Oakland's Lake Chabot Short Course is a Wild and Wonderful Surprise

By F. Richard Allen, Contributor

OAKLAND, Calif. - Lake Chabot Short Course is a nine hole executive course located within the woods of the Oakland hills. This course was created in 1954, some 17 years after the original 18 hole course it is associated with. Because of the terrain, no carts (electric or pull) are allowed or possible. You can play the nine holes anytime for $8.

If you wanted to play golf in a neighborhood similar to where Rip Van Winkle took his snooze, a place so arcane it looks like the first American golf course literally hacked out of the wilderness, this short course is the place. After months of playing highly civilized, carefully tended and controlled fairways, it was a wonderful surprise to take a hike in the woods with the clubs and not see another human being (except for my golfing buddy) for two hours.

To get started you cross the clubhouse road, go down a short set of stairs and end up in a hollow in the woods. You know where to tee off from because of the tees laying on the ground. Pine trees pretty much hide the sky. The fairway is probably 10 yards wide at the widest spot. The 1st hole is 142 yards downhill to the green.

It's a steep climb up from the 1st hole and to the right to the 2nd hole. Once you make the tee it's only 66 yards uphill to the green. It feels farther because you don't get much of the travel benefit of the ball after it reaches the top of its arc. This entire area is loaded with pine, fir, bay trees, eucalyptus... lots of brush. Wild and wonderful. No lawn mowers.

If you can overlook some of the wrinkles and scars that come with this much age, the short course is well worth it.

The 3rd hole is 162 yards, the longest hole on the course. Also one of the nicest, it comes equipped with blue and white markers. The fairway rolls off to the right and the woods encroaches from the left. There's a small dip after the tee and then a gradual uphill to the green.

The pin is in the middle of what appears to be a perfect green circle. Beyond the pin a road, which you will later be hitting from, takes you up to the 5th hole.

The 5th tee is on a narrow plateau overlooking a steep cliff. It has a green mat and a plastic driving range pin which you may use if you wish. Evidently they can't get grass to grow up this high. It's 86 yards and almost straight downhill to the green, a postage stamp at the base of yet another hill.

This is a true saddleback with the earth falling steeply away on both sides, but from this peak you only have to worry about the right side. If your ball goes in the gully, you'll need a mountain climber to get it out.

The 6th hole heads back in the other direction from next to the 5th green. Beware of the steep hill coming down on the left. It's 114 yards to the pin.

Beyond the 6th you climb up into an area which is a great look down into the canyon which cradles Lake Chabot. From this spot you can see most of the lake all the way to the end where the boat house and park are located, probably 10 miles away. What an amazing view! But don't hit the ball beyond the pin at the 6th or it may fall into the lake a few 1,000 feet below!

The 7th is 126 yards across a steep gully, from one pad to another. The 8th is the hole you tee off from the dirt road which meanders along all of the holes. And the 9th, back to the club house is almost normal...high, wide, and handsome with buildings in the background.

This course and its sister 18-hole course are a tad beyond mature. If you can overlook some of the wrinkles and scars that come with this much age, the short course is well worth it. The pros are Gloria Armstrong and Austin Butler, assisted by Joel Nozick, Raymond Chester, Jr., and Fred Ficklin.

Lake Chabot Municipal Golf Course (9 holes)
End of Golf Links Road (off 580)
Oakland, CA 94605
(510) 351-5812

F. Richard Allen, Contributor

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Lake Chabot Par 3

    Mark wrote on: Oct 1, 2012

    Not sure how old this article is, but there haven't been mats on the drop shot hole (which is actually #4) for years. It looks easy, but the green is tiny and seldom hit.
    As the prior commenter mentioned, pull carts are OK. Though once you've played it a couple of times, 5-6 clubs and a sunday bag are the way to go; dragging a cart bag and cart down #4 hill can be daunting.
    This course is a gem. When my kids were learning the game, they loved it, because it seemed like a smaller version of a "real" golf course; not some pitch-n-putt afterthought. There's spectacular views of the bay and lake, and a remarkable sense of isolation. There's only a couple of holes where you can even see another hole at all.
    Oh, if you can't hit it straight, bring extra balls. On most holes a ball hit into the woods drops off a steep precipice and is gone for good.


  • Oakland's Lake Chabot Short Course article

    Fran wrote on: Aug 2, 2009

    The article states no carts are allowed on the short course. However, pro shop staff confirmed that pull carts are allowed on the short course; there is no cart path for electric carts. This was confirmed on Aug. 2, 2009. fm