Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Golfing At Wildhawk

If there is an area golf layout that can be considered as one of the finest in design, Wildhawk Golf Club is that course. Located at Vineyard Road and Gerber Road, Wildhawk challenges golfers with rolling fairways, large, deep bunkers and a combination of short and long holes that end with sloping greens to make putting difficult at times.

Wildhawk is loaded with large, deep sand traps
If anyone two-putts a hole, that can be considered very good. 

Owned and operated by the Southgate Park and Recreation District, Wildhawk’s maintenance crew keeps the course very well watered, thus the fairways and roughs are very green and thick year round. Early morning play will mean the course seems longer because of the watering, yet shots to the putting surfaces will bite consistently.

Water comes into play on only three of its holes, #4, #16 and #18, yet those are three of the most picturesque golf holes anywhere in the south Sacramento area. Southgate has added to the beauty of these and several other holes by planting flowering bushes and grasses along the fairways.

Wildhawk was constructed in 1998 and since that time has gained a favorable reputation amongst frequent players, mainly because of the excellent condition of the course.

“When we market our course we always sell it by the course’s condition,” Paul Henderson, Wildhawk’s manager, said. “We’re  in better shape than other city- or county-owned courses.”

Henderson attributes that to the work of maintenance director Sam Samuleson who recently came to Wildhawk .

“(The course) has really improved since,” Henderson said.

Samuelson’s crews do little things such as weekly sharpen the greens’ mowers and regularly sharpen the fairway mowers, which all lends itself to a better playing surface. They also regularly fertilize the entire course to keep it in tip-top shape, according to Henderson.

Several years ago Wildhawk featured fescue grass in the roughs which led to numerous lost balls, but the Southgate District removed that grass a few years ago and replaced it with bent grass rough cut to about two inches in height and play has sped up.

“It made the course more playable,” Henderson said. Plus, Wildhawk increased the total number of rounds  by about four thousand rounds a year by replanting the roughs.

Wildhawk also offers an outstanding practice facility with professional instructors led by head PGA pro Tony Schwarz and Don Levine, father of current PGA Tour professional Spencer Levin.

Kim Coppin, the tournament director, handles all the group play requests.

“We promise a good pace of play. That’s what (the groups) want the most,” Henderson said.

Here are highlights of the course at Wildhawk Golf Club (yardage from the blue tees):

#3 “Gambler’s Corner”  515 yards par-5

This is a double-dogleg right hole that leads to a two-level green.  It’s hard to cut across the dogleg  because the landing areas are fairly small.

#4 “Creekside” 143 yards par-3

A really pretty hole mainly because the creek that connects the lakes next to holes #16 and #18 runs along the left side of the green. If the pen is on the right side, it makes the hole much easier. Mounds to the right gives the golfer little room for error.

#5 “The Beach” 305 yards par-4

As the name of the hole indicates, there is a bunch of sand on this hole, particularly on the left side of the hole and right in front of the green. There’s an irregularly-shaped green that severely slopes from the back to the front.

#8 “Rabbit’s Crossing” 391 yards par-4

This is the #1 handicap hole, meaning it is rated as the most difficult on the course. It’s a dogleg left that leads to a kidney-shaped green that severely slopes from the back to the front. The bunkers, mainly on the left and in front of the green, are big and deep.

These two bunkers separate an upper and a lower fairway on #9
#9 “Jagged Edge” 474 yards par-5 

This has to be one of the most interesting holes at Wildhawk. When the rough was replanted a few years ago, they began cutting the inside portion of the hole  to fairway height. Thus, you can drive to an upper fairway or a lower fairway. The problem  is that there are two large bunkers right on the slope. If you hit into there, you will not have a shot at the green.

Cut the dogleg and you may have a chance at an eagle putt.  The approach to the green is a stretch of fairway that is very rolling. Most golfers who lay up may have a difficult pitch to the green because of the undulating ground.

#11 “Stream Crossing” 349 yards par-4

The gold and blue tee boxes are tucked back into the corner of the golf course  requiring the golfer to tee off across cattails and berry bushes. If you play from the white tees, it’s a much shorter hole.

The fairway is probably the most narrow on the course, lying between much higher ground on both sides. There’s a deep swale right in front of a two-level green.

#13 “Camelback” 411 yards par-4

Though this is the #2 handicap hole,  #13 may be the toughest hole at Wildhawk. Like #11, there is much higher ground right and left of the fairway. This hole has bunkers that really attract many tee shots. Like most of the bunkers on the course, you may be a couple strokes getting out because of the depth of the sand trap.

The green isn’t very big, so it’s likely you will chip or pitch on your third shot of this par-4.

The picturesque second shot on #16
#16 “If you dare” 290 yards par-4

Don’t be tempted to drive this hole. There’s water all along the right side and the green is tucked up on a hill behind the water. A long iron off the tee box is the smart first shot. Then you’ll have a short iron or wedge into a fairly narrow green with sand to the left. A rolling fairway means you’ll probably have an uneven stance for the second shot.

#18 “Water’s Edge” 507 yards par-5

This hole is almost two different holes in one.

You’ll start with a tee shot onto a fairway where you’ve got to be careful with going left or a little long because of a creek.

When you arrive at your tee shot, the hole then turns a little left and you get a picturesque view of the bottom half of the hole with a small lake on the right, mounds on the left and a rolling fairway. The beautiful clubhouse at Wildhawk sits right behind the green.

The green, like #16, is tucked on a hill above the water with trees and mounds behind it. It is not reachable in two shots.

Your third shot will be over the water to a wide green, but be careful because there’s lots of sand behind the green if you’re a little long.

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