Granite Bay Golf Club: A Contemporary Classic

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

GRANITE BAY, Calif - Apparently the word had leaked out among nearby residents. Charter members in this club would be getting a deal. And there were many people looking for one, judging by the crowd that kept growing in number, camping out near the projected Granite Bay Golf Club.

Although they were some of the more wealthy people in this upscale suburb of Sacramento, the inconvenience of staying out all night under the stars did nothing to dampen the spirits of this group of golfaholics. Inconvenience? Hardly.

"There was a huge buzz about the club opening," recalls Granite Bay head professional Stuart Smith. "There were over 100 people camping out all night along Roseville Parkway just so they could be founding members. It turned into an all-night party."

Stories still get replayed at the club's Tilly's pub concerning the evening festivities Oct. 1, 1993. It was your basic all night street party as pizza deliveries and cold libation runs were common place along Roseville Parkway.

That morning at 8 a.m., approximately 230 membership reservations were taken at $28,000 each, which totals almost $6.5 million. The demand for founder's memberships was so great, the management group decided to increase the number from 100 to 125.

Almost a year to the day, the back nine was opened at Granite Bay. A month later, complete rounds were being played on this 18-hole jewel.

With a stately clubhouse completed in 1995 and everything in place, Golf Week Magazine listed Granite Bay Golf Club in its list of the top-100 modern day courses in the country.

"The concept, the design and the execution of the course were a major triumph." said Jim Fitzpatrick, one of the founding members. "It truly is a classic golf course because it is natural."

Fitzpatrick and his new golfing buddies had spent their money well. Today the membership numbers 475 and the price to join is a robust $60,000, plus $335 per month.

Besides a nice return on their money, members have received one quality golf course as well. From the beginning, this would not be the typical country. There is no tennis court and you won't find a swimming pool on the property, either. Granite Bay Country Club is all about golf.

This Robert Trent Jr. design kept the traditional values in mind. There is nothing fabricated about this course. Located with a moderate slope, the property has its share of aging trees, granite outcroppings, plus the Linda Creek and its tributaries, which meander around the course.

There are some dramatic views with equally dramatic holes to play. What golfers understand is Granite Bay provides a fair test of golf. Forget the gimmicks, they aren't found here.

You get a bit of everything on this track. There are downhill, sidehill and uphill lies. Holes dogleg in both directions, while several of them are straight and long. Precise shot-making is often needed on a course that requires some heroic carries. Good shots are highly rewarded, while bad ones often get severely penalized, especially on the more difficult back nine.

The greens are small by modern standards, which puts a premium on the short game instead of getting frustrated by the more popular multi-tiered greens some upscale courses feature.

"It's really a phenomenal layout," assistant pro Mike Huetter said. "You have to hit all the clubs in your bag. On most holes you can't miss in a certain spot or you will get penalized. But there are bailout areas. You definitely have to manage your way around this golf course."

Granite Bay has become a frequent destination for Sacramento area PGA players like Scott McCarron and brothers Kevin and David Sutherland. Celebrities like the Sacramento Kings Chris Webber have been known to play the course. Webber might just run into Kings coach Rick Adelman, who is a member. Charles Barkley, Alice Cooper, Amy Grant and many other celebrities have also played the course.

"This is a great golf course," Kevin Sutherland said. "I play here quite often. It's a beautiful course and it's in great shape all the time. You have to play well here to score. You need to be straight off the tee."

Although not a member, Sutherland's PGA status provides complimentary golfing. For other nonmembers it's not as easy to secure a tee time at Granite Bay. But it is obtainable on some Mondays when a particular group doesn't have the course for the day. The price per round is reasonable, going for $70 ($90 with cart).

Five different tee boxes make the course playable for even high handicappers. But make sure the right ones are played. If not, this is a course that can be quite brutal to the ego. The tips measure 6,909 yards at Granite Bay, with the traditional 10 par-4s, four par-3s and four par-5s. The granite tees are the most popular at 6,520 yards.

"I don't think you get tired of playing this golf course," Smith said. "There are not any weak holes out here."

On the front side, there are two very cool par-3s, one going over water at No. 3 and the other one combining an elevated tee, gorgeous view and a shot that requires exact club selection. The par-4 at No. 9 is also another favorite, a challenging trip back to the clubhouse that measures 409 yards from the Granite tees.

The back nine is where Granite Bay really shines, starting with 10th hole that tests one's accuracy off the tee, although the dogleg hole gets much easier once you can breath easier after a drive."

The 13th is a favorite of many. It is a short par-4 (356 yards) with a severe dogleg left turn and a wicked downhill slope. Big hitters can take a gamble here.

Another great par-3 arrives a the 14th, which demands a 200-yard shot over a steep valley with no room for mistake. There is an out-of-bounds area left and a slope on the right that eats balls throughout the day.

Up next are three tough holes that can be quite penalizing. However, these are all great golf holes. Play these well and the feeling can be euphoric, much like a successful round at Granite Bay.

Like many great courses, even a bad day is not so bad. This is golf at it's purest form. At least that was the opinion of the man who designed the course.

"This course goes beyond golf architecture," Trent Jones said. "It fits into that special category called art."

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment