People visit Northern California each year from around the world for all that our area has to offer; a fascinating cultural blend of people, historical attractions, outdoor sports and exciting festivals and events year-round. For some, what might be one of the most surprising aspects is that in the East Bay--the eastern Contra Costa area specifically--there are a number of superb golf courses. Some are new, some not so new, and some in different stages of maturity. But they all offer golfers possessing varying levels of playing ability an opportunity to enjoy the game. Letís take a look at some of these gems. Shadow Lakes Golf Club 401 West Country Club Drive Brentwood, CA 94513 Golf Shop 925/516-2837 www.shadowlakesgolf.com Public, 18 holes.
Shadow Lakes is about four years old, but plays sophisticated beyond its years. Always in great shape, stretching to around 6,700 yards from the tips, and playing to a par of 71, this layout plays longer because of the change in elevation and wind.
Take the fifth hole, called East Bay, for example. It measures 432 yards from the black tees. You look down the fairway from the tee box and think, O.K., it looks pretty straightforward, and Iíll just drop a bomb on that fairway with my driver. Thatíll give me about 140 to the center of the green. Then, your vision tightens up as you calculate exactly how far it is to the water at the bottom of the hill (and the fairway). Youíre still O.K. with that driver decision, but after getting a nice clean rip at it, in mid-flight it appears as though the water is coming up fast on your ball. Luckily, it finds earth. You managed to catch a tail wind and rolled through the fairway with just 10 feet to spare before getting wet. Now the problem is an awkward stance. Have fun with that shot. Play this hole carefully, maybe a 3-wood, a hybrid or long iron is the more strategic play from the tee box.
The ninth hole is a challenger for several reasons. First, itís a blind tee shot that in a perfect world youíll draw over the bunker about 235 yards away to give yourself the shortest look at the flag. The reality that is when you leak the ball out to the right, like I did, and end up ďpositioningĒ the approach shot about 180 yards away from the green it will lessen the percentages of hitting the putting surface. The green itself is quite challenging. It has some elevation change and plays fast from just about anywhere on the green.
On number 12 you get the impression that you are hitting from an island tee box. The approach shot goes up hill quite a bit so be prepared to factor that into your club selection.
The 17th hole can be troubling because you have a good round going, ready to take into the clubhouse, when all of a sudden you drop a tee ball into the water. Donít blame it on the wind!
Finally, the 18th hole usually plays very long from the fairway and demands a straight tee shot to set up a decent chance of hitting the green, which you still may not do! It says 559 yards from the black tees on the card but it can feel like more than 600 into the wind. Lone Tree Golf Club 4800 Golf Course Road Antioch, CA 94509 Golf Shop 925/706‑4220 www.lonetreegolfcourse.com Public, 18 holes.
This might be one of the oldest courses in this area, but has been freshened and has actually aged well. The new clubhouse and pro shop has a modern feel. And with the new clubhouse comes a new chef with a great menu. The driving range never seems to be crowded.
I love the tee shot on the 4th hole. Make sure to favor the left side on this one. Itís blind in that you know where it needs to go, you just canít see where your ball has landed or how far your shot has gone. I love coming over that hill and seeing my tee shot inside of 100 yards in the center of the fairway. It doesnít happen enough, unfortunately.
The ninth hole allows you to think you might try to drive the green (and even if you do try and come up short or errant, itís not too penal). The 12th hole is the same, but the problem on 12 is that if you go right out of the tee box, you might be O.B. If you hit it left, thereís a big chunk of rough that Iím sure has eaten hundreds of balls!
As a finishing hole, number 18 is solid. From the tee box try to avoid the tree on the left if you fade the ball, then remember on your approach to add a club to get you on top of the green. Roddy Ranch 1 Tour Way Antioch, CA 94509 Golf Shop 925/978-4653 www.roddyranch.com. Public, 18 holes.
This course is about five years old and has some great holes. Thereís a good driving range to loosen up and a fast practice green to roll some putts before you start your round. I think youíll see this course start to rank higher and higher on the lists of top courses as it is settling in very well to its surroundings, a former cattle ranch.
And yes, the course really is named after a famous, real-life cowboy, Mr. Jack Roddy. The way this course plays can leave you feeling elated or like you just got bucked off a bronco!
The first hole is a par-five with an accurate tee shot mandatory, as the fairway starts out tight before widening. The second shot on this hole can get you into trouble quick, as there are twin pot bunkers in the fairway, then a greenside bunker guarding almost the entire front edge of the green. Just position your second shot to leave yourself with an opportunity to grab a green in regulation, two putt for par, and move on.
Make sure you pick a good spot for your tee shot to land on the fourth hole.
Then, when you get to number six, youíll see a par-five thatís a little different. The shape of the hole is like a slanted ďfigure eight.Ē Your eyes can play tricks on you on the tee box as you look down to gauge the distance. Be careful, as for the most part, a 3-wood is probably the smartest club out of the box.
The 10th hole is another par-five and has water in play on the left. The fairway tightens up so play smart on your second shot here.
Number 13 is said to be the longest par-three in Contra Costa County at 224 yards. And, when you factor in the wind, it can easily play 20 or more yards longer.
The finishing hole is ready to pounce should you lose your focus for just a moment. Itís a par-five that bends to the left around a bit of a ravine. The challenging part about this hole is that you can easily send a shot down out of play by not being aware of the way the fairway bends and angles towards the right as you approach the middle of the fairway. Closer to the hole thereís a huge bunker guarding the left front edge of the green. Diablo Creek Golf Club 4050 Port Chicago Highway Concord, CA 94520 Golf Shop 925/686‑6262 www.diablocreekgc.com. Municipal, 18 holes.
Not necessarily in East County, but still in the East Bay is Diablo Creek. In Concord, this course can be a good place to stop and play, then cool off in their sports bar and catch the action on their many televisions while settling up.
Redesigned by Robert Muir Graves, this course can be demanding at times and possesses some high shot values. For instance, the third hole might very well be the longest par-five in Northern California, measuring 631 yards from the back tees.
The tee shot on number 10 can be tough. Thereís water on the right, should your ball stray in that direction.
The 17th hole is a short par-three with a three-tiered green to add some complexity. Thereís a driving range and huge practice green to warm you up prior to your round. Brentwood Golf Club 100 Summerset Drive, Brentwood, 94513. Golf Shop 925/516-3400 www.brentwoodgolf.com Public, 27 holes.
At Brentwood youíll find 27 holes of solid golf. And, if the westerly afternoon winds pick up, youíll have quite a challenge on your hands. Uniquely, each of the nines opened at different times, giving the course a range of maturity.
The first nine, Diablo opened in 1994, with the Hillside Course opening in 1997. A third nine, the Creekside Course, opened in 2000. All were designed by world-renowned architect, Ted Robinson. Deer Ridge Country Club 801 Foothill Drive Brentwood, CA 94513 925/516-6600 or 888/400-7888 www.deerridgecc.com Semi-Private, 18 holes. Public play accepted.
This is the newest course in the area. Nine holes are open for play with another nine due to open in April. The club also has a great short-game practice area.
Youíll love the look of the holes. The course currently has a slope of 141 from the tips, which measures around 6,300 yards, which gives you an indication about the challenges to be found here. The course architect is a young up-and-comer, Andy Raugust, with about 10 solid tracks under his belt.