I recently returned from another very productive Northern California trip, which kind of evolved into what will likely be my final “big” golf vacation this year. We shall see.
This trip saw me returning to the greater Lake Tahoe region, where I played a few more courses on the California side (the northwestern side). The primary focus of this trip, however, was to play ALL the courses from Lassen County down through Plumas County a bit further north. Some call this region the Sierra Buttes, and I also learned of the nickname “The Lost Sierra.” I like that better, so we’ll go with that for the title.
In total, I played 16 new courses on this trip over the course of four exhausting days. 10 of those were 18-hole regulation courses while the other six were smaller 9-hole layouts. We’ll be reviewing five of those here in this latest Short Course Blitz installment…
Mt. Huff Golf Course • Crescent Mills, CA • 7/27/19
The very first stop on my trip was Mt. Huff, which was one of the more “pain in the butt” courses to get to on my remaining California public list. It’s kind of in between some other more natural course groupings, yet also just enough out of the way and off by itself to make it inconvenient to get to. I decided to start here and get it out of the way first before meeting up with my fellow “course collector” friend who would be joining me for most of the trip.
It was a 10-hour drive up from the Coachella Valley to Crescent Mills, with the latter part through some winding mountain highways where the cell/data (and thus the GPS) signal dipping in and out. I still found my way to Mt. Huff Golf Course. I didn’t expect it to be busy, but it turned out they had a small member shotgun that was just making the turn. I had to wait a little bit to tee off and I was joined by another twosome. The pace on course was fine and we were finished with nine holes in about an hour-and-a-half. The walking rate was a very reasonable $12 and it is an easy walking course with no real changes in elevation.
The setting is the first thing (and best thing) that strikes you about Mt. Huff. It’s set in the Indian Valley with some mountains framing the course in the distance. This includes Mt. Hough itself. I don’t know why the course spells its name differently, but I’m guessing it’s some sort of local inside joke.
The course itself is pretty open with only a small smattering of trees and not too much trouble to get into unless you spray it way right on the few holes that line Indian Creek. This was originally a 6-hole course and the members out there were playing that older layout, looping around three times for a full 18. At some point along the way, they squeezed in three extra greens to make it a 9-hole layout. The total par is 33 with one par-5 and three par-3s in the mix.
The newer greens definitely stick out because they are kind of awkwardly placed in and the sight lines make more sense when you clearly see how the original six holes were designed. Still, I get the reasoning behind making it at least a 9-hole course. It is kind of cool that the members will still play the old school version sometimes.
Beyond that, there really isn’t anything too exciting about Mt. Huff. It’s just a small little locals’ course that probably doesn’t get a ton of play on most days. They do have a drop box for after-hour rounds, as well.
Conditions were pretty mediocre. From tee to green, things were adequate with a bit of everything in play. Some good lies and some terrible spots. The bunkers were a bit unkempt, but had okay sand. The greens were shaggy, bumpy and very slow. Basically, the course was very scruffy all around and that’s kind of what you expect for an obscure rural course like this.
Mt. Huff was purely another checklist course for me, and I’m glad to have the monkey off my back.
Some pictures from Mt. Huff Golf Course (7/27/19):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)
Speaking of checklist golf, that leads me right into my next round played on Saturday…
Feather River Park Resort Golf Course • Blairsden, CA • 7/27/19
From Mt. Huff, I headed down toward the Graeagle-Blairsden area and stopped at Feather River Park Resort, where they have a public 9-hole golf course. This is not to be confused with what is now the defunct Feather River Inn 9-hole course that is (was) located not too far away.
My friend had already started his round here and was finishing up as I got started. We were the only two people out on the course on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, which isn’t a good sign. At least it allowed me to play as quickly as possible. I rented a cart for this one and was shocked when they told me the price of $40 for nine holes. I guess everything around here is pretty overpriced in season (as you will see), but this course is certainly not worth that rate.
I would say the layout was less interesting here than over at Mt. Huff. In fact, this one is a pretty simple and fairly wide open layout by Bert Stamps. There are some longer rough areas lining fairways, and there is one tricky green complex (the 7th) surrounded by trees. Otherwise, it’s about as basic as you get. Feather River Park plays to a total par of 34 with two par-5s and four par-3s.
Conditions here were probably a slight notch down compared to Mt. Huff, meaning it was mediocre at best. It was pretty scruffy and shaggy all around. The greens here were super soft and super shaggy. Everything just looked run down throughout the course.
At least Feather River Park is a little more centrally located with the good local golf courses, so it wasn’t a pain to squeeze into the trip. Otherwise, there is plenty of great golf around here. Serious golfers will not want to bother with this one unless you are obsessed with playing everything like me.
Some pictures from Feather River Park Resort Golf Course (7/27/19):
After two mediocre short courses to start the trip, I enjoyed a great course on Saturday afternoon (Whitehawk Ranch, to be reviewed later) to round out that day. After that, we drove all the way up to Susanville to stay the night and then work our way back down south with Sunday’s rounds.
After morning rounds at Diamond Mountain and Bailey Creek, it was time to check out a couple more short courses on both sides of Lake Almanor…
Lake Almanor Country Club • Lake Almanor, CA • 7/28/19
When we arrived at Lake Almanor CC, it wasn’t too busy and we were able to tee off right away. It was another expensive short course at $40 for nine holes with a cart, but at least it offers a better quality golf experience. We zipped around by ourselves until we caught the slower groups for the last few holes. I think it took us twice as long to play the final three holes than it did to play the first six!
Whereas Mt. Huff and Feather River Park offered lackluster course designs and subpar conditions, Lake Almanor (and Lake Almanor West as you’ll see next) provided some hope for the handful of short courses of this region. This is a nice little course that I really enjoyed playing.
This is a regulation-length 9-hole layout that plays to a standard par of 36. They offer slightly different tee boxes for front and back nine play, with both sides coming in at just under 3,000 yards. It’s not a long course, but it’s no pushover either with some houses, trees and doglegs in play. Speaking of trees, I fell in love with what I later found out are called incense cedars. There are several throughout the course and they have a very cool look with a very bushy, triangular shape on top and then trunks that flare out at the bottom. I can’t say I’ve ever seen them before on a golf course, so they were definitely eye-catching.
The course offers some brief lake views and you can also see Mt. Lassen in the distance on a couple holes. It’s just a nice setting and the layout is fairly fun, too. The final three holes stand out as the 7th has you hitting way down the hill and the the par-3 8th and par-4 9th bring you back up toward the clubhouse again.
I should note that Lake Almanor Country Club is considered a “semi-private” course in that the public can only play certain times (I believe after noon on most days unless there’s a member event going on). It is within a gated community on a little peninsula that juts out into the east side of Lake Almanor.
The conditions here were actually quite nice. It was a bit soft throughout, which will be a recurring theme as I review many other courses on this trip that water heavily in the summer. There was not much roll-out on anything. Otherwise, it was very lush, green and nicely kept from tee to green. The bunkers were good and greens were solid, rolling well at medium speeds.
Lake Almanor CC isn’t a must-play (there aren’t too many short courses that fall into that category). However, it is a nice little warm-up or chaser if you happen to be playing Bailey Creek, which is located just up the street. It is a bit expensive for a 9-hole course, but I’m sure the value is a little better (especially if you rent a cart) when you play 18.
Some pictures from Lake Almanor Country Club (7/28/19):
Next, we drove around to the opposite shore of Lake Almanor (about a 20-30 minute drive) to the other 9-holer here…
Lake Almanor West Golf Course • Chester, CA • 7/28/19
Everything went smoothly up until this point in the trip, so we were bound for a little challenge. When we checked in a little before 4:00, the guy in the pro shop said there was a couples shotgun about to go off soon and we might not get out for awhile. Then, he said “unless you are ready to go right now.” That was all the opening we needed, so we paid our $45 for nine holes with a cart (ugh!) and headed out to the first tee.
A slower group had just made the turn and we didn’t want to get smothered by the mini shotgun, so we jumped to the 2nd hole and played the 1st at the end. We were still behind people most of the round, but it moved along well enough and we were done in a little over an hour.
Though there is no management relation between Lake Almanor CC and Lake Almanor West, it’s hard not to pair the two together. They are both on the same lake (though opposite sides), they are both considered semi-private and they are both nice little 9-hole courses.
Lake Almanor West is also a regulation-length layout for the nine holes, playing to a par of 36. They have different tees for front and back nine play, and a couple holes actually change up quite a bit. The 1st hole has two pretty different angles. The 7th plays as a par-5 on the front and then as a par-4 on the back as the 16th. On the flip side, the 8th switches from a par-4 to a par-5 when it is played as the 17th from the alternate tees.
The layout here is also fun and a plays a bit longer than Lake Almanor CC. It has some narrow spots with a ton of trees lining each fairway and some tight doglegs. The greens feature some strong natural slopes with everything pulling toward the lake.
Lake Almanor West was in similarly nice shape, as well. I’d say it was a tick less “green” and lush (primarily in the rough areas that were spotty at times) than Lake Almanor CC, but perhaps playing a little better because it wasn’t quite as soft. There was actually some roll-out on these fairways. Overall, the course was in very good shape all around. The bunkers were fine and the greens were good—probably a little nicer here than LACC.
Though it will cost you more than you might want to spend and you’ll have to do some driving at the “turn,” pairing Lake Almanor West and Lake Almanor CC together to make your own full 18 is an interesting idea to consider. Otherwise, if you happen to be on the west side of the lake and looking to squeeze in some golf, Lake Almanor West should satisfy just fine.
Some pictures from Lake Almanor West Golf Course (7/28/19):
Last and certainly least, we get to the short course that can hardly be considered a golf course at all…
Chalet View Lodge • Portola, CA • 7/28/19
We stayed here Sunday night and we chose Chalet View Lodge because it actually has a little pitch and putt golf course as one of its family activities on site. Really, the price for the room was pretty similar to any other hotel in the area this time of year, so it was an easy call to stay here and have an excuse to play the course as guests.
We arrived around 8:00 (after squeezing in another quick twilight round over at Plumas Pines), but there was still enough light to walk around this course with just a wedge and a putter. Trying to figure out the routing was a little tricky at times and there is no official scorecard. Plus, we realized after finishing that there really are only eight holes left in play and one of those is highly questionable.
Most of the holes are in the 60-70 yard range (we had to gun them) and then there’s one over 100 yards. The “greens” are just small circles with the grass/weeds/dirt cut down a little lower with scruffy holes cut in. The tee boxes are marked by small posts that sometimes have a number on them. It really is as crappy as it sounds.
At first, we skipped what is actually the 2nd hole because it looked all torn up and didn’t appear to be a “real” part of the course (maybe just an extra chipping green or something). However, I went back and played it at the end once I realized it was in fact the 2nd hole. It was just a big pile of dirt mounds with the most chewed up, dead green on a course full of ugly greens. As I played the hole, I realized the dirt mounds were actually a little dirtbike track that was laid out from the tee to green and back.
Still, that left us one hole short. What should be the 7th green is no longer there and where the 9th tee is located according to the site map we found later, there is nothing resembling a tee box (I went back and looked to make sure). So, we ended up playing from the 7th tee to the 9th green and then finishing on what is actually the 8th. We didn’t see any other way it could be routed at the time. Oh well, it’s not one to get too worried about.
As I said, this one barely counts as a golf course and will fall on my “worst of all time” list—maybe even at the very top of that terrible list! Not only is it poorly conditioned and confusingly routed, it is also very dangerous. You play through other activities and some of the lodge buildings. If there were other people out there, it would be extremely sketchy to try and play the course.
As for the lodge itself at Chalet View Lodge, that was nice. The room was neat with the second bed up in a little loft. We ate dinner at the bar on site and it was very good. Overall, it’s got a rustic feel with some luxury hotel qualities. I’d recommend the lodging at Chalet View Lodge and some of the other family activities out back should provide plenty of entertainment. The golf course—or whatever you want to call it—is an afterthought, but it technically exists and I played it enough to count.
Some pictures from Chalet View Lodge (7/28/19):