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Played Pebble Beach today with my good friend Bob with a 9am tee time. Weather was in rare form in that it was so warm the wind was welcomed to keep things cool. Being that the PGA was just here a couple weeks ago, obviously the course is still in fantastic shape. About the only thing that wasn’t in perfect condition was that most of the tee boxes had been punched and some had been lightly sanded. No issues at all when teeing up a driver. None of the boxes on the par 3’s were affected.

A few updates on the covid protocols. Things are starting to open back up. Caddies still can’t carry bags and no rakes in the bunkers. Snack shop between the 9th and 12th greens is open as is the snack tent next to the 4th tee box. Also the drink cart was out early but never saw it after the 9th hole. Restaurants are open for outdoor dining and the hotel is open again as well.

There was an issue with the check in at the pro shop that frankly I was quite disappointed in the poor customer service. I’d chalk it up to everyone has a bad day, but based on comments the gentleman made last month when I was here, I’d say it’s time to move him to a different position.

Anyway, the weather was perfect and the course was fantastic, even if I did miss all my birdie putts. I would say that the greens were rolling a bit slower than normal but still at a medium-fast pace.
I played Sherwood Forest this morning with a 10:30 tee time. I’ve only played here a few times and the last outing the course was in complete shambles. I was looking for a course I hadn’t played in a while, was easy to walk, and I could get in several reps with my 3 wood.

Naturally, being a weekend with a prime-time tee slot, it was busy. Check in is down outside on a table, tent area. Unlike other places, Sherwood has their pro staple supplies out on the table as well. So if you forgot a glove, need some tees or run out of golf balls at the turn, you can easily purchase them right there at the check in table.

I took a picture of the first green as it looked like a tie die dye shirt it had so many different colors and patterns to it. So I casually rolled my 20-25 foot “birdie” attempt up towards the cup, and to my surprise it rolled true at a fairly decent (medium-fast) pace. Throughout the round the greens were similar in that the looked horrible, but the ball actually rolled fine. I was pleasantly surprised at both the smoothness of the greens and the speed.

The greens at Sherwood are pretty tame. Most are small in size (think Del Monte and Pacific Grove) with minimal slope to them. In fact we kept getting fooled thinking there was some break in the putt when most of the time it rolled straight.

Tee boxes were in good shape on the Par 4’s and par 5’s but were pretty beat up on the Par 3’s. Fairways were what you would expect for a muni course in the valley. Winter then and spotty. Having said that, the fairways at Sherwood were probably slightly better than Valley Oaks.

I was not in any bunkers all day. Looking at them as I walked past they seemed Ok and on par with what’s in the valley.

Layout is tight with tree lined fairways and the greens heavily guarded by trees. Being on the wrong side of the fairway will often require a punch shot onto the green or if you are far enough back, hit it short and let it roll up.

Customer service was great and the beverage cart was out making the rounds multiple times throughout the day. For a busy Saturday morning POP was right at 4 hours.

Overall, the conditions, though below average muni, were better than expected. Would I recommend it? Depends on what you’re looking for in a course. It’s certainly not a destination course by any means, but not so bad, I’d avoid it
I got an email from a GK’er inquiring about some additional or second tier courses to play during an upcoming Pebble trip. Poppy Hills was thrown into the conversation so I decided to go out and scout it out as I hadn’t played here in a while. Not sure why I don’t play here more often to be honest. Course is always in great shape and it’s reasonably priced. I will say that POP can be brutal at Poppy Hills. Yesterday was one of the best with the round being a tad under 4 hours with minimal waiting and that was only because we had a long ball hitter in our group.

First that bad. Customer service has gone into the toilet. They have taken the COVID protocols to extreme levels. No issues with the safety precautions but think it through. Range balls are no longer included. If you want range balls you have to walk all the way around the back side of the clubhouse the back deck, give the kid (20’s) your credit card and he walks into the clubhouse out of sight, rings it up then comes back with a receipt that you give to the guy up on the range who puts out a bucket for you. They won’t accept cash (I’m still not clear on why touching my credit card is safer than touching cash, but that’s a different topic).

Regular check in is at the FRONT, of the building right near the parking lot. That process is easy. There’s a guy under an EZ up who checks the clipboard and after you give him your name away you go…. Unless you want range balls. Payment is done on line.

Anyway, enough of that and I’ll skip the rest of the minor issues. Course conditions were spot on. I’m going to start with the fairways. A perfect 10 without any debate. Super lush with perfect coverage side to side. On a day where I didn’t lose a single ball, I’m happy to say I got to experience the great hitting surface from the fairway all day.

Greens at Poppy Hills are huge. However, the actual landing area is fairly small as all greens have multiple tiers and numerous lumps and ridges to negotiate. We all had a few (too many) three putts. We were paired up with a couple of former college golfers and the one said he had never had so many three putts. Greens rolled smooth at a medium-fast+ pace. Basically the speed is what you would expect for a top notch course. Greens reminded me of Blackhorse except that they held well struck shots much better.

During the remodel a handful of years back, they put in “waste land” areas on the side of the fairways. These areas were designed to cut back on water usage which they do. They’re comprised of basically DG dirt and have super low no almost no lip so escaping them is pretty straight forward. Due to some rain the previous night there were a few of these wasteland areas that were a bit muddy. But overall still very playable.

I was in four greenside bunkers and all were excellent. Vey nice fluffy sand that was predictable. Tee boxes must have been excellent as well, since I don’t remember any issues.

We all walked, but the group in front of us had a cart and it was cart path only. Not sure if that was just due to the rain the night before or if that’s normal. Looked like the restaurant had a side window open for takeout food.

All in all Poppy Hills is fun, tough course with excellent conditions. Don’t expect over the top customer service like Quail Lodge, Aviara or Indian Wells, but once you get going on the course you’ll be a happy camper.
Madera Municipal golf course is my baseline for rating all other muni courses. Madera is usually in ok condition, nothing fancy but nothing horrible and has decent greens all at a reasonable rate. With that, today was no exception. Greens were in nice condition rolling smooth at a medium+ pace. There was light rain for about 30 minutes just prior to teeing off this morning so that kept the greens a little slower than normal. I never realized how tough the greens can be here. Don’t get me wrong they aren’t like Blackhorse, Spanish Bay or Glen Annie, but they have just enough undulations to really test your skills.

The greens easily held well struck approach shots and even chip shots would check up occasionally.

Fairways were decent enough. Mainly winter thin(ish) but overall not bad. The fairways even had a little green color to them throughout. No issues with the tee boxes and even the par 3’s had good coverage. I avoided the bunkers all day but judging by my playing partners reactions, the bunkers were mainly hardpacked dirt with a light dusting of sand on top. The skirt area around the greens were in decent shape and made chipping with confidence easy.

There isn’t much rough so to speak. There’s the first cut which is all of about a ½” taller at best than the fairway. After that and it’s hardpan dirt between the fairways. Layout is a parkland style and completely flat. Our group was all walkers and judging by the carts out on the course, it looks like they are still the same old beat up basic carts they’ve had for years and double riders.
I don’t know if I’ve ever played here prime time on the weekend but the standard rack rate for walking was bearable as was the POP. We were making good time until the turn and then the wait at every shot got longer. Still we finished right at 4 hours on a 9:50 AM tee time during a three day weekend.
I played Ridge Creek twice this week. Conditions remain constant. Greens rolled smooth at a medium-fast pace the other day and a bit faster today. Ridge Creek always maintains their greens so they hold well struck approach shots. Usually, the trade off is a number of unrepaired pitch marks. I’ve noticed the last few times out that it’s getting much better and only a couple of pitch marks throughout the course to be found.

Fairways are dormant (brown) but very playable. One of the big areas of improvement are the rims of the bunkers (both greenside and fairway). Whereas before this area was severely overgrown and thick (18” tall) with grass, it’s now cut down so there’s no chance of losing a ball.

As for the bunkers themselves…. Well, they still need some actual sand. Tee boxes are ok and POP wasn’t an issue either day. Customer service is great. I walked both days, but they are offering single rider carts. Unknown if there’s a premium upcharge for single riders. The range is pretty beat up right now. It was extremely difficult to find a decent hitting surface.

The restaurant is closed for indoor and outdoor dining as even the patio is roped off. In fact, it’s a bit of a pain to just get to the restroom. The do offer a snack shop through a side window.

With a great score the first day and a pathetic score today, I’m eager to get back out and have an “average” score.
Feeling good about my game with 12 birdies in 11 rounds, I went and played Blackhorse to see if I could keep the momentum going. Blackhorse is always a tough track with fast greens that have several undulations. In short they are flat out wicked. Greens are firm, fast and roll true. There are a lot of false fronts so even chipping can be tough. Fairways present a lot of tight lies but have decent overall coverage. You have to be comfortable with hitting off a tight lie at Blackhorse. This is especially true with chipping. Very easy to chunk or thin a wedge shot.

Tee boxes were all in real nice shape. Level and lush throughout with very little divots. No issues with the bunkers. Most had brown sand but very playable. As I mentioned before, chipping off the skirt areas around the greens can be tough due to both the tight lies and the area being chewed up from so many golfers chunking shots in this area.

Blackhorse is a tough but scenic track. There are views or peaks of the ocean on numerous holes as long as the fog clears out. Today, it was dense fog for about 3 holes then started clearing out to eventually we were in short sleeves.

COVID – Only two people allowed in the pro-shop at a time. Pro shop has plexiglass barrier between employee and customer. Putting green open, Range balls pre-stacked down a the range. Single rider carts. Foam noodle in the bottom of the cup, no rakes in bunkers, no sand bottles in carts.
I was in Visalia Friday 2/5 and got in a round at Valley Oaks before my meeting. I played the Lakes/Valley combo which is the most popular. Conditions are what you would expect for this time of the year. In short, Greens, Tee boxes and sand traps were all nice but the fairways were the weak link.

Greens were in very nice condition. They rolled smooth at a medium-fast pace. Greens at Valley Oak are fairly tame so, you can go “flag hunting” on most holes. It’s not often I’m “Disappointed” with 32 total putts and two birdies, but I definitely felt like left a couple out there.

Tee boxes were also in nice shape. Lush, level, fairly divot free and a nice emerald green. If anything, the grass on the tee boxes might have been a little long but after last weeks rain and the abundance of sunshine this week it’s understandable.

Sand traps were a pleasant surprise. Decent quality sand in all three bunkers I was in. Sand was only about 2-3 inches deep, but very playable.

Fairways: Well, this was the weak area of the course. Grass was very thin throughout the entire course. It offered plenty of roll out but didn’t promote optimal ball striking conditions. Fairway grass was 90% dead/dormant brown with a little bit of light green mixed in (probably from this week’s unusually high temperatures).

All in all, Valley Oaks is your typical winter muni course right now. Greens alone make it acceptable and it’s a super easy course to walk. One thing I do like about Valley Oaks is that tee boxes are short transfer away from the greens, yet far enough that people on the tee & Greens aren’t disrupting the other with normal talk/chatter. POP was under 3 1/2 hours. I started out as a single and joined the 3 some in front of me at the turn.

With tree lined fairways (some tight, some more open), Valley Oaks offers an alternative track to that of Ridge Creek down the road or Dragonfly, all at a bit cheaper of a price.
I played Glen Annie for the first time late Sunday morning in a GK match. We chose Glen Annie for the match as it is a GK supporter. Mike and Steve had played here a number of times before so they helped guide me around the course. The course is located just south of Santa Barbara and sits up on a hill about a mile or two from the ocean.

Course offers plenty of wide open views of the ocean and Channel Islands throughout the track. The pro shop is closed off and check in is via a walk up window. The grill did offer take out food and there was a nice patio area for sitting and eating/drinking after the round if you so choose. I took my food to go after the round to get back on the road.

Layout isn’t as tight as I expected. That or I just had an above average day as I finished with the same ball I started with. Having said that, there is room for error by hitting the adjacent fairways. Don’t get me wrong, there are enough trees and native area to wreak havoc on stray shots. Almost every hole has some sort of elevation change. I can only remember two holes that were flat.

It starts with a bugger of a long 400+ yard uphill par 4. You then wind up and down the side of the hill on mainly straight forward holes for the front nine. The back nine gets a bit more tricky with sever dog legs, risk/reward options off the tee etc.

The greens! Where do I start. Difficult and almost a bit gimmicky. Most of the greens have SEVERE slope to them. I’m not the one to know the answer but it seemed like some of the pin locations would be illegal for tournament play. I could be wrong and it’s not a sour grapes thing as I only had 33 putts but we all experienced some downhill putts that were just flat out impossible to stop within 3’ of the hole.

As for the conditions of the greens, no issue there. They rolled smooth at a medium-fast pace. Naturally, uphill putts were much slower on the steep inclines and downhill putts were super fast.

Fairways weren’t too bad. Definitely, in winter condition. Part green, part brown, some thin areas, some lush areas. All areas playable.

Tee boxes were a step or two below the fairways. A bit chewed up on a number of them.
Sand traps were unplayable. Due to the recent heavy rain, all of the traps had standing water and deep mud.

I enjoyed the track and glad I got a chance to play it. Knowing they are a GK supporter, I’m twice as happy we chose to play here.
I played Ridge Creek on Saturday as part of their Match Play tournament. Ridge Creek sent out an email needing two more players to fill the brackets, so since they are such huge GK supporters, I through my name in hat.

Conditions are just slightly below that of when I played here in December. Greens are still in very nice shape rolling true at a nice medium-fast pace. Fairways are completely dormant and a few spots are winter thin. Other than that the fairways are very playable.

Tee boxes are what have slipped the most. Some of the tee boxes were pretty chewed up. Oddly enough the par 3's were ok it was some of the longer holes that showed signs of wear and tear.

It had rained the night before and even a couple hours before our 9am tee time, so sand traps were more hard packed than usual. But, they were all consistent and playable. Just not fluffy sand playable.

Customer service was great as always. We were the slow group :( (I did my best to get the ONE player in the group to pick up the pace but in a tournament setting he was in NO hurry). Oh well.

I always enjoy Ridge Creek even if I did get my tail handed to me!
With the weather being so nice this week, I had to sneak in another round as Sunday was so warm we were seeking shade while waiting between shots. Last week Spyglass was fairly quiet so I figured Spanish Bay would be the same mid week after the holiday weekend. When I booked the tee time it was a wide open tee sheet but come game day, everyone decided to play hooky and take advantage of the nice weather and great course conditions.

If you plan on playing Spanish Bay, get out and do so quick. The course is currently in super condition but it won’t last long unless we get some rain (a lot of rain) soon. In talking to the staff, they are already starting to hand water at Spanish Bay. Come summer, they will pull water from Spanish to use at the other sister courses.

I’ve seen it before where the fairways get brown and dry here during the summer. I would expect that to be the case this year. On top of no rain, the hotel is closed so they are getting any reclaimed water from there. It’s going to be bad.

But… on the bright side, the course is in excellent condition right now. Greens rolled super smooth at a nice fast but comfortable pace. As mentioned before, the greens at Spanish Bay are very challenging with several undulations. There was a good mixture tough pin locations and favorable ones.

Fairways were very nice. They are starting to show slight signs of being thin, but for now they are emerald green and present a nice hitting surface.

Sand traps were the “weak” link of the course. Bunkers were still above average in quality of sand but a couple were a bit thin. Still easy enough to escape from but not the over the top fluffy white sand the Pebble courses are known for.

We were in the second group off the tee but started to fall a bit behind so after the 6th hole I took off as a single (walking) and quickly made my way through the twosome in front of me and then had clear sailing the last 11 holes. I finished right at 3 hrs.

Right now, Spanish Bay is highly recommended. Come summer time, for the rack rate….?? Probably not.
I decided to take the long way back from Sacramento and play Copper Valley. As mentioned before this course is a ways out there but it’s a solid track. The course sits on a hill so it has several elevation changes throughout. It also has a few water hazards to the place gets a thumbs up in the design/layout from me. Conditions were very nice. Not over the top great like the last few places, I’ve played but definitely well above average.

The start was a bit odd. I tee’d off at 10AM and was part of the 10B group with the 10A group going off right in front of us. Not sure if others have seen this or not in a regular start. Anyway, I was paired up with an elderly couple in their 80’s. The were locals who play 5 times a week so they helped guide me around the course.

Greens were great. I rated them right at an 8. They rolled smooth at a medium fast pace. Greens are well designed with some easy pin locations yet had some bit to them and could be set up very tough. I will say that it seemed like we had a lot more favorable pin locations than tough ones.

Fairways were a delight. Very lush for the most part with only a few tight lies here and there. Fairways were green throughout the entire course.

Tee boxes were the week point. Good lush coverage but a few were unlevel. They weren’t horrible, but I had to step back a couple paces on a few of the tee boxes in order to find a flat hitting surface.

I avoided the bunkers all day but they looked decent.

Customers service: Everyone was polite, I’ll give them that. I can tell they don’t get too many visitors here (understandable considering the drive). Everyone on the course was definitely local and knew the routine. Me being the outsider, I was lost on a couple issues. I attempted to order from the restaurant and that was a disaster. Finally after waiting 30 minutes (after ordering on the 9th hole), I left and someone brought my food out.

My playing companions quit after 9, so I became a single. Unfortunately, I got stuck behind two super slow foursomes. The marshals forced the one group to let me through, after they denied my request (I was on the tee box with them on two consecutive holes). Anyway, It seems that the locals here are like surfers at a hidden surf spot. They treat outsiders like garbage.

That aside, it was great weather and the course is in excellent shape. Carts have GPS and the cups have spacers in them that are set fairly deep so no issues with balls bouncing out due to hitting the spacer.

Copper Valley is worth the price if you don’t mind the drive.
Played Yocha Dehe on 1/12/21 with DeepSea14. This is my second time playing here and it’s an absolute gem of a course. Course checks off all the boxes, elevation changes, great conditions, water hazards and super friendly staff. Like many of the Indian Casino courses, Yocha Dehe is hidden off the beaten path. It’s about an hours drive from Sacramento but well worth the drive. I drove from the valley and it was easily worth the 3.5 hour journey.

Greens rolled smooth at a medium-fast pace. Greens are normal size with most being double tiered. There were some tough pin locations set right on the ridge that made putting speed crucial. Greens held well struck approach shots. The only thing preventing these greens from being a 9 or 10 was that some of them had a brownish tint to them. Didn’t effect how the putts rolled but did take a point or two off for presentation.

Fairways were nearly flawless. These fairways easily could have belonged to one of the last two courses played over the weekend. They were that good!

Tee boxes weren’t far behind the fairways. Level, lush and excellent coverage.
I avoided the sand traps until the last two holes. Both bunkers were top quality with soft fluffy sand.

Getting back out here reminded me why I liked this course so well the first time and also confirmed all the high rankings Yocha Dehe gets on the Top Course lists. Highly recommended playing it.
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