February in the Bay Area, Part 2: Continuing the Delta Tour

After Deer Ridge and Lone Tree on Wednesday, we continued to roll along the Delta for a third round in the afternoon. Our first rounds went quickly and we had plenty of time to squeeze in at least one more…

Diablo Creek Golf Course • Concord, CA • 2/21/18

Their tee time prices go down significantly after 2:00 ($30, cart included), so we called ahead to see how busy the course was. They said it was wide open. We got there well before 2:00, but they gave us the late twilight rate anyway and we were able to tee off around 1:45. There were some scattered players out on the course. We jumped around a little on the front nine to avoid a couple groups and then didn’t really catch any solid logjams until the last two holes. We were done a little after 4:00.

Like Lone Tree the day before, Diablo Creek was originally designed by Bob E. Baldock. Then, I believe Robert Muir Graves renovated it in the early 1990s. It is a par-71 layout with only three par-5s in play. However, the blue tees stretch out to just under 6,900 yards, so it can play fairly long. What it has in length is made up for by a rather forgiving design. The landscape is flat, the fairways are pretty wide, the doglegs are gentle, the trees rarely feel too tight and the green complexes are approachable with a variety of shots.

The greens themselves did have some contour (more than either other course we played that day), but still weren’t too difficult to read. There are a handful of water hazards in play and a creek that cuts through the course (Diablo Creek, I presume). Otherwise, it’s a pretty traditional parkland muni kind of course that you could pick up and install in just about any geographic location.

Probably the signature hole is the 17th, which is a very short par-3 that has you hitting over the namesake Diablo Creek. It maxes out at just 110 yards. The green is very large and has multiple stepped tiers from front to back. This effectively shrinks your target area with a wedge off the tee because you want to try and be on the right level for a legitimate putt at birdie.

Diablo Creek was by far the best-conditioned course of the day and probably the greenest-looking of any we played on the trip. It was pretty lush and green throughout. The tee boxes were nice and the fairways were great with really good coverage and consistent fluffy lies. The rough was also pretty nice all around, getting a little sketchier the further you strayed from the fairways. The bunkers were decent (I was only in one and it was good enough). The greens were also quite good. There were a lot of unrepaired ball marks, but the surfaces were soft/receptive and rolling well at medium speeds.

There isn’t too much else to highlight about Diablo Creek. It’s a pretty straightforward course that was in well-above-average condition for a cold and relatively dry February in Northern California. For the right price, it was well worth it and it’s a solid option if you are in the Concord area.

Some pictures from Diablo Creek Golf Course (2/21/18):

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

We stayed the night in Pittsburg (no “h”) and finally went and saw the Black Panther movie that night. We went to one of those theaters with full food service, so that was our dinner, as well. I can’t say I’m a fan of that plan for eating a real meal inside a movie theater. The servers were a distraction taking orders during the previews and then serving food during the actual movie. It was kind of awkward eating in the reclining movie theater seat in the (thankfully I just got finger food appetizers). Also, they had to keep some lights on for the servers to get around and for people to see their food, so the theater didn’t get as dark as it should have for the movie. It was an interesting experience and I’m sure some folks like it, but it didn’t do much for me.

Anyway, enough of my ranting about non-golf things. We were back at it at dawn the next day…

Delta View Golf Club • Pittsburg, CA • 2/22/18

Note: This course is now closed. Sadly, it closed about a week after I was there, much to my surprise.

This is a course I was very intrigued to play. I came in with low expectations for the conditions and facilities, but strong interest in the course design. You see, the original nine holes (currently the back nine) at Delta View were designed by none other than Alister MacKenzie. That’s quite a pedigree for a local course that not many people outside the area have ever heard of.

The newer nine (currently the front nine) was designed by Robert Muir Graves and he did a pretty nice job complementing the MacKenzie nine while adding some nice modern touches of his own. Ultimately, Muir Graves probably had the more dynamic part of the property to work with and he took full advantage.

The first few holes of the front nine are rather funky and feel shoehorned in along the street. Then things start to get interesting by the 5th hole, which is a nice uphill dogleg right par-5. The 6th is then a great par-3 situated atop a bluff with 360-degree views of the Delta to the north and pastoral East Bay hillsides to the south. The 7th and 8th are then both very scenic and dramatic. The 7th plays along the top of a bluff while the 8th is a short one that has you teeing off from the top of the hill down to the fairway (longer hitters may go for the green) way below.

The MacKenzie nine also starts off pretty tame and perks up in the middle section as you play into a canyon lined with mature eucalyptus trees. The holes back here are beautiful and extremely tricky. It’s target golf to the max throughout this stretch. The 14th is a par-5 that is only 434 yards from the back blue tees, but plays so much longer because of the angles (and prevailing winds). The tee shot is through a tunnel of trees, and then it doglegs sharply to the right. It plays uphill from there and then doglegs slightly back to the left.

Immediately following the 14th is the fun par-3 15th, which has an elevated tee and a very tricky green complex. I was wondering how much MacKenzie there would still be left in this old course that, by most accounts, hasn’t been that well taken care of throughout the years. I was pleasantly surprised because you can clearly feel his presence, especially on and around the green complexes. They are all sorts of funky shapes, with some distinctive undulation that felt like Dr. MacKenzie all the way.

The 18th is supposed to be one of the signature MacKenzie holes here that supposedly has retained the original features as much as possible. Unfortunately, it was kind of in rough condition and the water hazard guarding the green had just been drained, so it looked rather ugly. Either way, I didn’t find too much excitement in this hole compared to many very memorable canyon/bluff holes found on both sides of this roller coaster of a course.

Adding to the drama here was the weather. We went off first at dawn. The temperatures weren’t as cold as we had feared (low-40s when we teed off), but it was really, really windy and the wind chill was brutal, especially on top of the bluff on the front nine. The strong wind gusts also made this target style course a whole lot harder, and the narrow, sloping MacKenzie holes on the back side were almost impossible to tame. It was quite an adventure!

The price was only $30 (cart included) and we were able to play quickly as the lead twosome, so it worked out well despite fighting the wind. Fortunately, it was a very clear morning and I got some great pictures.

I was expecting poor conditions here, especially in this dry winter season. However, they were okay for the most part, though there were some inconsistent stretches. From tee to green, the first few holes and last few holes were very ugly, but then most of the middle stretch was pretty decent with better fairway coverage. There were plenty of bare spots scattered throughout, as well. The rough was a bit of everything and mostly not ideal. There were some thick/deep patches of grass and then a lot of bare dirt. The tee boxes were adequate. The greens were the highlight. They were firm and rolling well at medium speeds, though one green on the back nine was overwatered and completely flooded. The bunkers were not good at all.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about Delta View. On many levels, I really enjoyed this layout and the setting. However, conditions and other aspects of the experience here leave a lot to be desired. In some ways, it was much better than I expected it to be and I was glad to see there was still some MacKenzie spirit left on his side of the course. At the same time, I probably felt the Robert Muir Graves side had the most memorable stretch of holes here (holes 5-8).

I think if this place went through a proper renovation or was just conditioned on a similar level as, say, Diablo Creek, it would be a real hidden gem. As it is, it’s a course that is fun for what it is. And, it is a solid value in a part of the East Bay that nobody is expecting to find a golf course with so much history and character. It just leaves you thinking about how much potential it has to be something much more special.

Some pictures from Delta View Golf Club (2/22/18):

Stay tuned for Part 3, which will highlight my day in San Ramon playing The Bridges and Canyon Lakes

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