I’m going to jump around a little chronologically for this post just because of how things lined up for the different course reviews. If you read my Short Course Blitz, you can see how all over the place I was last week as I checked as many courses off my East Bay list as possible.
On Monday morning, I made my way up to Walnut Creek for the first round of that long day…
Boundary Oak Golf Course • Walnut Creek, CA • 5/6/19
Geographically speaking, this was not the ideal course to play as my early morning round before my NCGA outing at TPC Stonebrae, which is further south. East Bay traffic has become somewhat of a nightmare these days. Thankfully, the timing worked out just fine.
The reason I played Boundary Oak was because I was able to join a friend of mine who happens to work at this course. It was the only day he’d be able to get out and play, so he set up a 6:00 tee time. We were joined by a guy who was the head teaching pro at this club for over 30 years, and he offered a lot of history and insight about the course. At the turn, another local regular joined us and rounded out our foursome for the back nine. Ultimately, we were still done in just under four hours and that gave me plenty of time to get back down to Hayward for a noon start at Stonebrae.
Though I’ve been wanting to play here for some time with my friend, Boundary Oak just never fit into any previous trip plans. I was glad it worked out so well this time because this is a very enjoyable course.
It’s set up in the hills and has a very secluded feeling. There are some residential elements along parts of the back nine, but nothing that really encroaches on natural setting of the course. The terrain is very hilly and there are plenty of trees in play, as well. On clear days (especially at sunset), Boundary Oak is known to provide some of the best course views around. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy, dreary and occasionally misty morning for us this time.
By Bay Area standards, Boundary Oak is not a super old course having opened in 1969, but it still has plenty of history and character. The hills play a large part in the course, along with some big sweeping dogleg hole designs from Robert Muir Graves. The fairways are somewhat forgiving, but the course’s best defense is its large and moderately undulated greens. The natural slopes have a strong effect as most everything breaks toward the hospital down in the valley. You can tell some of the green slopes have been exaggerated over the years with erosion and nature doing what it does as time goes on. Either way, you want to do everything you can to stay above the hole here.
Our teaching pro playing partner said he used to make bets with course regulars that they couldn’t break par if he placed a ball 10 feet from the hole on every green as if it had been hit there in regulation. He, of course, got to choose where to place the ball (usually above the hole or on a tough side-hill spot). He said it was a bet he won a lot more often than not!
I’m not sure which would be considered the signature hole here, but a couple stood out to me. The 2nd is easily the best of the par-3s with an elevated tee and a unique green complex. The par-5 3rd is a fun downhill hole that doglegs left and then also brings a water hazard into play short and right of the green. The 10th is another fun downhill par-4 to start your back nine. It is followed by the tricky 11th, which doglegs sharply to the right with a water hazard on the inside corner and OB past the far corner that makes it a strategic lay-up for most off the tee.
The 18th is also a fun and unique finishing hole. It’s another dogleg left par-5, but it plays uphill as you head back up toward the nice clubhouse. This one requires good positioning on each shot and may present some risk/reward decisions for really long hitters.
The course was in nice overall condition, highlighted by excellent greens that were receptive and rolling smooth. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all lush green and in generally good condition with just a few weak spots here and there. I will say there was a lot of goose “stuff” on/around the tee boxes. They seem to like whatever seed is in that turf, so that’s where they have been hanging out and doing the most damage. The bunkers were pretty good.
I would easily recommend Boundary Oak as a good value option and definitely worth checking out if you are in the northern part of the East Bay Area…
Some pictures from Boundary Oak Golf Course (5/6/19):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)
Next, we will skip ahead to my final round of the trip, which took place on Tuesday afternoon. I didn’t think I’d be squeezing this course in this time, but I was able to finish over at Las Positas (to be reviewed later) earlier than expected and I had more than enough time to complete one more round…
Callippe Preserve Golf Course • Pleasanton, CA • 5/7/19
Though this was a “bonus” round for the trip, this was actually the one I wanted to play most on my remaining East Bay public course list. It just didn’t seem to fit into any existing plans, but I was so glad it worked out the way I did. I couldn’t have picked a better course to end my trip on. In fact, it ended up being my favorite out of every course I played last week!
I knew I’d like it out here, but I had no idea how much I would love it. Like Boundary Oak, it is set well up into the hills. Callippe Preserve is a residential community, so there are some homes (really nice ones, I must add) around the course. However, the community feels very far removed from civilization. It is a world unto its own out here, and that’s a large part of the appeal to me.
I arrived and the course around 3:30 and looked pretty wide open with just some scattered players that I could see. I saw a single teeing off on the first hole when I checked in, but I could also see he was playing quickly and wouldn’t slow me down much. I paid the late twilight rate of $43 with a cart and I was on my way. The relatively high prices here are one reason why I haven’t gotten out here in the past. The reasonable twilight rate was worth every penny.
I ultimately caught the other single a few holes in as he had already caught up to a couple of twosomes in front of him. He offered to let me play through, but I could see the road wasn’t really that clear ahead. Instead, we joined up and played the rest out together. In the end, it was still under a three-hour pace and that was fine with me. It actually gave traffic a chance to die down a little for me as I headed out of town afterwards.
I pretty much immediately fell in love with Callippe when I drove up. The course looked to be in stellar condition, and the sky was blue after a few days with a lot of gray-sky rounds. The course is built into a secluded canyon that is simply beautiful with big old oak trees and those iconic East Bay rolling hills in every direction.
The course is very interesting and quite challenging, as well. It was designed by Brian Costello and it is very dramatic all the way through. What I liked about it is that the drama and challenge ramp up as you go. The front nine gives you plenty of time to ease in. By the time you reach the back, the mood definitely changes and you are faced with one intimidating shot after another. To best this course, it will require length and accuracy. On the back nine, accuracy is at even more of a premium as the fairways tighten up, the hills get steeper and many more hazards are brought into play.
Overall, I was reminded somewhat of CordeValle, which offers a similar build up in difficulty/intrigue as you play your round (and also kind of a similar setting), yet never gets so over the top that it takes away from the overall enjoyment factor.
The course really starts to show its teeth on the par-4 10th. It offers a fun and pretty wide open downhill tee shot. Ultimately, it doglegs left slightly and requires a forced carry to the well-protected green. This hole is followed by the par-4 11th. It’s not a long or complicated hole on paper, but it plays straight uphill (very, very steep).
Really, every hole on the back nine is unique and memorable. There are no let downs in terms of visual appeal and challenge, but well-placed shots will still give you an opportunity to score on most holes.
The 18th is a very dramatic finisher. It plays somewhat uphill the whole way. Big hitters probably won’t like this one as a par-5 because it really doesn’t give you an option to go for it in two. The fairway is bisected by a ravine about halfway up (right about where most long hitters would end up with a great drive—depending on what tees you play). It would take a crush to clear that off the tee, so most will be forced to lay-up in the first section of fairway and then that still leaves a fairly long and difficult shot in. It is pretty much a three-shot design for anyone (four shots for me because the green is elevated and the approach requires another forced carry). I’m not sure it’s the best par-5 design, but it is a very memorable and beautiful hole to finish on.
As for conditions, Callippe Preserve was in by far the best shape of any course I played all week and it was one of the nicest courses I’ve played so far this year. It was pretty much fantastic on every level with lush turf that was nicely manicured throughout. The bunkers were great and the greens were ideal. They were firm, yet receptive enough, and rolling well at nice speeds. This is another course where it pays to stay below the hole, but the natural slopes and undulations here aren’t nearly as severe as Boundary Oak.
I highly, highly recommend Callippe Preserve, especially if you are able to get out on a weekday when it’s less crowded and less expensive. Even as a “splurge” round, it is worth it and the conditions right now warrant at higher price tag because it’s just so pure.
Some pictures from Callippe Preserve Golf Course (5/7/19):