2018 Christmas Trip, Part 4: Getting Wet in Wine Country

The final stops of my Christmas trip were in the North Bay Area (Wine Country, if you will) last Thursday morning before heading the rest of the way home that night. I was continuing my north-to-south checklist along Highway 101, visiting the remaining public courses on my list in geographic order.

I stayed the night in Ukiah at a very sketchy Motel 6. I couldn’t wait to get back on the road the next morning to play what would be my final rounds of 2018. I got started with a short course I’ve always heard pretty good things about…

Healdsburg Golf Club at Tayman Park • Healdsburg, CA • 12/27/18

I called here the day before to see when they open and make sure I’d have no problem getting out early. Most Northern California courses don’t have much of an early bird rush, especially in winter, but it pays to call ahead sometimes. The guy said he usually opens up the pro shop around 7:00 and that there shouldn’t be any problems.

He showed up as promised and I was the only one there. I paid $16 for nine holes, but decided to pay an extra $9 for a cart—even though it was cart path only. I could see the course was pretty hilly and I also just wanted to finish as quickly as I could to maximize my day after this round. It worked out well and I was done in less than an hour.

That was ultimately a beneficial decision because I later found out the next course I planned to play didn’t have any tee times available after 9:00. I needed to finish at Healdsburg and get there as early as I could.

Healdsburg GC at Tayman Park is a 9-hole regulation layout playing to a total par of 35. It’s only 2,600 from the back blue tees, but it is pretty hilly and that adds some distance on a few holes. And like most everywhere I played on this trip, it was also extremely wet here. It was mushy and shaggy, so that meant no roll-out on drives and a course that played much longer than it would during other seasons.

Getting past the expectedly wet conditions, this is a very fun layout that offers plenty for players of any level to enjoy. The greens are fairly small and the natural setting is very nice. There are a few quirky holes and others that are fairly straightforward. This course was supposedly designed (at least in part, according to lore) by Alister MacKenzie, so that immediately adds some intrigue.

Maybe the best hole here is the opener. The 1st hole is actually a par-3 that’s pretty short and plays significantly downhill. It’s kind of odd to start with a touchy wedge shot and it would be better to play this hole once you are warmed up a bit more, but it is still a fun one with which to start the round. After this opening hole, I can’t say there are really any uninteresting holes other than maybe the par-3 5th. It’s kind of a dud on an otherwise memorable overall design by short course standards.

As mentioned, the conditions were very wet and sloppy. It was hard to full enjoy like this, but it comes with the territory during NorCal’s rainy season. The greens were generally in good shape, and that’s what matters most.

Whether you are a short course enthusiast or just looking for a fun, friendly place to tee it up in Healdsburg, this course is easily recommendable.

Some pictures from Healdsburg Golf Club at Tayman Park (12/27/18):

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

As I was nearing my finish at Healdsburg, I called ahead to the next course and they signed me up for an 8:40 tee time. There wasn’t much time to spare, but it was a pretty short drive and I got there just fine…

Windsor Golf Club • Windsor, CA • 12/27/18

This is another course I’ve heard some good things about over the years—one that some might even call a “hidden gem” in this region that offers plenty of good golf.

I must take a quick detour before I get started on the review. Whenever I’m driving through Windsor, I am reminded of a TV commercial from my childhood. Growing up in Crescent City, we got several “local” Bay Area stations and there was a classic ad from a water park called Windsor Waterworks (apparently now closed). It featured plenty of 80s goodness, along with an ultra cheesy and catchy theme song with the tagline “Windsor Waterworks – You’re gonna get wet!”

Double entendre or not, it’s one of those childhood things that will forever be ingrained in my memory. And thanks to the time capsule known as YouTube, I actually found the commercial. You’re welcome.

Of course, I had that song running through my head throughout my round at Windsor Golf Club. And fittingly, the conditions were rather wet here, too. Indeed, I got a little wet at Windsor.

That didn’t sound right.

Anyway, back to the review. I checked in and they told me they were still waiting on one of the other 8:40 guys to show up. So, they sent me out to the first tee to join the 8:30 twosome instead. The course was moderately busy, and we finished in about four hours. The price with a cart was $56. That seemed rather steep for a mid-week round. It was also cart path only here. This would be a pretty easy course to walk and many people were walking out there because of the cart path restrictions. Still, I opted to save my energy for the long drive home.

Of all the courses I played this trip, Windsor was easily in the best condition of the bunch. Though it was wet and mushy out here, I could tell they do their best to keep it in as good a shape as possible. The fairways and tee boxes had been mowed and the fairway/rough cuts were clear throughout the course. The bunkers were pretty nice and the greens were great despite the wetness. They were very soft and felt a little squishy underfoot. However, they rolled very smoothly at medium/fast speeds.

The overall terrain of Windsor GC is pretty flat. There are a couple minor changes in elevation on the back nine. Otherwise, there are good contours throughout the course designed by Fred Bliss. I know his name mainly from some co-creations with Johnny Miller, and you can definitely sense some similarities here—most notably on the greens which feature plenty of undulation. There are also many huge and intricate bunkers here, which definitely provide a lot of character along with the oak trees, creeks and water hazards.

This is one of those courses that gets more interesting as you go. I wouldn’t say it’s ever plain, but it does have a nice build-up. The first hole is a pretty benign starter before you get to the longer and more narrow second hole. The 4th is kind of a funky par-5 with a sharp dogleg right at the very end of the hole.

The signature holes at Windsor are the 8th and 13th. The 8th is a short dogleg right par-4 that wraps around a water hazard lined with big rocks up by the green. The 13th is a great par-3 with a slightly elevated tee. This green is kind of a mirror image of the 8th, though. The water guards the green short and left and the green has a similar rock lining in front.

Between these two holes is the tee for the unique 14th hole. This tricky par-4 plays uphill and is pretty much a blind approach with bunkers and trees providing intimidating factor on each shot.

I think Windsor is one of those courses that’s sneaky good. It looks nice and has a pleasant setting, though the scenery here won’t blow you away. It has a really good design with plenty of diversity and challenge throughout. Then, you have aesthetic touches with the water hazards, rock walls, trees and crazy bunkers. By the time you finish your round, you slowly realize how good a course it is.

The bar wasn’t set super high on this particular trip, but Windsor easily took the top prize based on what I did play. I would highly recommend it if you happen to be in the area.

Some pictures from Windsor Golf Club (12/17/18):

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