I just got back from another 4-day trip up to the Bay Area. This time, I was mainly focused on my East Bay public course list as I worked my schedule around a couple of big group outings on Sunday and Monday. This trip did feature a number of “straggler” short courses, so expect a big Short Course Blitz later on.
I also got to visit my fair share of full-length courses. Though the latter three days of the trip were in the East Bay, day one was actually on the west side near the city…
Crystal Springs Golf Course • Burlingame, CA • 5/4/19
I wasn’t originally planning to drive up until early Sunday morning, but I found a decent hotel deal and decided to head up a day early. I had pre-booked a noon tee time at Skywest Golf Course in Hayward. However, I made really good time and called an audible during my drive.
Crystal Springs has been kind of a thorn in my side because I just haven’t been able to work it into any previous San Francisco trips, yet it was the only public course I had left to play in this San Francisco/San Mateo Bay Area region. I called over and they said they had a 10:37 tee spot open for a single. It was perfect, so I went ahead and booked it. Of course, I also called Skywest to cancel that tee time and actually rebook it for early Sunday morning. More on that later.
Since Saturday was added as kind of a late bonus day, I was really in no rush. That made it the ideal time to play Crystal Springs, because this is well-known as one of the busiest courses around. I fully expected a 5-plus hour round with a late-morning tee time on a Saturday and I made my peace with that.
I played with another single and a twosome, and the course was indeed busy. They were running late, but I was able to move up a couple groups and tee off pretty close to my scheduled time. When all was said and done, it was right about a 5-hour pace as anticipated. The price was a bit steep at $69, but that’s a weekend morning in the Bay Area and deals aren’t going to be found easily anywhere—especially this close to the city.
Crystal Springs gets a lot of play because of its location, but also because it offers an enjoyable golf experience. The course was opened back in 1924 and designed by William Herbert Fowler, so it has a very classic Bay Area feel. One of the biggest appeals is that, other than the busy I-280 freeway that runs along a handful of holes, there is really no civilization around this course. It’s built up on a secluded hillside overlooking the Crystal Springs Reservoir. It is also a protected habitat for local wildlife. I saw a bunch of deer and turkey on the back nine.
Though located a bit south of San Francisco proper in Burlingame, it has a definite Bay Area essence with super hilly terrain and lots of old cypress, eucalyptus, redwoods and other trees you associate with this unique part of the world.
With this kind of setting and historical background, you can be sure that Crystal Springs has some interesting quirks and some tricky holes. There are some narrow gaps and awkward angles, and it is definitely a target layout where accuracy is rewarded. Many of the fairways and greens slope hard from one side to the other, so it is generally in your best interest to aim toward the high side and use gravity to your advantage when you can. When on the greens, it pays to be below the hole if possible because most downhill putts will be slick.
The signature hole at Crystal Springs is the par-4 6th, which is a big sweeping dogleg left with an elevated tee that provides a beautiful view of the watershed. Big hitters can try to cut the corner (a completely blind shot) and may even be able to reach the green by catching a generous slope.
The 10th hole might be categorized as one of those quirky parts of the course. It’s a fairly short hole from the forward tees (much tougher from the blues), but it doglegs pretty much 90 degrees left about 2/3 of the way and positioning off the tee is crucial. Even if the green is reachable for some distance-wise, I don’t imagine many people go for it because the angles just don’t allow it.
The course was in pretty good overall condition. The winter rain brought in a lot of nice turf and it’s been drying out enough they can start taking care of it heading into summer. The tee boxes and fairways were generally quite good with nice roll-out on drives. The rough was not deep, but had good coverage throughout and was just thick enough to make you work. The greens looked like maybe they were aerated 3-4 weeks ago and were almost fully healed. They were a little bumpy and slow-ish at times. They should get better over the next few weeks.
Now that I’ve finally played Crystal Springs, I can see why it’s a popular choice for locals. Don’t go expecting a quick round. Just relax, enjoy the views and aim toward the high side!
Some pictures from Crystal Springs Golf Course (5/4/19):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)
I did go play some disc golf in the city Saturday evening, but that’s a different story for a different website that doesn’t exist (yet). I stayed all three nights in Hayward, which would prove to be a pretty good central location for all my East Bay exploits the next few days. In fact, the next course was right down the street from me…
Skywest Golf Course • Hayward, CA • 5/5/19
It worked out really well to reschedule this round as my Sunday morning option. It is one of the more affordable courses (relatively speaking) around and it was super easy to get an early tee time at the last minute. I booked a 5:52 time as a single, which would be first off. The price was $55 with a cart. This would be a great walking course because it’s very flat and not too spread out.
There really was no dawn patrol rush here and the pro shop opened closer to 6:00. It was just me and one other couple milling around and ready to go that early. They were locals and they paired us together as the lead group. They mentioned they like to play fast, but I have my own definition of fast morning play that I like to live up to. Well, it almost felt like a race as we all pushed each other to play super quick. Ultimately, we were done in 2.5 hours!
The fast pace and the relatively basic nature of the layout did not leave me much to remember about Skywest. It was designed by Bob E. Baldock, and is your pretty traditional old school muni course with a back-and-forth routing and not much trouble to get into. It is located next to a small airport (which would prove to be a common theme this trip), hence the name.
I put “contrast” in the title for a reason. My round Skywest was pretty much the polar opposite of Crystal Springs in terms of the pace, the layout, the setting and the weather. Skywest would surely win the pace of play battle, but all other categories would strongly go in the favor of Crystal Springs for obvious reasons. Skywest can’t do anything about the weather, but Sunday would start 2.5 days of dark gray skies that would make taking pictures a challenge for much of this trip as you’ll see in my various posts.
There really isn’t too much to highlight about Skywest as it’s an average local course. I will say the conditions were actually quite good. It was very lush, green and well-maintained throughout for a fairly low-end muni. The tee boxes and fairways were generally great. The rough was pretty consistent and did not offer too much of a challenge. The greens were soft and rolling a bit slow with morning moisture, but had good surfaces. The bunkers the only real weak spot. The sand was decent, but it was wet and really packed down like wet concrete. They really need a good “fluffing” and they would probably be just fine.
That’s about all I have to say about Skywest. Surely not a destination course, but if I lived locally I’m sure I’d come here every so often to get some swings in or enjoy a casual round on a course that doesn’t seem to draw the crowds of most other Bay Area muni tracks.
Some pictures from Skywest Golf Course (5/5/19):