Looking for Diamonds in the Rough

We’re going to go a little out of order as I review the various courses from my most recent Northern California trip that took me all over the “Lost Sierra” and down into the Truckee/Tahoe area once again. I will pair up the course reviews geographically to make things easier.

After staying the night in Susanville on Saturday night, my friend and I were ready to go early on Sunday morning. Pretty much every course around these parts doesn’t open until 7:00, and some of them also close kind of early. That doesn’t make it ideal when there are such long days in the middle of summer and we want to maximize what we can squeeze in each day. Somehow, Sunday managed to be the one real sunrise-to-sunset golf day of the trip, starting right there in Susanville…

Diamond Mountain Golf Course • Susanville, CA • 7/28/19

The course doesn’t technically open until 7:00, but we planned ahead and the guy in the pro shop said it was no problem to come out and walk the course earlier. We teed off around 5:30 and walked the front nine. Then, we paid at the turn ($40) and got a cart for the back nine. It was a nice quick round to start what would be an 81-hole day at six different courses (three of which you saw in the Short Course Blitz post already).

Of all the 18-hole courses planned for this trip, I had the lowest expectations for Diamond Mountain. I knew it wasn’t anything too dramatic and it is just a municipal course run by the city of Susanville. My family used to like driving to Reno from where we lived in Northern California when I was a kid, and we also liked taking camping trips out to the Sierras. We travelled through Susanville many times as it is basically the biggest town in a region filled with very small mountain towns. I hadn’t been up there in years, though, so any memories are faint. Back then, it always seemed like it was on the way to other places. After driving up there this time, it seems way out of the way!

Diamond Mountain is a tale of two nines as the older front nine is quite simple and doesn’t offer too much excitement. Some holes play along/around a lake and there are some interesting shots, but it’s mostly out in front of you. The newer back nine offers a bit more character with the first half feeling like a little nicer version of the front nine and the latter part playing up into some wooded areas. The back nine is also somewhat more scenic, though both sides provide very wide open views of the valley and the mountains all around.

Being a fan of mountain golf, I definitely enjoyed the closing stretch through the trees more than the more open parts of the course. Still, Diamond Mountain doesn’t quite measure up to other Sierra courses in terms of drama or natural beauty.

The conditions were also a bit spotty, especially on the front nine. It seemed more “worn out” than the back nine that had greener fairways and a bit more consistency overall. The rough areas on both sides were both iffy. It was wet here in the early morning and we had to play around some sprinklers, so again there was not much roll-out on drives unless you found one of the thin spots. The bunkers were okay. They were just damp and the sand was heavy in an early morning round. The greens were soft and had some thin spots, but not terrible.

I will say the people here were very nice and accommodating to us as crazy traveling golfers trying to get out as early as we could. Also, the rates are very reasonable considering it cost us the same (or less) to play 18 here as it did to play 9 holes at most of the short courses on this trip. Either way, this isn’t really a destination course and that’s just fine. It seems to get plenty of local play without too much else around, and it’s certainly it’s the more affordable option compared to the next course I will review.

Some pictures from Diamond Mountain Golf Course (7/28/19):

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

Next would come the marquee round for Sunday and the reason why it is worth going a little bit out of your way to the northeast side of Lake Almanor…

Bailey Creek Golf Course • Lake Almanor, CA • 7/28/19

Diamond Mountain may have the treasure-like name, but Bailey Creek is the real hidden gem of this area. It’s definitely one of Northern California’s best-kept secrets because it is in a pretty remote and obscure area and it’s not really clustered with the other top mountain courses of this region.

However, I’ve always heard good things about Bailey Creek, so I was excited to finally play here and see it for myself. Ultimately, it lived up to my expectations.

We had an 8:50 tee time and were paired with another twosome. It was pretty busy out here, so there was no getting creative or jumping around. We just relaxed and enjoyed the course on a beautiful morning. Still, the pace moved along fine and we were finished in just over four hours.

The 1st hole is a fun opening hole to get you started on your round. It is a dogleg right with a pond right behind the green, so you’ll definitely want to avoid going long. The signature hole at Bailey Creek is the par-3 8th, which features a number of different tee boxes on hillside that they can move around on any given day (ranging from 99 yards up to 170 depending on which tees you play and where they choose to put the markers that day). It’s an elevated shot over a water hazard to a nice green complex.

Overall, it’s a good layout that offers just enough challenge and utilizes the natural terrain beautifully. It is hilly and there are plenty of trees in play. The back nine plays a little more “open,” but nowhere does this course feel super tight like some mountain courses. There are a few water hazards, a lot of well-placed bunkers and some boulder outcroppings. It’s a great representation of golf in the Sierras.

The course conditions were great from tee to green, other than it being very soft and wet because they water so much. The tee boxes and fairways were lush and cut consistently. The rough was very thick and often quite brutal to hit from when the ball would sit down. The bunkers were great. Unfortunately, the one big issue was the greens. They are dealing with a poa invasion and the mix of grasses made for some thin spots and some bumpy putts. Hopefully, they can get that resolved because it’s clear they usually keep this place in great shape and the greens are so important to the quality golf experience that Bailey Creek provides.

Beyond the issues with the greens and things being a little softer than I’d prefer, I really loved everything else about Bailey Creek. This is a great course and it is one that any golfer traveling through the Sierras will want to seek out.

Some pictures from Bailey Creek Golf Course (7/28/19):

 

 

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