Short Course Blitz: Isolation Along the I-5

As you saw in my Wilcox Oaks review, I had taken a significant detour northward to play that round. With that tee time not until 8:00, my friends and I used the early morning to check the other course in Red Bluff off our lists…

Oak Creek Golf Course • Red Bluff, CA • 6/20/19

When my friend suggested we play here, I was a bit confused at first. I actually had this course marked as closed. I went through my whole list last year to vet it since more and more courses throughout California have been shutting down in recent years. Oak Creek was indeed closed for a little while, but then it was apparently bought by a new owner and he reopened it.

The owner actually greeted us in the parking lot as we arrived around 6:00. It seemed like he pretty much opened early just for us because he knew we were in town and hoping to squeeze in a quick round before Wilcox Oaks. In talking with him, you can tell this is a major passion project for him. He let us know the greens were still not quite where he wanted them to be after a wet and cold winter season, but otherwise it was clear he’s put a lot of work in here. The restaurant/bar inside the clubhouse had been completely redone along with the course being brought back to life.

We paid $22.50 for nine holes with a cart so we could get around quickly. We did have to play around some sprinklers on the fairways, but otherwise it went as smoothly as we hoped.

Design-wise, there isn’t really much to note about Oak Creek. It is a pretty basic old course. It is a regulation-length 9-hole layout that plays to a par of 35. The scorecard shows different tee combos for front and back nine play, but I didn’t necessarily see the secondary blue (back nine) tees out. We just played the white markers, which are the standard front nine tees for the men.

The terrain is flat and the holes are lined by big trees, but it’s mostly very wide open. The most interesting holes are the par-4 5th, which is a dogleg left that has you hitting over a creek on your approach. Then, there is the par-4 6th, which features an island green. It sounds like they plan to dig out the hazard even more. As it is, it’s already the best hole here.

Conditions were okay from tee to green. You can tell this course has gone through its struggles and they’ve done a lot of work to get it back where it is now. The tee boxes were fine and the fairways were good enough for the most part. The rough was inconsistently cut, but fairly lush throughout. The few bunkers they have here still need a lot of work. The greens were very shaggy and slow as expected, so they will take more time to restore.

Normally, Oak Creek would purely be a checklist course in a somewhat isolated area, but I like to see any redemption story with a course being resurrected. Given there isn’t much else around, I hope they can keep this place going so that the locals have a friendly and convenient place to play since Wilcox Oaks is still considered mostly private.

Some pictures from Oak Creek Golf Course (6/20/19):

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

We originally had some other plans up this way after Wilcox Oaks, but things kind of fell through. That left me with a free day to go wherever else I wanted. Ultimately, I had to end up back in Napa, where I was staying that night. Otherwise, there were no restrictions.

Given I was already on the I-5 in a pretty remote stretch, I decided to first knock out the two other courses I had remaining along this part of the freeway. A lot of people are familiar with the boring part of the I-5 between The Grapevine and the Bay Area/Sacramento, but then there’s another little mind-numbing stretch once you are north of Sacramento that lasts until you get past Redding and into the mountains again.

There is one great public golf course along this path (The Links at Rolling Hills in Corning, formerly known as Sevillano Links) and then there are a handful of 9-holers spread out. I played one already in the past (Colusa Golf & Country Club), but had a couple more left and now was as good a time as any to visit them…

Glenn Golf & Country Club • Willows, CA • 6/20/19

I decided to take my chances considering it was a Thursday. I just showed up at the course. The parking lot only had a few cars, but there seemed to be a decent number of people out on the course and inside the clubhouse. Still, I went out right away ($19 with cart) and played quickly. The cart helped as I jumped around a couple times to avoid a few other groups. This layout is pretty simple and runs back and forth, so making up my own routing was very easy.

Glenn is also a regulation 9-holer that plays to a standard par of 36. They also have front and back nine tees here and they were more clearly marked. Some of them offer fairly different tee angles from what I could see. I just played the front nine white tee layout. At 3,250 yards, it’s actually a pretty good-sized course as it ends up being around 6,500 yards when you play a full 18.

I would say the layout at Glenn is even more flat and wide open than Oak Creek. There really isn’t a lot of trouble to get into here unless you really spray one bad. The fairways are very forgiving and the greens are fairly simple in design, so there aren’t any tricks to figure out. Just grip it and rip it!

The strong point of Glenn is that the conditions were actually pretty good. Everything was fairly lush and well-maintained from tee to green. The greens were also nice, holding shots well and rolling smooth at medium speeds. I wasn’t in any bunkers, but they also appeared decent.

Again, Glenn was nothing more than a checklist course to me as I get closer and closer to finishing all of the public courses in California (perhaps sometime next year if I can stay on pace and if my budget allows). It’s a fine local course and again there isn’t much around, so the rural parts of Northern California need places like this for golfers to enjoy.

Some pictures from Glenn Golf & Country Club (6/20/19):

The final stop on this Short Course Blitz is another 30-40 minutes south of Glenn in the obscure roadside town of Arbuckle…

Arbuckle Golf Club • Arbuckle, CA • 6/20/19

This is another place I’ve driving through so many times on my adventures. Even though I knew the golf course was here, I never stopped before. This time, I was determined to make it happen since it was kind of the theme for the day. Once Glenn was done, Arbuckle had to be next!

When I hear the name Arbuckle, I actually think of the Garfield cartoons. Don’t ask me why I know this, but Jon Arbuckle is the name of Garfield’s owner. There’s your obscure trivia for today—perhaps as obscure as the town of Arbuckle itself.

Arbuckle Golf Club is a bit further off the freeway than the others reviewed here. You actually have to drive several miles west and then you’ll find the course amongst the local apricot and pistachio orchards. Years ago, I assumed this was another boring and basic course given the location. However, I saw some pictures fairly recently and my friend also played it not too long ago. It turns out that this course actually has some character, so I was glad to finally play it myself after dismissing it all these years.

I think the price was $23 with a cart. Again, I got the cart so I could play quickly. There were a few people out here on a hot afternoon, but it was wide open for me and I never caught up to anyone. I finished in about 45 minutes, and that was with a snack break. There was an apricot tree on the course and they were perfectly ripe, so I picked a few and had what would end up being my lunch amidst a long day of driving and golf.

As for the course, Arbuckle is definitely more interesting than you expect it will be. It’s still a fairly traditional layout, but there are some slight changes in elevation and the surrounding orchards provide a nice setting. The course is lined with green trees and is reasonably well maintained, so it’s pretty enjoyable.

Arbuckle is also a par-36 course similar in length as Glenn. They have different front and back nine tees, as well, if you want to loop around and play 18 holes. This is a more challenging layout than Glenn or Oak Creek, though. There are some doglegs and tighter angles that make it play longer. In other words, you can’t quite “grip it and rip it” on every hole.

The course was in pretty good overall condition. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were lush with some bad spots here and there. The rough gets a little iffier the further you stray from fairways. The bunkers were fine. The greens were firm and surprisingly fast!

Arbuckle is not a hidden gem and it’s still nothing you have to make extra time for while driving on this part of the I-5. However, it is much better than you think it will be. It is one of those that makes me feel good about having a “play everything” approach because I get these pleasant surprises every now and again.

Some pictures from Arbuckle Golf Club (6/20/19):

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