Category Archives: California

Scenic Mountain Courses Offer Challenging Golf

Whenever Northern California Golf Courses are discussed, Monterey Peninsula's famed Pebble Beach, San Francisco's Olympic Club, and Napa Valley's Silverado are three that immediately come to mind. It's only natural as they get all the press....Pebble and the Olympic Club for their connection to US Opens, Silverado for its Senior Tour events. Lesser known by far, but just as scenic, challenging and majestic are two courses in the tiny hamlet of Clio, located a leisurely one hour drive north of Lake Tahoe.

Clio's two mountain beauties, The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch and The Dragon at Gold Mountain, though different in typography, both offer mountain golf at its finest, as well as an opportunity to retreat from the busy and complicated world we live in here in Southern California. The subject of this issue's article is The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch. Next issue we'll review The Dragon At Gold Mountain. Whitehawk, as it is more commonly known, is a par-71 course from the 6927-yard championship tees. Part of the 956-acre Whitehawk Ranch, the course carries a 72.6 rating with a 133 slope, providing plenty of length and difficulty to challenge low handicappers. Mid to high handicappers can tackle the course from 4816, 5673 or 6457 yards depending on tee selection. No matter which tees are played, the emerald green fairways lead past environmentally sensitive areas full of native grasses and wildflowers. They meander through tall pines, firs, cedars and quaking aspens. They saunter past quiet ponds, free flowing waterfalls and seven rock strewn creeks. As you contemplate your drives, fairway shots, and read the breaks and undulations on even the shortest of putts; you'll relish your surroundings in the pine-scented forests alongside protected marshlands. Whitehawk offers challenging contoured fairways and large greens that grant opportunities for superb pin placements. Correct club selection is a must. Shaping tee shots to narrow rye grass fairways, hitting straight shots from sloping fairways, and playing doglegs and uphill holes, makes for an exciting day on the links. Although Whitehawk has demanding par 3's and par 5's, its signature hole is the driveable 310-yard par-4 ninth hole. Don't let its length fool you. With a creek crossing the fairway at 212 yards out, and a green protected by a pond on the right and bunkers on the left, the risk reward factor is ever present. If you get a chance to meet Matt Cruse, Whitehawk's Group Coordinator, ask him how to play the hole. He says it's his favorite because. "It's the only hole on the course I have ever eagled". An environmentally sensitive course, in 1997 shortly after it opened, Whitehawk earned the California Golf Writer's Environmental Award in recognition of actions and efforts to preserve and protect the environment. Once you play this Mohawk Valley gem, you'll understand why preserving the unspoiled splendor and the natural, beautiful terrain were major factors in the thinking of course architect Dick Bailey. Prepare for your round at Whitehawk by warming up with unlimited range balls on the well-situated practice facilities that feature multi-level grass tees, a large putting green and multiple practice bunkers. After your round, enjoy the scenery with a cold one and a sandwich from the snack bar or head over to The Lodge for cocktails or a scrumptious dinner. If you want to attack the course record, bring your "A" game. Scott Ferrin, former Assistant Pro at the Lahontan Golf Club near Lake Tahoe, holds the record with an outstanding eight under par 63. As a semi-private course, Whitehawk plays host to Whitehawk Ranch homeowners, local residents and visiting golfers from around the world. The pro shop is well equipped, the staff is ready to assist you with your every need, and the course is a scenic beauty and challenge for golfers of every level. As Mikey of cereal ad fame says, "Try It, You'll Like It". One note of caution when planning a golf outing at Whitehawk, be aware that because of its location in the Sierra Nevada snow belt, the course is open only from mid April through mid October. For information on tee times, green fees, tournaments, or lodging in the well-appointed private cabins, or The Lodge at Whitehawk, log on to, or call toll free to 1-(877) 945-6343. For information on home sites, rentals, or homes for purchase, contact Whitehawk Property Services at 1-(530)-836-2021.
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Maderas, A Johnny Miller Masterpiece

When Johnny Miller is discussed in golfing circles, different images come up depending upon the age of the golfer. Today’s younger golfers know Miller as a straight forward, tell it like it is golf commentator. Golfers fifty and older remember him as one of the word’s premier players in the early 1970’s and 80’s. What most golfers don’t realize is that Johnny Miller, winner of 24 PGA TOUR events, including the U.S. and British Opens, has become one of the world’s top golf course designers. Since working as a consultant on his first golf course design in the mid-70’s, he and his company, JMD, have 24 completed golf courses around the world and have 10 more in the design or construction phase. Recently I had the opportunity to play Maderas Golf Club, which Miller designed in collaboration with Robert Muir Graves. Located in the foothills of Poway, about two hours south of Orange County, Maderas Golf Club opened in November, 1999. In 2003 and 2004 it was ranked the #1 golf course in San Diego County and the #6 golf course in California by the Zagat Survey. A semi-private club, Maderas has lush contoured fairways, large undulating greens and plenty of challenge. Although Miller’s design gives the course a tight look, the fairways are fairly wide and quite receptive. However, proper club selection is key as shots must be made uphill, downhill, and over rock outcroppings, canyons, lakes and creeks. To help with your club selection, pick up a course yardage booklet available in the well-stocked pro shop. When playing Maderas, the real fun begins on each and every hole once you reach the green. The greens are fair, but their size and undulations, when combined with tough pin placements, can make two putting a relief, three putts common, and four putts a distinct possibility. The key to playing Maderas according to General Manager Jack Kirkpatrick, is to “play the right tees” and there are six sets to choose from. The longest are the black tees at 7115 yards with a 146 slope and 75.6 course rating. The course record from the blacks is 63 held by two players, Charley Hoffman and Steven Eshbach. Hoffman shot his record score while playing in the final round of the 2004 Gateway Tournament, when, according to Assistant Pro Cole Duncan, “the tees were back and the pin placements were nasty”. Eshbach, who was 19 at the time, shot his 63 from the tips this past March while playing Maderas for the first time. As a 13 handicapper, I found the blue tees quite a challenge at 6654 yards, a 138 slope and a 73.1 course rating. My favorite holes were the Par 4 fifth hole, Maderas’ number one handicap hole and #17, the shortest of the course’s Par 3’s. One of the toughest Par 4’s in San Diego, #5 is a 460-yard downhill dogleg left with its fairway guarded on the left by three enormous bunkers and a hazard, which runs the entire length of the fairway. At 165 yards from the blues, #17 is also a downhill hole. Its changing wind conditions, and long and difficult two-tiered green, will make you forget that its rated the easiest hole on the course.

If you need a quick tune up or a series of lessons before tackling Maderas, John Darling, and Maderas’ four teaching pros are available by appointment to assist you with your game. Darling, a former head instructor with the Golf Digest Schools who has taught five State Junior Champions, brings 31 years of experience to golf instruction. Following your day on the course, take a few minutes to visit The Grille, Maderas’ informal yet elegant restaurant, where a full bar and a complete luncheon menu await you. The beautiful setting, combined with the emphasis on service that is so evident at Maderas, makes The Grille an ideal stop after a round of golf as well as a wonderful site for wedding receptions, corporate outings and/or banquets. Join the likes of PGA Pros Cory Pavin, Dennis Paulson, John Cook, Ricky Barnes, Phil Mickelson, Scott Simpson, Kevin Stadler and LPGA Pro Hee-Won Han, all of whom have played Maderas. Once you play Maderas, you will realize that Johnny Miller is not only a world champion golfer and an outstanding golf commentator, but also a masterful golf course designer. For tee times and/or more information, call the golf shop at 858-451-8100 or visit the Maderas web site at For tournament and corporate play information and assistance, call Bob Maggiore at 858-217-2555. Please note that many more of Chuck's articles can be found in his Article Archive.
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