I played quite a few “must-play” courses on this trip, but none was more anticipated than Grizzly Ranch Golf Club in Portola. I have heard nothing but great things about this course in recent years and it was on the top of my list for courses I hadn’t played yet in Northern California. Speaking of that list, this one trip wiped out a majority of the top ten as I get closer and closer to one of my golf goals: to play every public course in the state.
As for Grizzly Ranch, I was so excited to finally see it for myself. I love mountain golf and, by all accounts, this is clearly one of the the best that this particular area has to offer. Having already been impressed with everything else I had played, it was fitting to end my Plumas County run at Grizzly on Monday afternoon.
The timing worked out beautifully as we knew there was a large shotgun tournament in the morning. We arrived as the groups were starting to funnel off the course. That left the course pretty wide open by the time we teed off just before 2:00. They did put a single out in front of us, but he was taking his time and let us play through a few holes in. Then, a few more people jumped out ahead on the course and we eventually played through them, as well. It was another quick round, though I did my best to savor the experience here.
To be honest, I had a feeling I might be a little disappointed with Grizzly Ranch, especially since I had just played some really good nearby mountain courses like Bailey Creek and Whitehawk Ranch. I have to say that Grizzly ultimately exceeded my expectations and I now see why some of my other golf friends love it so much. I know several people who make it a point to play here every year—forgoing other great local tracks and even the amazing Truckee/Tahoe collection in favor of this one.
Grizzly Ranch is definitely one worth going out of your way for, but don’t sleep on some of the other courses near it if you want to maximize your visit to Plumas County.
This course has a beautiful setting within a gated community, and there are very few houses around. It is hilly with plenty of changes in elevation. There are trees, ravines, creeks and boulder outcroppings as you have some holes up in the canyons and others down in the valley.
Regarding the trees, this is not a super tight mountain course. In fact, it has a very open feel from tee to green. That is not to say it is easy because of the slopes and undulations in play. Plus, there is still plenty of trouble to get into. The greens are large and difficult to read, and you will want to avoid the hazards and bunkers the best you can.
The challenge is also ramped up depending on which tees you choose to play. We played one of the more forward sets, so it wasn’t nearly as intimidating. If you are extra sadistic, you might step all the way back to the blacks, which will give you 7,411 yards of abuse with some demanding forced carries in play.
Speaking of long holes, Grizzly Ranch has a great collection of par-5s. The 3rd is a beast with a ravine that you have to hit over on your approach. The 12th is another one that plays as a huge dogleg right with all sorts of risk/reward potential. Then, the 18th is a gorgeous finishing hole surrounded by waterfalls and creeks. A bit contrived, but it works here because the setting is so stunning.
The conditions were very good here and it played well. It doesn’t have quite as lush or green a look here because of the primarily bermuda turf. In addition, there were some thin spots scattered throughout, so it was far from perfect. However, it also wasn’t all over-watered like so many other courses we encountered. It was nice to actually get some roll-out on the fairways and not have mushy fairway lies. The tee boxes and rough were also nicely kept throughout. The bunkers were excellent. The greens were firm and fast. They had some speckling as if multiple grasses are growing in, but the surfaces were nicely maintained and rolling well.
California has so many must-play public courses and hidden gems, and Grizzly Ranch would qualify as both. It’s a little out of the way no matter where you are coming from, but it is one that is surely worth seeking out. It is the top highlight of many golf highlights in a unique mountain area known as Plumas County—or the “Lost Sierra,” if you prefer.
Some pictures from Grizzly Ranch Golf Club (7/29/19):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)