Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course in Sacramento: Daring to score in California's Delta
SACRAMENTO -- How land is used stands as perhaps the biggest issue when it comes to building golf courses. Architects say that the more land they have to work with the easier it is when it comes to laying out a golf course. Of course, some sites are so rich in possible routings of first-rate golf holes it can become difficult.
The flip side to this issue is that architects at times do some of their best work when there isn't a lot of land. Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course, about 15 minutes south of downtown Sacramento, falls into that category.
A core course that has nine holes and adjacent to another, Bartley doesn't play like a back-and-forth, hit-and-walk. Architect Perry Dye, son of Pete, did well to shape and dig and generally make the most out of a plot of land wedged between the Sacramento River and Interstate 5.
Bartley Cavanaugh: The course
Measuring 6,158 yards from the back tees, this is a flat, easy-to-walk course that sports three par 4s of 400, 398 and 445 yards, as well as back-to-back par 5s on the front that stretch out to 512 and 543 yards, respectively. Those holes account for a lot of the length, leaving seven par 4s, each less than 364 yards.
Not that there isn't some inherent challenges. This area is on the north end of the California Delta, and the Sacramento River is across River Road. It can get hot here in the summer, but at the same time, the "Delta Breeze" is a regular afternoon occurrence. That par-5 fourth can play longer than the Industrial Revolution when the breeze is up.
As one would expect, Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course is a good example of how to set holes that are close in proximity so that they have minimal impact on each other. But the minimal land means there's no driving range, only a hitting station for pre-round warm-ups.
Errant tee shots can bring golfers in different groups into the same fairway. The par 5s at No. 3 and No. 11 are a good example, where slices or hooks can find the adjoining hole. The straight-as-a-rail fourth runs along the property line on its left side. Protecting against that, many find themselves favoring the right side, where a slice from a right-handed golfer can end up on the par-3 12th.
In my group, a short wedge shot on the par-4 sixth didn't miss the green on the left side by much. The ball hit the cart path and hopped up into the group on the seventh tee. It's a cozy course, to be sure.
"I like it," said Miles McCauley, a commercial engineer who was new to the Sacramento area. "It's not that challenging, but it is fun. You can shoot some scores out here."
Indeed, short par 4s surrender their threat when tee shots get good distance and find the fairway. That leaves short irons into the greens, which for better golfers often leads to birdie putts. As for the greens, there is some slope, and in light of how flat the land is, that's a good thing. The bunkering is hardly penal.
As part of the Capitol City golf program in which residents pay a fee and receive discounts on green fees and merchandise at participating courses, Bartley Cavanaugh adds a different flair than the expansive Bing Maloney Golf Course, just four miles to the north, or the better-known Alister MacKenzie-designed Haggin Oaks in central Sacramento.
Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course: The verdict
This is a course that requires a little more thinking off the tee, and some of those first shots have to escape a chute of trees.
But good tee shots will bring the chance to score. Long hitters might find themselves going fairway metal-wedge on more than a few holes, and perhaps for them it can get repetitive.
Despite being close to one of the busiest interstate highways in the country, there still is a country feel to the place. For that, Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course is a good walk.
May 21, 2012