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.

Slope: What is it and why is it capitalized?

If you have been paying attention, Leslie wrote a nice post about what the “rating” number of a golf course means.  I, Mary, am charged with explaining “Slope”.  Just a word of warning; I am less diplomatic than Leslie and have no filter to speak of even in written form.  I apologize in advance if I insult your intelligence or your golfing skills.

I consulted a USGA handbook regarding the handicapping system to get an idea of their definition of Slope.  It said something about higher handicaps vs. low handicaps, etc., but nothing about what Slope is or where it came from, so you will have to rely on me.

The Slope is determined by rating “obstacles” that “come into play” during the playing of a golf hole.  Those two items above are in quotes because they are defined terms with specific meaning which we will discuss later.

Basically, when a golfer stands on the tee looking down the fairway, she is likely to see a few problems between her and the flag.   The higher the slope numbers for that hole, the more golf balls she is likely to need!  In fact, if a golf course has a high slope (average slope is 113) grab a few range balls for later.

The Slope numbers come from the following obstacles that exist (or not) on golf courses.  In general, the more obstacles that “come into play”, the higher the slope.  Before I go on (and on) I must clarify the term “come into play”.  If there is an obstacle that exists but is greater than 50 yards from your landing zone, it is not in play.  Any obstacle within that distance is factored into the Slope number.


Trees – The more trees close to the line of play and in your “landing area” the higher the number will be for trees.  Also, if the trees are hard to get out of (e.g. grow all the way to the ground or grow close together) or are between the player and the target (e.g. green) the number will go up farther.  If you stand on the tee of a hole and look toward the green, the difficulty of the trees is relatively obvious.

Water – Pretty obvious here.  Out come the old golf balls!  Lots of water? Close to my line of play?  I have to carry over it!!!?  How far for God’s sake?!  Anyway, you get it, big water, big Slope number.

Out of Bounds and Extreme Rough – Out of bounds? The stroke AND distance rule puts these two categories together.  Bottom line, Extreme Rough is an area that is so dense that you are unlikely to find your ball.  Generally, these areas are unmowed and are EXTREME.  In either case, if they are close to the line of play, the Slope will increase.

Bunkers – These pesky pieces of sand get their Slope number from several characteristics: whether they are close to the line of play, how deep they are, and how much of the green is surrounded by bunkers.

If I hit a good shot, in the fairway or on the green, how does Slope impact me?

Fairways – In the Slope number for the golf course, the areas that are determined to be the “landing zones” for scratch and again for bogey are analyzed.  The slope number for these landing zones is determined by the width of the fairway and the nature of the fairway in those areas.  For example, if the fairway is very narrow where you are trying to hit your ball, that added difficulty becomes a factor in the Slope number.  Also, if the fairway is downhill, sidehill, or otherwise uneven, that awkward lie will impact the Slope number.

Greens –  Size matters!  The greens are given their slope numbers based on the size of the green, the shape of the green, and obstacles near the green.  In addition, the surface of the green is analyzed for speed, tilt, and contour.   If the greens are fast (11 or so on a stimp meter) then the greens will be deemed more difficult and receive a higher slope number.  In addition, the uphill and downhill tilts of the greens are analyzed.  Finally, if the green is oddly shaped or has a tier or some other issue that golfers must deal with, that is also factored into the greens’ Slope number.

HEY, NOT FAIR, STOP!!! I am Betty Bogey and Sally Scratch never hits her ball where I go. These obstacles are worse for me!

Yes, Betty, that is why many of the Slope numbers for Betty are much higher than Sally’s. In fact, some of these obstacles impact your Slope number if they EXIST anywhere!  For Sally, the obstacle has to be close to her line of play or her landing zone to impact her Slope numbers. The Slope allows Betty and Sally to compete against each other more fairly because the Slope adjusts their “home course” handicap to account for the higher (or lower) Slope.

So What?  Why do I  care about Slope?

The USGA explains that the Slope is part of the ratio that…. (nevermind). Let’s do the handicap arithmetic together to see how slope impacts your handicap and makes appropriate adjustments (don’t be afraid):

Score – Rating = Index;  Index  x  Slope/113 = home course handicap.  For example, if Betty and Sally average 90 and 76 (gross) respectively on their regular golf course, their indexes would be as follows:

90 – 72.1 = 17.9

76 – 72.1 = 3.9

Their home course handicap would be their index X slope/113.

If they go play golf at Ancil Hoffman, Hoffman is their home course for the day.  To compute their handicaps for the day they must find Ancil Hoffman’s Slope on the card for the tees that they have decided to play.  Hoffman’s Slope is 125 from the Black tees (front combo tees).

Index X Slope/113 = home course handicap for the day.

17.9 X 125/113 = 19

3.9 X 125/113 = 4

The higher handicap will vary more than Sally Scratch as a result of the Slope number. This has a mathematical proof but I am sure that your eyes would roll back in your head and you would look like agitated trouts.  If these same players play the front tees with a Slope number of 117, the 19 handicap will change to 18 but the low handicap will remain at 4.  Don’t forget to recompute your handicap when you go to a different course from your own.  You don’t even need the chart now, only a calculator.  Surprise and impress your friends with your new golf handicap knowledge.

Why is Slope Capitalized?

Mostly because the USGA says so.

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.



Woman Golfer Makes Sacramento Bee

Congratulations to Betty Wood who had a hole-in-one on the 123-yard third hole at Cameron Park with a gap wedge (That’s a long wedge shot!) on May 7.  This amazing achievement, however, pales in comparison to being a woman player making Steve Pajak’s weekly column in the Sacramento Bee as Betty did last Tuesday, May 17.  Mr. Pajak religiously covers our local men players from the pros to the Sacramento County Men’s Senior champion, but rarely do we find a word about local women players on any level.  My guess is that women golfers read his column, too.  Again, congratulations Betty Wood, for your two stellar achievements.