Bonus Rounds and Pleasant Surprises

Monday turned out to be the busiest day of my recent Northern California trip. I ended up playing 63 holes from sunrise to sunset. The day began at Dry Creek Ranch, and then the main round was slated for 11:00 at the private Brookside Country Club in an NCGA member outing. I will review that course separately.

We finished so quickly at Dry Creek Ranch, I thought I would have plenty of time to squeeze in this next course…

Emerald Lakes Golf Course • Elk Grove, CA • 10/1/18

I hoped I would be able to play this short course at some point during this trip. I didn’t know when it would fit in, but it would help complete the small geographic grouping of public courses I had left in between Stockton and Sacramento that included Dry Creek Ranch and also Lockeford Springs.

As I drove up to the course, you can see most of it from the freeway and it looked wide open. However, when I arrived I saw several groups lined up on the first tee. I asked if there was a tournament starting up and the pro shop guy told me it was just bad timing. He said if I had gotten there 10 minutes earlier I would have the place all to myself. However, he was nice enough to let me jump ahead of these groups and start on the 3rd hole. The price was $24 with a cart.

Without this move (and renting the cart), there is no way I would have finished in the time I needed to finish. I underestimated the drive to get back down to Stockton for the next tee time. Thankfully, there was nobody in front of these groups. I played holes 3-8 as fast as I could, then ran over to 2 before one of those other groups had finished putting out on one. Then, I played the 9th. By the time I got to 1, I still had to wait a couple minutes for the last of those groups to finish on the green. It couldn’t have worked out better as it only took me about a half hour to complete this course with my aggressive routing. Ultimately, I arrived at Brookside even earlier than I needed to, but better early than late!

Having to play that fast, it was hard for me to fully enjoy and soak in my experience at Emerald Lakes. However, this place left me with a very positive impression as a nice little course. It is a 9-hole executive layout playing to a total par of 33. It features four par-3s ranging from 111 yards up to 206, four par-4s ranging from 276 yards up to 358 and one par-5 that tops out at 485 yards.

This is a solid and relatively fun design that is ideal for a convenient and quick round. It’s good for beginners, yet has enough to it to make it fairly enjoyable for players of any level. The terrain is flat and pretty open. Most of the challenge will be found on and around the greens, which do have some good undulation.

What I will probably remember most about this course is that it was probably the nicest conditioned course I played on this trip. The tee boxes were generally good, perhaps a little chewed up on the shorter par-3s. Otherwise, the fairways and rough were quite lush and well-maintained. The bunkers were freshly raked/dragged and had excellent sand. The greens were soft and receptive, rolling smooth at medium speeds. I was just really impressed by the conditions at a relatively inexpensive course that I’m sure gets a ton of play (from plenty of hackers, I imagine).

For what it is, I would certainly recommend Emerald Lakes as one of the better short courses I’ve played so far in the greater Sacramento region.

Some pictures from Emerald Lakes Golf Course (10/1/18):

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

After a slow, but actually quicker than expected round at Brookside, there was still plenty of daylight left. I wasn’t sure if there was time for another full-length course, but any short courses I had left to play are located on the northern side of Sacramento and would be too much of a drive. I decided it was at least worth driving out to check out the next-closest course on my list…

Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course • Sacramento, CA • 10/1/18

This was purely a bonus round as I had no intentions of playing here on this trip, even though it is a course I’ve always been intrigued by. There were some people out on the course when I got there, but it didn’t look very crowded and I had more than three hours of daylight left. The pro shop guy said it was mostly scattered singles and twosomes out on the course and I would probably have a good chance of finishing. I decided to roll the dice and it worked out perfectly.

The twilight rate was $23 with a cart. I teed off by myself and then caught up to another single on the 2nd hole. He seemed to be moving quickly and there was another single in front of us, so we decided to join up. My other friend actually showed up a little later and caught up to us a few more holes in. He played with us for most of the round, but then also branched off on his own to play a more “creative” routing that ultimately saved him a few minutes over us. I wasn’t too worried about it, so I played the course in order and finished easily in a brisk 2:20 pace.

Bartley Cavanaugh is one of several Sacramento municipal courses named for prominent figures in the city’s history (Ancil Hoffman, Bing Maloney and William Land being the others). Cavanaugh was apparently involved with local government for most of his life.

However, the course named after Mr. Cavanaugh is not quite your average “muni” track. This is a pretty darn cool little course. It was designed by Perry Dye and it presents many of the expected Dye family hallmarks in its architecture. Mounds and moguls surrounding the fairways and greens, small-ish green complexes with unique shapes, plenty of water hazards lined with railroad ties, collection areas around greens and distinctive bunkering—these are all found in abundance at Bartley Cavanaugh.

What is unique about this course in comparison to most Dye courses, however, is the fact that it is rather short for a regulation-length layout. From the back gold tees, this course maxes out at 6,158 yards and plays to a total par of 71. I ended up playing the blues at only 5,788 yards and I had a blast!

Because of its shorter length, Bartley ends up feeling like almost an executive-sized Dye course. It is definitely a target style course that puts a premium on accuracy. I found it to be somewhat forgiving off the tee on most holes, though. Unless you really screw up your drive (or positional layup) you are generally going to have a fairly short shot in to these tricky and often well-protected green complexes.

Like any Dye course, the challenge will be greatly amplified if you miss a green or fairway. Penalty strokes can also add up with numerous water hazards in play. However, the scoring opportunities are much greater than most Dye courses when you do find the fairways. These green complexes and hazards are much less intimidating when you are approaching them with a wedge or short iron in hand. It allows you to play aggressively and it often paid off for me. I just found it to be a ton of fun.

There are many memorable holes here (most of the ones with water hazards are fantastic). The first one that stands out is the par-4 6th, which features a sharp dogleg left around a hazard and an intimidating approach angle directly over the water.

The 12th and 13th offer a great back-to-back combo. The 12th is a classic Dye style par-3 over water. Then, the 13th is a tricky little par-4. It is only 289 yards from the tips, but it has a very skinny fairway with water running up the entire right side of the hole. The hole doglegs slightly to the right and the green is pretty well protected by the same hazard.

The signature hole at Bartley Cavanaugh is the par-3 17th, which seems to be Perry’s ode to his dad’s famous island green at TPC Sawgrass. This is a similar design with the island green surrounded by railroad tie edges. However, the one at Bartley is much shorter. It’s kind of a condensed version of that famous hole. It tops out at only 107 yards, so it is a really fun wedge/pitch shot.

The course conditions here were okay, with things playing better than they looked. The grass was pretty dappled green/brown, but decently maintained. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were adequate. They were on the thin side, but offered generous roll-out and I usually had pretty good lies. The rough was also decent and the bunkers were good. The greens were good, as well. They were a little bumpy late in the day, but fully healed from a recent aeration and in nice shape overall.

I feel that I was very fortunate to catch Bartley Cavanaugh when it wasn’t very crowded. I think this place gets a ton of play on most days, so that would be the main concern if planning to play here. Otherwise, it is an affordable option that provides a really fun Perry Dye layout, so I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

Some pictures from Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course (10/1/18):

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