Saturday, July 07, 2012

Golfing At Emerald Lakes

It has become the landmark northbound travelers on Highway 99 first see when entering the City of Elk Grove. Emerald Lakes Golf Course is the city’s only public golf course and has become a fixture to the area since its construction in 1990. Purchased in 2006 by the Cosumnes Community Services District, Emerald Lakes has become a popular spot for golfers from beginners to professionals.
Skyler Quam, teeing off on #1

Matt Holm, a PGA professional and the course manager since July of 2007, says the course has become self-sufficient financially and believes that is because they’ve kept green fees affordable.

“For the person that doesn’t have the five to eight hours to commute and then play an entire round of golf, we’ve become their course,” Holm said.

Under CSD’s management, Emerald Lakes has improved the overall condition of the 2,307-yard, par-33 nine-hole layout.

“I’d put our greens up against anyone’s in the region,” Holm boasted.

He credits the care of Emerald Lakes’ undulating, firm – and challenging – greens to course superintendent Gilbert Urbano. Holm says Urbano’s experience in lawn management has really benefitted the condition of the entire golf course. He points to recent upgrades around the 8th hole overseen by Urbano that has really added to the aesthetic appeal of the entire course.

“I’ve always said to take the ugliest part of your course and do something with it to make it look beautiful and we have,” Holm said.

Urbano and his crew have laid down about an acre-and-a-half of sod with some wood chips and have cut a creek bed between the course’s north pond and the middle pond to run alongside #8.

“That hole is the most visible (from Highway 99) so I wanted it to be something to look at,” Holm said.

The result of Holm and Urbano’s hard work has been the fact that many community organizations are using Emerald Lakes for their golfing events.

“Last month with had either 15 or 16 charities come out and have their events here,” he said.

Though the course is only nine holes, Holm says he’s seeing more and more golfers play a regulation 18 holes.

“They’ve been saying ‘we had such a good time we want to go again,’” he said. “It’s about half price for the second nine.”

A big part of Emerald Lakes’ success has been a large adjoining practice facility with lights. The driving range closes nightly at 10 p.m. and at 9 p.m. on Sundays. Holm says they have just purchased 24,000 new range balls. Golfers can practice hitting balls off mats with artificial turf or off natural grass.

Here’s a hole-by-hole review of the Emerald Lakes layout:

Hole #1-288 yards, par-4:

The opening hole has a fairly narrow landing area for your tee shot, with water on the right most the way down the fairway and the practice range on the left. The green is one of the largest on the course.

Hole #2-195 yards, par-3:

Holm says the men’s club at Emerald Lakes thinks it’s the hardest hole on the course. It’s a par-three that plays longer than the posted 195 yards. The green has a severe right to left slope which makes it one of the hardest to putt.

It can be tough to putt here on #3
Hole #3-113 yards, par-3: 

This hole has a large bunker protecting the front of the green. If you do hit the putting surface with your tee shot, you’ll be lucky to score a birdie. This green is difficult to putt on with several undulations and small breaks.

Hole #4-474 yards, par-5:

The only par five on the course, number four runs right along the property line. If you hook your drive, it’s gone and now property of the BNSF railroad. There’s pine trees and then water along the right side. The hole plays longer than the 474 yards indicated on the scorecard and the green is long and narrow. There’s bunkers on both sides of the putting surface and you need to chip your approach shot on the same level of the pin on this three-tiered green, otherwise you’ve got a tough speed putt.

Water surrounds the green at #5
Hole #5-111 yards, par-3: 

The first glimpse of Emerald Lakes you see driving north on Highway 99 is this hole with a peninsula green. Too much club and you’re in the water behind the hole. Too little club, you’ve drowned a ball and so you’re pitching from the circle to the left of the green. This is about the largest green on the course, so a decent pitching wedge from the tee and you’ll be putting for a birdie.

Hole #6-344 yards, par-4:
This hole and the par-5 4th are probably the only two you’ll likely use your driver from the tee box. The fairway is fairly wide and forgiving, but too far left and you’re in water. Too far right and there’s a line of trees that could block a pitch to the raised green. Recent expansions of the water hazards makes some approach shots a bit of a challenge because if your tee shot is too far left, you’ll hit over water.

Hole #7-180 yards, par-3:

Avoid the front left side of this green. There’s a severe slope where shots to this portion of the putting surface can easily run right off and you may have a chip shot of 20 yards instead of a putt. Bunkers are in the front and right which make this mid-iron tee shot a bit of a challenge.

Hole #8-267 yards, par-4:

There’s high-tension power lines that run right over the fairway, and yes, sometimes a good tee shot ends quickly by hitting one of the cables. It doesn’t happen that often, but it happens. Course rules allow you, though, to  replay your ball without penalty.

Most golfers try to drive this green, but a pair of bunkers right in front generally discourage such aggressive play. Try a long-iron or a hybrid down the fairway, left of the green and chip your second shot on the putting surface. This should be a birdie hole for most golfers, no matter your ability.

The approach to #9
Hole #9-335 yards, par-4: 

As pretty a finishing hole as you’ll find anywhere. With water on the right and mounds and pine trees on the left, you must hit a carefully placed tee shot on the narrow fairway. Water and a big willow tree can block the right side of the green, so being left is important with your tee shot.

The green is two-tiered and it’s better to be long on your approach because if you’re short it’s either going to be wet or in sand.

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