Scenic Brentwood Golf Club Leaves You Feeling Close to Home

By Douglas Carey, Contributor

BRENTWOOD, Calif. - Nearly 400 miles north of the infamous city where a certain Heisman winner was charged with double murder sits another kindler, gentler Brentwood. Nestled inside beautiful Contra Costa County, this Brentwood is a burgeoning country city with a country-club feel.

The Brentwood Golf Club is the centerpiece of a new chapter in the city's history. New home developments surround the area, and the club itself is part of the Summerset Homes subdivision. One round here is all you need to become familiar with the neighborhood. During the long ride to No. 11, you'll feel like you've left the course entirely for your own home tour.

Featuring an 18-hole championship course and a 9-hole executive course, Brentwood prides itself on being a full-service golf center, complete with a driving range, clinics, monthly resident tournaments and active men's and women's clubs. Very nice, but how does the course rate?

Getting a starting time for late Sunday morning was no problem, although we were in for some sticker shock at check-in. At $60 (including cart) for non-residents, the championship course is no bargain. Call me cheap (if you must), but it sure seems as if the weekend golfer is being price-gouged here. Of course, we could have gone somewhere else, but there aren't exactly a lot of choices in Brentwood.

Service was average at the clubhouse, but we discovered a small army of marshals monitoring the course and keeping play at a steady pace. Be sure to bring soft spikes; one member of our foursome was asked to change his metal spikes at the turn.

Most of the staff was friendly enough, although we weren't too happy to learn about the drink cart's abbreviated schedule. After 2 p.m., the cart appeared as often as one of my birdie opportunities. (Never.) The marshal apologized, but we didn't take the news well. It's just not the kind of news you want to hear midway through an incredibly hot back nine.

Insurance, Anyone?

Usually all course scorecards contain the usual notes. Remain on the cart paths at all times. Adhere to the dress code. Blah, blah, blah. But you know right away they're not kidding about this one at Brentwood: Any damage to the course or the adjoining houses is the responsibility of the player.

To say there are a few houses with golf course views would be an understatement. More than half of the holes have (new) houses near the rough. Want to know who's winning the British Open? No problem. You can see Bud and Mabel's television from the rough. On the eighth hole, a few residents had the drink cart come to their backyard fence for an order. Now that's service.

There aren't any houses on the first hole, but you can still manage to find trouble. In fact, No. 1 serves as a good introduction to the course, since it doesn't take long to find water. It can be difficult to find the hole, however. Our group nearly rode right past the tee box, which isn't clearly marked. We're not asking for a 10-foot banner, mind you, but a larger sign would be helpful. Once you tee off, you'll be fine. Enjoy the hole; it gets more interesting from here.

At 297 yards, the second hole is a dogleg to the right, giving you plenty of options. Avoid the water on the right and this is an easy par opportunity. (Easy for some, that is.) You'll soon notice how avoiding the water will be a recurring theme throughout this review. There's more on the third hole.

Brentwood calls the par-4, 356-yard fourth hole "the last of the warm-up holes." True enough. Plenty of sand here, but after four similar par fours, you'll be ready for more. No. 5 is the club's signature hole, a 166-yard par-3 featuring one of many waterfalls around the course and a view of Mount Diablo in the background.

The rest of the front nine is noteworthy mostly for its two picturesque par fives and even more new housing. Brentwood says the par 4, 354-yard ninth hole is the last within the initial construction, but your adventures aren't over.

Jean Van de Velde's Lesson

If we learned nothing else from Jean Van de Velde's collapse at this year's British Open, it's this: Don't mess with the water. It's as true at Brentwood as it is in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Just as Van de Velde lost a pivotal stroke by hitting into the water on the 18th hole, a solid round at Brentwood can be shattered by a slice into one of many inviting lakes. With the combination of water, numerous bunkers and countless houses, it's best to err on the side of caution at Brentwood.

All of which makes Brentwood an excellent and challenging course. Is it perfect? No. Take the back nine, for example. (Please, take it. I've seen enough of it now.) After traveling through neighborhood streets to reach the 11th hole, you'll be relieved to see beautiful wide open spaces, clear skies and little outside traffic.

But then you'll notice the buzzing. Get used to it, since you'll have the sound of power lines buzzing over you throughout the back nine. You may also run into a few towers, which makes for some interesting club selection. All in all, however, the back nine is a delight, beginning with the par-5, 516-yard tenth. You can reach the green in two, but it gets tougher near the green, with water on the left.

Plenty of challenges await on the following holes, with accuracy being the key. My game fell apart on the par 5, 518-yard 13th hole, where three water hazards border the right side of the hole and more water sits in front of the hole. But if your club selection is correct and your game is working, you'll be fine. One member of our group used the first five holes of the back nine to help him post his second-best round ever.

The course itself is in great condition, although several of the greens could be improved. Brentwood likes to point out that the "quality of our putting greens is unchallenged," but that could easily be contested on a few holes. Still, there is plenty to like about the greens, and the challenges presented by the pin placements are a definite asset.

Brentwood finishes with the par 4, 424-yard 18th hole, which looks deceptively beautiful. Enjoy the scenery, but don't get distracted. Two lakes, waterfalls and a bunker all welcome you to the final green, giving you one last opportunity to lose another ball. Ten minutes later, though, you probably won't remember how many times you found the water. Or how many houses you nearly hit.

Instead, Brentwood will leave you with you satisfied with having challenged a difficult and scenic layout. It's a little out of the way and the price is a little high, but overall you could do much worse than a round at Brentwood Golf Club.

Brentwood Golf Club
1740 Balfour Road
Brentwood, Calif. 94513
(925) 516-3400

Douglas Carey, Contributor

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