2 for 1 – Timber Creek

View of the front nine at Timber Creek.

I know we all have accused ourselves of playing schizophrenic golf, but have you ever played a golf course with a split personality? We soon discovered that even with our wildest, craziest shots, the personalities of the course at Timber Creek in Roseville made all the difference in our games.

Timber Creek Golf Course is 18 holes of fairly challenging golf that runs through the Del Webb Sun City enclave in Roseville.  Reasonably priced at $43.00 with cart, the course offers 3 sets of tees for women players: the Gold at 5666 yards, the Red at 5208 yards, and the White at a very short 4278 yards.  We were told to play the Red tees as those are the tees most women use.  After playing we thought the course might do well to create combo tees as we had several holes where we could not hit drivers for fear of going through the fairways.

The journey at Sun City begins by traveling through a tunnel to the first tee where we discovered the typical Del Webb course, looking very much like its sister course in Palm Springs.  Homes, evenly spaced, neatly line all the fairways.  Holes feature man-made water hazards and trees planted where they will be most effective.  The homes, which are out of bounds of course, tend to sit up higher than the fairways and greens to provide better views, but walking along the fairways can be a little claustrophobic.

The day was quite hot and the course necessarily quite wet.  We really weren’t looking forward to the back nine, but thank goodness we pressed on.

As soon as we reached the 10th tee, we looked at each other in amazement.  Did we take a wrong turn?  Had we been transported to another golf course?  This back nine at Timber Creek presents a completely different style of course.  The fairways go where the land takes them naturally.  They are lined with beautiful, mature oak trees and protected environmentally sensitive areas.  The water has always been there in the form of a stream that runs across numbers 11 and 17 and affects several other holes.  Even the cart paths from greens to the next tees wind through natural woods, not disturbing the existing landscape.  The course does come back to its other personality on #17 where houses loomed above us on the left, but the expansive riparian area marked as a hazard on the right inadvertently reminded us of the schizophrenia of this course.

My brother, whom I have always accused of being schizophrenic, has always enjoyed playing Timber Creek.  It showed in his game as he played well on both nines.  Mary and I also enjoyed the day although our scores indicated that we must have felt more comfortable with the back nine personality.  We regained our sanity by relaxing in the bright, newly renovated restaurant and bar area overlooking the practice area – recounting our many hits and misses.

The back nine at timber Creek is a walk through the woods and natural areas such as the one pictured here.

Golf – Montana Style

Even power lines can’t spoil the natural beauty surrounding Montana’s River’s Bend Golf Course.

The hardest part about playing golf in Montana is playing golf in Montana.  The sky is bigger, the mountains are taller and still capped with snow, the fir trees seem to jut up to the sky, and the rivers are wider and swifter.  Focusing on one’s golf game becomes secondary in importance.

From the first tee at River’s Bend Golf Course at Thompson Falls, Montana, I knew we had some distance problems.  Everything in Montana is so expansive that long distances look close up.  We chose to hit irons to the 90 degree dogleg to avoid hitting into the swiftly-flowing Clark Fork River.  Feeling rather foolish, we realized that we could have hit our drivers all day long!

River’s Bend is a picturesque layout, its first 3 holes following the banks of the river and its last 6 holes wandering among the tall Montana pines. Many of the holes are sharp doglegs, making the wandering all that more difficult.  We definitely needed a knowledgeable Montana guide.  However, errant tee shots and misjudged approaches allowed us to focus on the beauty around us rather than our scores.

My cousin, Dale, who thought he looked like Little Lord Fauntleroy in his “golf” shorts (his son was afraid he might get beat up at the gas station) and who plays golf twice a year, won the putting contest on the last hole, so we headed into the clubhouse to buy him a beer.  The clubhouse/coffee shop/pro shop provided a wealth of information about golf here.  Our young host/golf assistant could not have been more charming.  The bulletin board advertised a weekly men’s league, a women’s league, and guided fly fishing trips.  A scrapbook described the 1989 Ladies Invitational, a 9 hole affair that offered 6 carts for use to the 8 members and 56 guests.  Photos on the wall bragged about the championships of the Thompson Falls Bluehawks golf team.  We noticed that high school girls were part of the teams as well as boys.  The focal point of the room in addition to the expansive view of the Clark Fork River, was the set of antlers mounted on the wall, a well-used persimmon 3 wood woven among its prongs.

Our game at River’s Bend proved to be a relaxing time for us in Montana.  We felt at home among its beauty and its people.  Located on scenic State Highway 200 between Missoula and Sandpoint, Idaho, it is a memorable and refreshing 9-hole stop in a truly beautiful state.

Two California tourists on the tee in front of River Bend’s clubhouse.

Turkey Creek: The Sequel

The concentric circles of a golf ball gone astray at Turkey Creek Golf Club, a turtle, the only witness.

Our second visit to Turkey Creek last Friday presented us with an epiphany: a woman golfer really can have more fun “playing it forward.”  Some women players look at forward tees with a certain disdain.  At times I have found myself part of that group, but Friday we were a foursome of women players with a wide range of handicaps who all wanted to play from the same tees.  Also, we remembered as we played that we should not be “ashamed” of playing a shorter course because the USGA has told us that a 4800-yard course has the same distance difficulty for women that a 6000-yard course has for men.  From the forward tees we all felt good about our games, our scores were a little lower, and we enjoyed our good shots and even our bad ones.  Needless to say, a good time was had by all!

We noticed right away that the shorter length presented plenty of challenges.  The doglegs required us to choose clubs other than our drivers in order to avoid going through a fairway or to stay short of a water hazard.  Interestingly, the slope rating (123) of the gold tees at 4,897 yards was fairly close to the gold/white combination tees (127) that we had played earlier this year at 5,490 yards.  Similar slope ratings meant that the obstacles we encountered from both tees were almost equal in difficulty.  On the other hand, the par 3’s were all reachable for our higher handicap players.  Turkey Creek has also chosen a kinder design by supplying escape routes or bail-out areas on holes where greens are difficult to reach in regulation.  A short hitter will breathe a sigh of relief when she can choose not to carry the 130 yards of water on the par 3 number three. Note: Jack Nicklaus once said that a golfer should be able to play a golf course with a putter.  Turkey Creek took his advice.

The course continues to be in good shape especially for this time in the golf season.  It had been watered heavily, undoubtedly in preparation for the week of 100+ degree temperatures soon to come.  Lies in the fairway were still decent, but the greens had a few bumps this time due to the watering.  Finally, warming up on grass tees on the driving range is a plus – much easier than using mats to get yourself game-ready.

Turkey Creek presented itself as very woman-friendly on this Friday.  We noticed quite a few women playing early to beat the heat.  The pro shop was most friendly and informative, telling us that many women from nearby Lincoln Hills come over to play either in organized groups or independently.  The course has a large, active women’s club that has organized play and tournaments every Tuesday.

Turkey Creek, located on State Highway 193, is well worth the drive if you don’t already live in Lincoln.  The only turkeys we found there are the ones with feathers.  Try the forward tees – we guarantee you’ll have fun!


Mather – No Spoiling this Walk

The eleventh hole at Mather Golf Course invites both players and egrets.

Our first question to the pro shop when we arrived at Mather Golf Course located on the site of the former Mather Air Force Base was “Is this course walkable?”  Congenial assistant pro Billy Segall answered, “If you were going to build a course to walk, you would use this course’s design.”

Set among protected natural areas, Mather describes itself as “18 holes of tree-lined open fairways and medium sized greens.”  The description is a good one; we observed flocks of turkeys, giant birdhouses in the nature areas, wonderful bluebirds on the wing, and all sorts of other wildlife.  We also had up-close-and-personal encounters with several of the Mather trees which at times make the fairways not so wide open.  The greens were among the best we have played this year – consistent with beautiful speed and with just enough contour to make them interesting.  Mather is definitely not a “good walk spoiled.” At the end of the round we knew we had walked 18 holes, but we weren’t even breathing hard – just the right amount of exercise.

Women are most welcome at Mather.  The starter even stated that he liked women players because they play faster than men, a seldom-recognized fact that we women have known for a long time.  The scorecard suggests three different sets of tees for women although it gives women’s ratings for only two sets.  (This kind of omission is all too common on the scorecards for Sacramento area courses.)  You can find the rating/slope for the longer, 5,721-yard Navigator tees on the computer when you post. The shortest choice is the Jenny tees at 5,005 yards.  We chose the Mustang tees at 5,257 yards, 70.1/121 rating.  We found this length plenty challenging and fun.  Mather has a women’s 18-hole group that plays on Thursdays and a 9-hole group that plays on Tuesdays.  In addition, special events that include women players are listed on the website.

As always the game of golf brings people together.  By chance for this round we joined an old friend Ralph Hilber and his playing partner Ted Smith.  Ralph, a retired military officer, filled us in on the history of Mather Golf Course as we sat on the comfortable 19th hole patio after the round.  Apparently, when the Air Force decided it wanted to build a golf course in the late 1950’s, it put its squadrons to work.  Each squadron took charge of a different hole, and squadron members who received demerits were sentenced to hours of work on the golf course.  When the course opened to players, it provided each one with an old paint bucket to pick up rocks as they played.  They would empty the buckets into bins placed on each hole.  The Air Force officially announced the course’s opening in 1958 by declaring that “a golf course was found on base.”  When Sacramento County finally bought the course for $1.00 in 1994, the rocks were mostly gone.

The course that we play today is straight forward if not particularly memorable.  Many of the individual holes look quite similar; no hole stands out as a “signature” hole. Nevertheless, as a woman player I felt very comfortable here, even with the jet engines roaring in the distance as the Air Force fighter pilots practiced touch-and-go landings at the nearby air field.  We will definitely play Mather again just for the chance to walk the fairways and to putt those fantastic greens.


Bing Maloney, an Old Friend

The venerable pro shop and putting green at Bing Maloney Golf Complex

As I traveled up the driveway from Freeport Blvd. to the clubhouse at Bing Maloney Golf Complex, I soon realized that very little had changed since the last time I made this drive forty years ago.  I felt as if I were visiting an old friend even though she didn’t treat my golf game very kindly on this particular day.  “Bing” is one of the oldest golf courses in the Sacramento area and deserves respect for that reason alone.

The restaurant, women’s locker room, pro shop, and practice green all look the same as they did long ago – old, comfortable, and inviting – although I did spot a few minor changes.  The restaurant has added a shaded patio, the locker room has a comfy new couch, and computers run the show in the pro shop as they seem to do everywhere these days.  The people who work there haven’t changed; they are still knowledgeable and cordial.  Bing Maloney has always had active women’s groups, and that fact seems to be true today as well.  I noticed four clubs posting in the women’s locker room: the Bing Maloney Women’s Golf Club, the Sacramento Chinese Women’s Golf Club, the Executive Ladies’ Golf Club, and the South Sacramento Women’s Golf Club.  I rolled a few putts on the practice green which was smooth and fast; unfortunately, the greens on the course did not have the same feel, as they were were slow and quite bumpy on this Sunday.

One important change that gives both women and men more options is the number of tees now in use at the course.  Players are greeted on the first tee with a choice among 6 tee boxes.  A problem here is that only 3 tees are located on an elevated, leveled tee box.  Perhaps in their enthusiasm for the “Tee It Forward” movement, the course designers (or re-designers) chose to cut the 3 most forward tees out of the fairway rather than budget funds to build dedicated tee boxes.  Anyone (mostly women and junior players) who tees it forward here does not get the benefit and the feeling of playing from an actual tee box.  Because I wanted that feeling, I chose to play from the gold tees at 5,870 yards – plenty long for a more “mature” woman player.  The other possibility, the red tees at 5,251 yards, seemed somewhat short, and essentially I would have been teeing up in the fairway.  Interestingly, the Slope rating was about the same from either set of tees.

The course itself showed the wear and tear of old age and lots of use.  (Am I describing a golf course or myself?)  The pond on #3, never very healthy or beautiful, has been filled in.  The par 5 number 6 still features the large runway lights that mark the approach to Sacramento Executive Airport next door.  They don’t seem to get in the way of one’s golf shots, but I found myself ducking as low-flying planes approached.  Finally, the towering tree in the middle of the fairway on #12 is still alive and still blocking otherwise well-hit drives, especially those of women players who do not easily hit a ball high enough to clear it.  The general condition of the course allowed it to be playable but not pristine.  We encountered some rough spots on the tee boxes, some bad lies in the fairways, and greens slow to recover from previous punching and top dressing.

Overall, however, Bing Maloney is a survivor.  In addition to being a good test of golf, it has stood the test of time and the good and bad swings of many, many players.

Note:   We noticed that one, classic good swing can still be seen at Bing Maloney Golf Complex.  Peggy Dodds, recently elected to Sacramento’s Golf Hall of Fame, continues to be a member of the Bing Maloney Women’s Golf Club as she has been for at least 40 years.

The monster tree at #12, Bing Maloney.

Mounds of Fun at Cavanaugh

The famous or infamous island green on Bartley Cavanaugh’s 17th hole.

Perhaps in its former life Bartley Cavanaugh golf course was a corn field, and just as in the movie Field of Dreams, a voice said, “Build it and they will come.”  As a result a group of architects took this flat, treeless parcel of farm land and imagined the obstacles they would have to create to make it a golf course.  They chose mounds – hundreds of mounds. They also dug four small lakes and planted new trees all around.  The result is a course that just doesn’t seem natural; it feels man-made.  One player described it as “crammed in” to a relatively small space.

We played Cavanaugh, located between Interstate 5 and the little town of Freeport, on a Thursday and were surprised to find a tee time and just an average number of players, including a few women, out testing their skills against this very different looking golf course.  First impressions were all positive.  The clubhouse is spacious and its elevated location allows views out over the entire golf course, especially from its great patio where players were relaxing after their round.  The pro shop and clubhouse staffs were friendly and accommodating.

However, when we teed off on number one, we were immediately greeted by the ever-present mounds along the rough line on both sides of the fairway and the constant freeway noise of Interstate 5.  We wished the original (we assumed) planted trees had matured more quickly as we needed the shade on this hot day.  We found very few bunkers, especially around the greens where mounding (surprise!) is used instead.  The heavy mounding around the greens also makes walking the course from green to tee very difficult.  The lakes come into play on seven holes and supplied some visual interest and challenge.  Number 17 must be the signature hole.  It features an island green which requires a 68-yard shot for most women players.  We found the course in decent condition; the greens are fairly true and smooth, but the teeing areas were pretty torn up.

Cavanaugh will appeal to women players of all levels as it is short enough from the white tees, 5393 yards, to make many holes reachable.  However, women players who are used to the gently rolling fairways of the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Foothill golf courses may find the awkward lies of the highly contoured fairways and the mounds here very challenging.  Cavanaugh offers a choice of 3 tees for most women: blue tees, 5788 yards, 72.1/125; white tees, 5393 yards, 69.9/120; and black tees, 4714 yards, 67.0/110. Unfortunately, the rating for the black tees is the only women’s rating printed on the scorecard, but all three ratings are listed when you post.

A Special Moment at Bartley Cavanaugh

As always, no matter what course or what day, golf proves to be magical.  I joined an engaging couple, Mike and Lisa Pace, on the back nine.  Mike gave us the highlight of the day by sinking a pitching wedge on the 335-yard fourteenth hole for an eagle – a beautiful shot and a beautiful sight.  Congratulations again, Mike!







This Course Is No Turkey

Turkey Creek makes excellent use of its picturesque water features.

Turkey Creek Golf Club, located on State Highway 193 in Lincoln, enjoys an excellent reputation.  I don’t believe I have ever heard a woman player complain about the course, and we noticed many women playing there on a beautiful Friday in May.  Architecturally, the course is outstanding, making it a pleasure to play.  It features water, especially on the holes heading back to the clubhouse.  Number 3, a par 3 at 138 yards, requires an especially long carry over water for higher handicap women players with only a very tight lay-up available.  Number 18 is a terrific finishing hole, especially for long hitters who must choose between between laying up short of the water on their drives or taking a chance with a driver on a very narrow landing area with water looming close by on the right.

Visually, the course is stunning.  Giant granite boulders are scattered along the fairways amid well-placed oak trees.  The layout seems natural, not “tricked up” at all.  A course located at the beginning of the Sierra foothills should look just like Turkey Creek.  In addition, the course is in impeccable condition – “no bad lies”.

We played the course from the white/gold combo tees; at 5490 and a 71.9 rating, we felt that these tees would give us the fairest test.  We did not count on the number of sharp doglegs, especially on the front nine, which added length to the total yardage even for higher handicap players.  We will try the forward (gold) tees the next time we play.  Their listed length of 4897 yards will almost surely be increased substantially due to forced lay-ups on the doglegs.  The course would be very difficult to walk because of the great distances to walk between greens and the next tees.  We enjoyed riding in the carts which were included in our green fees.

Our only complaint, although a serious one, was the lack of warm and fuzzy feelings we had for the golf course in our dealings with the starter in the pro shop.  He pointed us toward the “ladies’ tees” (we thought those days were over), and when we pointed out a printing error on the score card (the white/gold slope is 71.9 not 79.1), he seemed somewhat miffed with us.  My guess is that he was having a bad day, and we will certainly return to Turkey Creek in the near future.  The course is one of the best we have played this year.

One of Turkey Creek’s iconic granite boulders.