The Nines at Haggin Oaks’ Arcade Creek

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Mary on Safari at Arcade Creek’s Blue Nine.

If I were investing in real estate, with my hypothetical millions of dollars, I would surely look at buying a nine-hole golf course.  In this day and age with the numbers of golfers on the decline and the fast-paced, technological lives we lead on the rise, nine holes of golf is very attractive.  It appeals to beginners and older players with physical limitations as well as golfers in the primes of their lives and those who are just short of time in today’s busy world.  Mary reminds me that nine holes is also perfect for those who are simply too irritated with themselves to face another nine!

We recently played, on separate occasions, each nine-hole layout of the Arcade Creek Golf Course at Haggin Oaks.  Dressed in its spring finery, the courses provided us with excellent early season practice and much needed 2-hour exercise as both courses are super walkable.  The terrain of both nines, the “red” nine being the front nine and the “blue” nine the back, is quite flat, but the lush and green rough of spring proved to be an obstacle to be avoided at all costs.  The ambiance was a study in contrasts with a profusion of wildlife all around but the serenity of the course often disrupted by low-flying planes from McClellan overhead and the roar of car engines from nearby I-80.  On the plus side, if you need to buy a car, Rapton’s is a baby 8 iron away.

Nevertheless, we played each nine in under two hours walking – a pleasure for any golfer.  Most women should prefer the “tan” tees at 5,535 yards (70.5/114) or the shorter “green” tees at 4,591 yards (64.7/102).  The choice of lengths is limited; the next longer tees are 1,000 yards longer, making the course too long for most women.  The “red” nine is slightly shorter than the “blue” nine which might affect your choice between the two.  I always like to play the “blue” nine because of its last hole, a par 5 which requires a player to cross water twice, negotiate a sharp dogleg to the left, and putt out on a picturesque, sharply sloping green.  I go home either full of a sense of accomplishment or tearing my hair out and minus at least one golf ball.

Playing the two nines at Haggin Oaks proved to be a trip down memory lane for us.  As teenagers we played the courses when they were fairly new and immature (as were we!).  We remember taking shortcuts down the rough line which lacked turf and mature trees.  We remember playing holes barefooted at sunset with a putter. We remember the great junior golf programs sponsored by Tom LoPresti and Kenny Morton.  And we remember playing our hearts out in the Tournament Of Champions there.  For many reasons playing the nines at Arcade Creek is worth the time and effort – even if it is only to catch one of Tom’s jokes at the starter’s desk and to grab a “reject” pencil just to see which world-renowned course had it’s name misprinted.

The Last Hole on the Blue Nine at Arcade Creek.

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Quivira: A Cabo Adventure

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Quivira Golf Club from the 16th tee toward Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach and the Pacific.

You may have noticed that You Golf Girl has been on hiatus this last month or so.  We can blame bad weather, the holidays, the Olympics, etc., but our absence is largely due to our annual stay at Pueblo Bonito in Cabo San Lucas.  Yes, we are proud timeshare owners.  Our “ownership” comes with playing privileges at Quivira Golf Club, although we are sure it is open to anyone who is willing to shell out the rather exorbitant greens fees (or has a coupon of some ilk).  We met two of these types in the forms of a rank beginner and a man who bragged on the first tee that “I haven’t played for 15 years!”.  The course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, sits on the Pacific Ocean and features jaw-dropping views and many other percs that make it a unique experience.

We have played Quivira only twice, once by ourselves and once accompanied by the above mentioned “ilks”.  Both experiences proved to be both an exhilarating and frustrating experience for us.  When we first purchased our timeshares 10 or so years ago, our salesman proudly told us the course would be ready for play in a year or two.  We got the same story each successive year until two years ago when, lo and behold, we looked to the north and a golf course had magically appeared.  Of course, we brought our clubs the next year and fully experienced the highs and lows of women playing Quivira.

The course’s layout is spectacular but perhaps a bit too extreme for the average player.  The clubhouse and practice areas perch on the edge of the beach (great for watching sunsets at the end of a 5 or 6 hour round if you have ilks in the group).  There are also wonderful “oases” with spectacular views, great food, and cocktails that are integral parts of the the round of golf at Quivira.

After a long cart drive where a wrong turn could have led us into the Pacific, we arrived at the first tee.  The holes leading away from and back to the clubhouse, #’s 1 – 4 and #’s 16 – 18, were enjoyable; the fairways were well-defined and in pristine condition.  Their difficulty lay in the desert rough and fairly extreme contouring.  However, we decided that the middle holes that came next were where Jack may have lost his mind (or experimented with the local peyote).

The climb up the mountain from #4 green to #5 tee is not for the squeamish as you travel from sea level to nosebleed heights.  Luckily, almost at the top, is a refreshment station where a golfer can have a complementary drink (margaritas, cervezas, double martini?) and a snack.  The views of the Pacific, Pueblo Bonito properties, and Pedregal to the south were breathtaking from that height.  On #5 we soon discovered that what went up definitely came down.  We were presented with a par 4 that doglegged sharply to the left and traveled back down to the seaside (cliff side) green that we could not see from our tee. Rumor had it that it could be seen from the back tees. It didn’t really matter though since neither of us could hit a drive that stayed in the fairway – 4 tries, 2 lost balls. Both landed on the far right, high side of the fairway,  in “perfect position,” one ball unplayable in the long grass that is 3 feet off the right side of the fairway and one ball in the 12-foot deep fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway by the sea cliff.  We never did hit a  ball to that green.  Although Mary almost had a hole in one on #6 one day, it wasn’t enough to compensate for our frustration.

After our complementary delicious lunch of sliders, grilled up for us as we played the 8th hole, the next few mountainside holes were a blur; on most of them we settled for enjoying the views of the ocean since we never had views of our landing areas from the tees.  It was like playing blindfolded.  The height of our frustration came at hole #14, a sharp dogleg right, the green (of course) not visible from the tee but also not visible from the approach shot.  A large striped pole on top of a sand dune gave us a vague clue as to the the direction we needed to take.  The first day, we hit shots over the pole resulting in two lost balls; the second day, we hit shots over the pole and had two birdie putts.  Both results were completely frustrating for us not knowing how our golf balls arrived where they did.  (Every day there was a falcon sitting on that pole; coincidence?).  We found great relief coming back down the mountain on #16 both days so that we finally could see where we were going.

The real problem for women players at Quivira, other than being paired with golfers who are rank beginners, is our lack of tee choices.  Course length ranges from 7,139 yards (back, black tees) to 4,326 yards (forward, red tees).  We played from the white tees at 5,598 yards, feeling that length was appropriate for us.  As we discovered, these tees left us with too many blind shots, in several cases making holes nearly unplayable (see #5).  The red tees at 4,326 yards, however, often were placed at the ends of fairways (almost as an afterthought). Because these tees are not elevated, players simply cannot get a sense of the course.  For example, the problematic par 4, number 5 hole is easily reachable from the forward tees, but its length is reduced to 202 yards – really a par 3.

In spite of our frustrations, our two days at Quivira gave us much fun and enjoyment.  If you choose to experience this resort-type golf, go for the food and ambience: complementary drinks, snacks, and lunch on the course with unsurpassed views of coastal Baja, wonderful flora and fauna and even an old lighthouse.  Falcons and roadrunners accompanied us the whole way; if only they could fore-caddie!

For a virtual tour of Quivira, go to their excellent website at http://www.quiviraloscabos.com.  Check out the precipitous cart path climb to #5 and Mary in action (?) below.

Requiem for a Golf Course

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The ornamental cherry tree in full bloom on hole #3 at North Ridge.

(Note:  Seasons Greetings.  This memory of the front nine at North Ridge, written with nostalgia, is a fond memory not a criticism.  We know our North Ridge friends are creating their own fond memories of their newly-designed course.  Happy golfing in 2018!)

The vote for the golf course project was overwhelming, and I knew my North Ridge was doomed.  Rebuilding greens and bunkers ballooned into a Robert Trent Jones modernization.  My beloved fairways and greens of 54 years would soon be only a memory.  The old traditional architecture which made its ambiance so challenging yet comforting would give way to the changes so in vogue with the USGA and new generations.

My North Ridge was, and still is, located among busy thoroughfares, houses, apartments, and shopping centers.  Many Fair Oaks residents don’t even know a golf course exists there, an acreage of lush country in our urban and suburban world.  Its park-like character returned its players to a sense of serenity and a oneness with nature even when we endured the worst of golf games.  As it changes, and change it must, I want to remember the old, venerable golf course hole by hole.

I always had a love/hate relationship with the first tee.  I loved the view from its elevated perch over the course, the majestic eucalyptus trees guarding the left side of the fairway and the picturesque stand of coastal redwoods on the right framing the bend of the dogleg.  The first drive there, however, was always a struggle.  If one had not warmed up properly, one’s ball would almost certainly fade into “Mary’s Grove” on the right.  On too many occasions I over – corrected and found myself enjoying the shade of a eucalyptus on the left.  Reaching the green on the par 5, the flattest on the course, was always a relief although the great depth of it from front to back never assured me of an automatic 2-putt.

Although hole #2 became much more reachable from the forward tees, the drive was again difficult if not dangerous.  Again a beautiful stand of redwoods formed the dogleg, this time to the left.  A shot off line to the left invariably landed in jail and left me chipping sideways for a second shot; a shot too far to the right brought another eucalyptus guarding the path to the green into play.  The green, however, presented the hole’s greatest difficulty.  It’s depth required a 2 or 3 club difference for an approach shot, and its narrow opening between large bunkers often left me with long bunker shots.

Even with the racing of engines and sudden unsettling squeal of brakes from San Juan Avenue, hole #3 remained a pastoral par 3.  The many trees lining the left side created a beautiful buffer from suburban civilization although they did attract pulled golf shots.  Again the deep green presented a 3 club difference, but at 150 yards the hole was unreachable for a majority of the women players.  A Chinese cherry tree (once three), planted in memory of my dad, stood to the right of the tee.  Its spectacular pinkish white blossoms in the spring always evoked thoughts of our many games together over the 32 years that he played there.

Historically, hole #4 was an unreachable par 4 over a lovely lily-lined lake and straight up a hill to a blind green.  The forward tee took the pond out of play but provided a much more competitive experience for the average woman player.  After huffing and puffing up the hill, the green may have been the most challenging aspect of the hole as it would not hold a low or running shot.  The out of bounds about 10 yards behind the green ate golf balls, and the walk back to hit the shot again meant another exhausting climb back up to the green.

If I had to pick a favorite hole, I suppose hole #5 would be at the top of my list.  The view of the elevated green from the fairway was stunning, framed with ancient oaks behind it and a bunker complex in front that prevented running the ball up to the target.  The arm of the beautiful lateral lake that ran between the end of the fairway and the green was equally as imposing.  The treeline on the left, thick with firs, was beautiful but deadly with the tee positioned on the left.  Finally, the extensive bunkers on either side of the driving area were magnets for any shot slightly off line.  Gone are the days when a long-hitting woman might reach this short par 5 in two, but a lay-up and a well-placed short approach over both water and bunkers to a blind target were equally enjoyable.

Hole #6 was always the shortest hole on the course.  At 116 yards before the advent of forward tees, it often presented the first opportunity for an iron shot other than a wedge and was the only par 3 most women could reach in one shot at the time.  Its biggest obstacles, two large bunkers on either side of the green’s opening made shots difficult, particularly with the hole cut in the front.  I always thought that this hole would gift me with a hole in one, but more often than not it wouldn’t even let me land on the green.

Hole #7 at 296 yards was a great hole for women, requiring accuracy and not length.  The fairway, looking almost claustrophobic from the tee, narrowed as the landing area approached.  Long and short hitters alike were practically guaranteed a downhill lie for their approach shot.  Famous for the double bunkers on the right front of the green and deep bunker on the left, the hole was identified years ago  by the large heritage oak, North Ridge’s logo, which guarded the right side of the green and every wayward shot to the right.

Hole #8 became a very controversial hole when they cut down the fir trees that framed the back of the green; however, I liked the new look which highlighted the natural surrounding mounds and the contours of the green.  Originally a 170-yard par three which was unreachable for most women, the hole from new forward tees presented new obstacles.  The double bunkers on the right and deep bunker on the left protected the green only too well.  A little known fact about the green was that the steep slope from back to front was a bit of an optical illusion.  How many “downhill” putts have I left short of the hole on that green?

Hole #9, an uphill par 5, was a challenging hole heading back to the clubhouse.  The lovely lake, studded with lily pads, was the location of the club’s luaus for many years.  Although women no longer are required to tee off over the benign water, they may still fade a ball into the depths since the lake meanders up the fairway toward the landing area.  The hole was lined with old eucalyptus which separated it from the driving range.  The trees supplied welcome relief on a hot day.  On this hole I always worried about hitting into the group ahead as the second shot over a rise was blind.  In retrospect I shouldn’t have worried as my second shot always seemed to land in the long fairway bunkers on the right.  The green was entertaining.  Slightly elevated, it was protected by a large bunker, which was usually directly in line with the pin, and lovely but problematic mounding on the right.  We used to say that putts broke toward the tennis courts which have been gone for many years now.

(Stay tuned for our back nine memories which we will post in the near future.)

Rating Martis Camp: Heaven or Hell?

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A heavenly view of the Martis Camp Clubhouse and the 18th green.

This week marked a bittersweet occasion for WGANC River Valley course raters as it was our last rating as an independent women’s group.  From now on we will be part of NCGA who will be in charge of all ratings and handicapping for men and women players alike in Northern California.  We worried that men would be doing women’s ratings and that they might not necessarily understand a woman’s game.  However, beginning in 2018 each course will be rated by a team composed of 6 men and 6 women.  As long as women are willing to volunteer as raters, we should be well-represented.

And so we ventured forth to Martis Camp, a private facility located in the beautiful valley above Truckee, CA.  Our schedule this time found us playing the course Wednesday afternoon and rating after the frost on Thursday morning, after leaving time Wednesday night for our rating group of women to have a final good-bye dinner; we have been a pretty close-knit group over the years and we like being together.

Our first taste of heaven on this rating was the warm welcome we received from Assistant Pro Anthony Roth who escorted us on a tour through the entire clubhouse after the valet unloaded our clubs and parked the car.  Already feeling very special, we explored one of the most spectacular clubhouses we have ever seen.  Designed as a series of smaller, intimate rooms, the layout provides sweeping views of the 18th hole with the towering Sierras as a background every step of the way.  Add stone fireplaces and comfortable conversation-inducing seating and a member or lucky visitor may never want to leave.  Walls of picture windows allow the views of the imposing mountains to enter each room of the clubhouse and become part of the decor.

The women’s locker room because it is a big part of our heavenly experience earned its own paragraph.  Without question it is the largest and most attractive locker room we have ever seen.  Rebecca Taylor who manages this lovely space told us that it was “built to be a place to be.”  The women’s locker room has the same floor plan and space as the men’s.  Can you believe it?  Its lounge, which includes a fully-stocked bar, features picture windows wrapping the room with views of mountains and golf course and a central 2-way stone fireplace for  warmth on those frosty mornings.  Other areas of great interest are the full spa, a workout room, lockers for guests as well as members, smaller “quiet” rooms, and sound-proof work spaces for women who must work before or after a golf game.  The tranquil decor of the “locker room” (a real misnomer) is subtly feminine.  Why would a girl leave all this loveliness to go out a play golf?

Martis Camp Golf Course is where heaven and hell finally meet.  The course, designed by Tom Fazio who is known as a visionary, emphasizes the natural beauty of the Sierra environment, but don’t expect it to be easy.  Remember how the Donner Party had to fight its way over rough terrain, mountainous passes, and the sand and water of what is now Donner Lake?  They weren’t particularly successful, but your round can be a success if you “play the forward tees and enjoy the views” as rater Cathy Trevena suggested.  Just as there are no bad days in Cabo, there are no bad views at Martis Camp.  The drastic elevation changes, the sidehill fairways, the extensive bunkering both around greens and in fairways (and many of these bunkers are eight feet deep girls!) provide the obstacles that add a devilish punch to all this beauty.  A woman player can choose among a middle tee at 6010 yards, a forward tee at 5003 yards, or a combination tee at about 5300 yards.  Yes, you are at a high altitude which allows you to hit the ball farther, but the course has such tricky terrain that the forward tees seem to be the happiest idea.  The fairway bunkering threatens players the most.  After climbing down into the bunker, it is somewhat unnerving to look up to see an 8-foot wall in front of you, making that fairway wood you brought with you irrelevant.

Heavenly or hellish, Martis Camp was an experience not to be missed.  A course as challenging as Martis Camp is always difficult to rate because of the plethora of those hellish obstacles, but the pristine condition of the course and the genuine welcoming attitudes of of all the staff from the head pro down to Rick, the forecaddy assigned to our group, to the assistant in the pro shop who gave us extra Dove chocolates at the end of the round – all made our two days there beyond delightful.

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Don’t be deceived; this fairway bunker is hell!

 

The Ridge to the River Why

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The Ridge features many natural areas.

Even after playing The Ridge Golf Club, we remain confused about the course’s character and its playability for the woman player especially.  Don’t misunderstand us; the Ridge offers a beautiful and inviting layout designed by architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr.  Located in Auburn, only a short drive up I-80 from Sacramento, it offers some good deals on greens fees either over the phone or online.  However, as I sit here gathering my thoughts, I find the course difficult to describe.

The Ridge is a good example of a Sierra Foothills golf course.  It features fairly narrow fairways winding through blue oaks, mountain streams, and wild, natural grassy areas.  Jones has used the natural land as his palette and his man-made additions blend well with the natural layout.  The clubhouse overlooks the course, providing spectacular views while golfers relax after 18 holes.

Our first question is about length.  The yardage on the scorecard is very deceiving since a majority of the holes play uphill, generally very steeply uphill, adding yardage every step of the way. (As much as we love to walk, we would recommend taking a cart here.)  Although the course provides 5 tee boxes on each hole “for all levels” of players, women players basically have 3 choices: White tees at 5844 yards and a 74.0/130 rating, Reds at 5,331 yards and 71.5/130, and Greens at 4,936 yards and 69.2/127.  If you choose the White tees, remember the course easily will play over 6,000 yards because of the uphill holes.  We played the Reds and had all we could handle out there.  The 130 Slope was our tip off that the course plays harder than the yardage suggests.

Our second question is about the condition of the course.  We know that we have endured a long, hot summer and golf courses have suffered, so we could forgive the bare spots in the fairway and muddy areas where we had to move our balls in order to play.  However, if a course features greens necklaced with bunkers as part of its aesthetic, shouldn’t those bunkers be maintained?  They desperately needed raking and edging.  If a course boasts 5 tee boxes on each hole, shouldn’t a player be able to find a grassy flat spot to put her tee in the ground?  Each tee box is too small in area, preventing divot marks from filling in and healing.  All tee pads were pretty chewed up.  Also the five tee boxes lack shade or shelter making for an uncomfortable wait to tee off.  All of that sunshine creates a great grass-growing environment but is hard on golfers in warm weather.

The good news for women is that Chris in the pro shop enthusiastically praised the women’s group, the Ladies Club at The Ridge, over half of whom are original members.  They are an active group, meeting on Wednesday mornings for a skins game (what a fun idea!) and holding two or three tournaments a month.  It might be worth the drive to join such a well-organized women’s club.

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Our personable and long-hitting playing companions, Robert Kyhn and John Anderson.

“Play 9” at Land Park

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The famous oak tree on hole #3 at Land Park Golf Course. How would you play this hole?

The USGA’s latest promotion tells us to “Play 9: It’s Your Time.”  Just as a previous promotion told us to “Play It Forward”, this new idea makes sense for any kind of golfer.  Since the average 9-hole round takes 2 hours and 15 minutes, think what you can do with the rest of your day: go back to work refreshed, go shopping, work on your fantasy football roster, spend some time with children or grand kids, or go to the zoo the way we did!  We were lucky enough to play our 9 holes last week right in the middle of Sacramento’s iconic William Land Park.

William Land Golf Course, a nine-hole layout, is one of Sacramento’s oldest tracts.  It has aged well.  Its holes meander through large, mature trees which make Land Park such a welcome respite from Sacramento’s heat.  We noticed beautiful eucalyptus, cork oaks, sycamores, and even palm trees on our 9-hole walk.  Our golf experience also included many dogs and their walkers as well as bicycles moving leisurely along.  We walked from green to tee over the many roads that crisscross the park.  The traffic there was not very noticeable; instead, one can almost feel the horse-drawn carriages of an earlier era going by.

The course itself offers a varied selection of tees from which to play: the Black tees at 2985 yards are plenty challenging for big hitters; the White tees at 2600 yards, 69.9/116 rating, allow shorter hitters to use all aspects of their games; and the Red tees at 2452 yards, 68.0/113 rating, might be an excellent choice for practicing the short game.  Unique to the course are the Brown tees especially for juniors ages 10-12 and the Yellow tees for “Little Linkers” ages 9 and under.  Needless to say, the course offers an outstanding First Tee junior program.

On this day we played from the White tees on the par 34 course.  The nine-hole round was perfect as we had plans to walk over to the zoo and visit the grand nieces and nephew afterward.  The layout is both interesting and challenging with three par 3’s, five par 4’s, and one par 5.  Most holes are tree-lined with fairly wide fairway landing areas.  Most greens are guarded tightly by bunkers; you need to bring a good wedge game with you in order to score well.  I wish I had taken my wedge lesson before rather than after the round.  Several holes utilize mini-doglegs at the end, making approaches to the green much more difficult.  We learned quickly that a 9-hole course is not necessarily an easy course.  The famous (many would call it infamous) signature hole has to be the 147-yard (126 from the Red tees) hole #3.  This hole is home to the famous oak tree standing in the middle of the fairway, blocking the green.  Women will struggle to hit a ball high enough to carry over the tree.  We were certainly unsuccessful.  Shorter hitters who cannot reach the green will have less trouble with the tree, but if a player chooses to hit a low shot under the tree to reach the green, she may very well end up in the large bunker that guards the left front of the green or one of the bunkers in back of the green.  Try both types of shots if you have a chance to do so.  Other than some uneven tee boxes and a lot of water grass (a Sacramento scourge we are finding on almost every course we play), the course is in good shape.

William Land Golf Course describes itself as a place “Where Everybody Can Play.”  In addition to promoting The First Tee of Sacramento by establishing junior tees and plaques honoring First Tee donors and pioneers such as Karen Dedman, it also provides instruction and events for young players.  Chris in the pro shop was eager to point out the bulletin board for the women’s club located in the restaurant (not in the women’s bathroom).  Women golfers can play with William Land Women’s Golf Club, a PWGA -affiliated club that plays every Thursday, or the Land Park Weekenders Golf Club which plays on Saturdays. On the Monday we played we noticed volunteers helping blind golfers play nine holes.  Our friend Keith Evans, a member of the Swingers Club told us that his group assists blind players who in turn inspire the volunteers with their strength and interest in the game.

It is very apparent to us that William Land Park Golf Club provides a welcoming environment for everyone.  We will certainly return when we “make time to play nine.”  Who knows? We may even stay to play the nine holes twice!

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This sign at William Land Golf Course says it all!

 

It’s a Man’s World at Empire Ranch

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A view of the 18th and 9th greens and the clubhouse from the elevated 18th tee at Empire Ranch. (Note forward tee in the foreground.)

From the limited supply of women’s merchandise in the pro shop to the location of the women’s club bulletin board behind the door in the ladies’ bathroom (as opposed to the men’s club events prominently displayed in the foyer), we got the hint that this golf course might not have been created with women players in mind.  The course layout and tee selections only confirmed our suspicions.

Empire Ranch Golf Club, designed by Brad Bell, became the first golf course in the city of Folsom in 2002.  Billed as a links-style course, it met few of the requisite requirements for its professed “links” style.  First, it is not located on an ocean or sea or large body of water; we couldn’t even see Folsom Lake from the course.  It has no sand dunes, no wind, no thick rough, no uneven fairways, and absolutely no pot bunkers.  Many links courses have an “outward” nine along the coast traveling away from the clubhouse and a parallel “inward” nine returning to the clubhouse.  Instead, Empire Ranch’s front nine is circular in shape returning to the clubhouse, and its back nine, although more traditional in its setup, has only 5 holes traveling “outward” and 4 holes returning “inward” – an abbreviated links style.  We also spotted way too many trees on the property for a links course.  But links courses are all the rage these days.  (Note the USGA choosing Erin Hills, a links-style course in the middle of Wisconsin farmland, for this year’s men’s US Open.)

I suppose the debate about whether or not Empire Ranch is a links course has little to do with what women want or don’t want in a golf course, but the length of the course is an important issue.  Longer-hitting men enjoy three choices of tees:  Blue at 6668 yards, Tournament at 6308 yards, and White at 6058 yards.  Each tee has approximately a 300- yard difference in length from the next, creating an excellent variety in lengths.  Women, however, must choose between the White tees at 6058 yards (so long that course raters will only do a paper rating because so few women will play those tees) and the Reds at 5036 yards, 68.0/113 rating and slope, a length so short that it may not present enough of a challenge to be interesting.  We found a Combo tee on the card at 5427 yards.  We chose to play that set of tees, much to our chagrin.  The Combo is simply not set up for women players.  It features a 413-yard par 4 and 151 and 153-yard par threes, unreachable for most women players.  The final straw occurred when we discovered we could not post our scores because Empire Ranch did not establish a women’s rating from the Combo tees.

We found two holes that were memorable, unfortunately for the wrong reason.  The first tee is located across the parking lot around the corner and down the entrance driveway from the pro shop.  After asking directions, we finally found the first hole snuggled up against the towering, protective netting of the driving range which runs along the left side of the fairway.  The opposite side of the fairway features a large electrical tower which looms menacingly for anyone who fades the ball.  To complete the picture of this unusually unattractive starting hole, power lines form an arbor across the hole.  The landing area is not visible so a player must aim her drive at one of those visually stunning, striped directional barber poles.  I don’t know about other players, but I am much happier when I can see my target.  I hate aiming at a pole, of which there are many here.  We women players are justly proud of our feminine sense of aesthetics.  It is a big reason why we play golf.  Needless to say, Empire Ranch’s first hole was the most unwelcoming hole we’ve played this summer.

The 18th hole is probably the course’s signature hole – for men and long hitters.  For women it is a huge disappointment.  After seemingly playing uphill on the entire back nine, longer hitters end with a par 3 that involves a shot off a cliff to a green far below. Shorter hitters (read “women”), however, drive their carts on steep paths down to the bottom where their Red tee is located.  The tee allows them to reach the green, but they lose the character (and the fun) of the hole.

Although the course itself did not provide a positive experience, the game of golf as always, certainly did.  We were paired with a gentleman from the Folsom community, Brian Richie, who represented the positive aspects of the game in every way.  We had a lovely day comparing shots and sharing golf stories.  His daughter, Marissa, has taken up the game in a big way and is currently competing for the Vista del Lago High School girls golf team.  Hooray for girls golf and hooray for its supporters like Brian!

Will Empire Ranch ever be more accommodating for women players?  In spite of a very congenial pro shop and staff, the original set up of the facility will be difficult to change; thus, it is unlikely to ever be appealing to women.

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The Canada Gang rushes headlong across the green, ignoring our two great golf shots at Empire Ranch.