust and has a lot of similarities to Shadow Lakes. The main difference is this course is more ingrained into the community, so more houses surround the course. Still, they are offset enough on the hillsides and never feel like they are too much in play. Otherwise, Deer Ridge works its way through a rolling canyon setting. There are some nice changes in elevation, especially on a few back nine holes.

I found the layout to be enjoyable, just like I did at Shadow Lakes. The course isn’t super long, topping out at just over 6,300 yards from the tips and playing to a par of 71. There’s some trouble to get into with stray drives, but most tee shots are relatively forgiving. Things get tougher up and around the greens. Some of the greens are huge (1st hole comes to mind) while others are smaller with some tricky shapes and undulation). A fair share of bunkers are in play, as well.

Probably my favorite holes were the 11th, 15th and 16th. The 11th is a short, target-style dogleg left that requires a well-placed tee shot and then a slightly uphill approach over a ravine to a tough green. The 15th is a par-3 with has a nice elevation drop from tee to green. The 16th also has an elevated tee and then plays as a dogleg right with a hillside left and an environmental hazard all the way along the right side.

I wasn’t expecting much in terms of conditions in the winter season, especially considering it hasn’t rained too much yet this year. The conditions at Deer Ridge were actually pretty decent and the course was looking reasonably green. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways had pretty good grass coverage in most places (plenty of bare spots, too). However, the main issue was that the ground/turf was a bit lumpy, so the ball would often sit down in a little groove, divot or depression and that made it tougher to make solid contact. The 10th fairway was a total mess for whatever reason. The rough was a mixed bag with some deep patches and other areas that were just bare dirt. There were a lot of thick tufts of grass with gaps in between, so sometimes it was a matter of luck. If you sat on top of a good patch of grass, it was nice. If you fell in between the tufts, it really sucked.

The maintenance guy was ahead of us all morning dragging the bunkers. They could use a lot more sand, but at least they were maintaining and leveling out what they had. The greens were a mix of grasses and pretty inconsistent with speeds and receptiveness. They were often bumpy on putts and rolling at medium speeds. Anything downhill was pretty fast while uphillers had to be smacked pretty good to get to the hole. You definitely want to stay below the hole when you can.

With Roddy Ranch and Shadow Lakes closed, I would put Deer Ridge as the new top public course in the Brentwood/Antioch area. There really aren’t many courses left here, but Deer Ridge is still a solid track by any standards.

Some pictures from Deer Ridge Country Club (2/21/18):

(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)

Next, we headed over to nearby Antioch for our second round of the day and the next one to check off the list…

Lone Tree Golf & Event Center • Antioch, CA • 2/21/18

We were told ahead of time that they had a senior member shotgun heading out in the morning, but that we could tee off any time after 9:00. We arrived around 9:30 and were teeing it up a few minutes later as a twosome. They had us start on the back nine to avoid the shotgun groups. We caught up to the groups pretty quickly. By the time we made the turn to the front, we noticed a number of open holes so we skipped around a little to avoid the crowds. This definitely shaved some time off our round and we finished in about 3.5 hours.

We bought a voucher on Groupon for Lone Tree. It worked out to $41 each, but included lunch and range balls. We didn’t use the range balls, but we did enjoy lunch in the bar after our round and the food was quite good. I had some chicken tacos that were tasty.

Lone Tree is also not a super-long course by today’s standards, maxing out at 6,427 from the blue tees. That number varies slightly because the 10th hole has two different greens that can be used on any given day. This course was designed by Bob E. Baldock.

It was interesting that we played the back nine first because it made me wonder if the nines have been switched. This felt like it should be the front anyway, other than the fact that the 18th plays right up to the side of the clubhouse. The back nine overall isn’t terribly interesting. It mostly plays back and forth with traditional tree-lined fairways. The par-3 11th has an elevated tee box, but the rest of the nine is relatively flat. There are a couple elevated greens, as well, including the 18th.

The front nine did get more interesting with some more slight changes in elevation and and some design character on more of the holes. It’s still nothing that distinctive, but it was sure more entertaining than the back side and I’m glad we played it second.

I’m not sure there’s a signature hole here. The 5th and 11th are the best of the par-3s and the 7th and 8th are a decent set of back-to-back par-5s. Beyond that, there isn’t too much to highlight in great detail. It’s an average muni-level course that has potential to be better with a lot of TLC.

Adding to the “meh” factor was the course being in pretty mediocre winter condition. It was the worst-conditioned of this trip. The tee boxes were adequate enough to tee it up and find a flat spot. Some fairways were much better than others, but all had some spotty coverage. The rough was also patchy with a lot of bare spots. Like Deer Ridge, there is a lot of bumpy ground here, so it was tough when the ball sat down in a low spot. I wasn’t in any bunkers, but my friend was in a couple and said they were rock hard.

The greens were a mixed bag. Some were actually pretty nice with firm, medium-fast surfaces. Others had repair patches they were trying to fix. They looked ugly, but mostly played fine. Then, a few greens were completely scalped and dormant. These were faster and firmer, and obviously looked awful as you’ll see in some pictures, but I guess it shows they may be putting in some effort to basically start over and restore some of the more damaged greens.

Lone Tree was purely a checklist course for me. We got the most out of our experience and then moved onto the next course. Playing here made me even more sad about the closing of Roddy Ranch because that was a far superior course. I just don’t think Antioch was destined to have a top-shelf course, so Lone Tree will probably continue to survive and do well as an affordable locals’ track.

Some pictures from Lone Tree Golf & Event Center (2/21/18):

We actually played one more round on Wednesday, but I will save that for Part 2 of this adventure. We played eight courses in total on this trip, and they all pair off well in twos geographically, so it makes sense to stretch this into a four-part series. Stay tuned…



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