You cannot let your guard down for one minute at this test of golf. Designed by Rees Jones, 1995 Golf Digest Architect of the Year, this 27-hole layout is much different than itís sister course, Poppy Hills in that it has only one original tree. That oak can be seen on the eighth hole of the Chardonnay course, one of many picturesque holes at Poppy Ridge.
The Merlot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel nines offer challenging and enjoyable golf for any level of player. Each nine measures about 3,500 to 3,600 yards from the black tees. Carved in the rugged terrain of the Livermore foothills, Poppy Ridge offers spectacular views of the golf course and beyond. Each hole is shaped by extensive bunkering, giving the course a true links feel.
The Merlot nine starts out with a 426 yard Par 4 from the Black tees. Your tee shot points due West and if the wind is up can be a little tricky. Your approach is to a slightly elevated green 32 paces deep thatís heavily bunkered on the front right side. Walk away with a par on this hole and your round is off to a very good start. Make your way to Merlot #5 and your in for a treat. A Par 5 that has a drop off in the down sloping fairway can cause you to think about club selection right off the bat. Your fairway shot is uphill and turns slightly to the right as well as narrowing up a bit. Then on to another uphill shot into the green.
Merlot #6 is tough in that if you do not hit the fairway you can be in serious trouble. On the right the hillside falls off and on the left you have nasty British Open style rough and again you are falling away. The green is bunkered on both the right and left sides and anything long again puts you in trouble on this hole. The finishing hole on the Merlot nine is one of my favorites in the East Bay. An elevated tee shot takes you into the fairway, and then you have to think about how you might hit this green Ė either with a crushing fairway metal, or play it safe with a lay-up of about 190-200 yards Ė which still leaves you with 75 yards to the green. Anything left after your tee shot and you are wet. Excellent design on this hole.
Number One on Chardonnay is a great starter. 396 yards from the Black tees and the approach shot can be challenging, as the green is slightly left and uphill from the fairway. Then the pin placement becomes imperative, as the green has enough slope to it to cause serious heartbreak.
Iím a big fan of Zinfandel #8, a Par 5 measuring 528 from the Black tees. After crushing your drive down the middle you may be tempted to swing from the heels on your fairway shot Ė but beware Ė a small creek runs from left to right in front of this green. Thereís also a bunker to grab your ball if itís not on target. Number 9 on Zinfandel is a 452 yard Par 4 from the Black tees and starts with a blind tee shot over a hill onto the waiting fairway. You can use the fairway bunker on the left as an aiming point, just donít land in it as itís about 240 yards from the tee box. The fun part though is that your ball has a chance to carry this hill and roll way down towards the green. Catch a good bounce and some roll and you might only be 125 yards from the center of the green. Donít let up on your approach though, as water guards the right hand side of this green.
Stop in for a bite after your round as the clubhouse is large and relaxing and the food is tasty.
Poppy Ridge, first opened for play in October of 1996, and itís sister course in the Monterey Peninsula Ė Poppy Hills opened for play in 1986. These two courses make up the Member courses for the Northern CA Golf Association, are public access and are accessible to NCGA members at a discount. The Poppy Ridge Golf Club 4280 Greenville Road Livermore, CA 94550 Golf Shop 925-456-8202. Internet: www.poppyridgegolf.com Public, 27 holes (Merlot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel nines).