Course Review: Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - There were problems from the start with this golf course, the first new project the city of Sacramento would build since Bing Maloney was erected in 1952.

The original site for Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course was shelved. Too much wetland area was one of the issues back in 1981. No problem, let's just find another location, city planners thought.

They found a suitable one. At least they thought so for a time. Turns out, a couple of farmers with ideas of making a nice profit from the sale of their adjacent properties greatly influenced what is now the Bartley Cavanaugh design. A lucrative offer never arrived and the projected fairways remained farmland.

Let's face it, Bartley Cavanaugh could have used more space. Eventually the golf course was built on 97.3 acres, a tight fit when putting in an 18-hole, regulation course. What Sacramento golfers got instead was a unique links-style course with some definite peculiarities.

This is not a course for everyone, let's state that right up front. "You can tell they designed the course using the limited amount of space they had," said Ryan Jones of Sacramento. "It's simply too tight. It is not a course I would enjoy playing all the time."

That is the prevailing thought concerning Cavanaugh, which stretches just 6,158 yards from the tips, hardly a test for the long hitter who wants to be using that driver all day long. With only one par-5 on the backside, Cavanaugh is a par 71.

What golfers do enjoy about Cavanaugh is the ability to secure tee times and being able to walk on at times with little wait. The price is right as well. Monday through Thursday the cost is $25 walking and $38 with cart. The other three days the price goes up only modestly at $29 walking, $42 with cart. There is a $19.95 twilight rate (with cart and drink) after 1 p.m. every day.

Despite the obvious problems, the folks at Capital City Golf are getting what they expected out of the course, located on the outskirts of Sacramento, in the hamlet of Freeport. They projected 70,000 rounds a year when the course opened in 1995. Guess what figure they are tracking for 2001? You got it, 70,000 rounds.

"I think the course surprises people," Cavanaugh Head Pro Mark Gauger said. "It's like 'let's go play it, it is different, unique.' It is a course that can jump up and bite you."

It can bite you for sure. Seven holes feature water, including five of the last seven on the back nine. There are numerous bunkers and the considerable mounding that exists also ups the degree of difficulty.

When checking out the scorecard, most golfers feel a good round is on the way. It certainly was for Jeff Williams, who owns the course record with an 8-under par 63. He did it by shooting a 30 on the backside. And that included a bogey.

Indeed, this can be a feel-good course. Care to adopt Tigers Woods' game for a day? You've come to the right place. With six of the par-4s (three on each side) measuring a mere 351 yards or less, a driver followed by pitching wedge can land you on the green in regulation and feeling like Mr. Woods.

However, there are four par-4s that go 390 yards (all yardage is from the back tees) or more, including the 445-yard challenge that awaits at No. 15. The two par-3s on the front side go 191 and 182 yards. The longest of the three par-5s measures 543 yards, while the shortest runs 509 yards.

Again, this is not a design for everyone. "I like more traditional courses with trees and more consistency," Jones said. "I don't know what you get out here. One hole is 320 yards and tight, then the next one is 440 yards and open."

Although he doesn't play it frequently, Dave McLaughlin of Sacramento has no major complaints with Cavanaugh. He does know the joke concerning the course, which has a lot of holes adjacent to each other.

"A lot of people say to bring a hard hat when you're out here," said McLaughlin, an 18-handicap. "It is narrow."

Gauger says there are no more people getting struck by a ball at Cavanaugh than any other course.

There are some fun holes to experience. One of the favorites here arrives at No. 6. This par-4 only measures 330 yards, but is rated the fifth toughest on the Perry Dye layout. Because a large lake makes cutting the corner nearly impossible, club selection off the tee is crucial. Hit too far left and you land in the lake. The second shot could easily land in water as well.

Accuracy is the real issue, because anything short typically winds up wet. And one more thing to factor in at No. 6: the green is huge, making for some challenging two putts, which can easily turn into three.

At the ninth, a 400-yard, par-4 comes along. Water runs down the right side the entire way, making this a long, nervous journey home. Maybe that's why it's rated as the toughest hole. The fairway has a waste bunker as well.

The backside has some fun holes, too. At the par-3 12th, make sure you carry the water, which runs up quite close to the green, which is 143 yards away. Choices arrive at the next hole, a mere 289-yard par-4. What to hit off the tee at No. 13 is what makes this hole a challenge. Some daring golfers might even pick driver.

The 15th hole is rated as the second toughest on the course, a par-4 that goes 445 yards. The major challenge here is just getting to the green in regulation. It takes two good shots.

Cavanaugh's signature hole is the 17th. This par-3, a mere 107 yards away, has an island green, reminescent of the TPC at Sawgrass. It's another fun one to play. Make a mistake and your ball is wet.

Cavanaugh has a reputation for being in good shape. That includes the greens, which helps make the course more of a challenge.

Jeffrey WeidelJeffrey Weidel, Contributor

Jeffrey Weidel has been working in the Sacramento area as a sportswriter since 1981. An avid golfer with a 10.6 index, he is currently the Assistant Sports Editor of The Press-Tribune, a three-day a week paper in Roseville.

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