Ancil Hoffman Golf Course: Where Good Shots are a Necessity

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

He was known as a sportsman, back in the day when such terms were used. Although he played the game occasionally, boxing was the main pursuit of Ancil Hoffman, not golf.

He put on the gloves and risked his health in the ring, hung around people like former heavyweight champion Max Baer and also did a little promoting as well. A popular man in the 1950s and '60s, Hoffman served as a Sacramento County supervisor.

Call it good timing. It was during his time as a supervisor that this beautiful spot along the American River went from being a ranch to a county park and golf course. Ancil Hoffman passed away, but his name lives on at a golf course that is now 36 years old.

Once listed among America's top 75 courses by 'Golf Digest,' Ancil Hoffman Golf Course no longer holds such a lofty reputation. Many new courses with fancy designs and more modern accommodations pushed Hoffman off the list. But this remains a gem, a traditional golf course that still provides a heck of a test for golfers of all abilities.

There are few holes that do not provide some type of challenge. And higher handicappers might consider some of the tougher holes too challenging for their game.

Do not try selling this place short to some of its loyal customers. Bob Haness of Sacramento was a charter member at Ancil Hoffman, joining in December of 1966. An avid golfer, he plays other area courses, yet his loyalty remains at this tree-lined layout in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento.

"Hoffman is a traditional golf course with a lot of trees and it's real scenic," Haness said. "This is just a good looking golf course."

In fact, the entire area has much to offer in the looks department. The course is located within sizable Ancil Hoffman Park. Golf is just one of the pursuits. On a weekday in the fall or spring, there might be more school children taking a field trip to nearby Effie Yeaw Nature Center as there are golfers.

This is also a favorite spot for runners, folks who want to take a casual walk, toss a Frisbee, hold a picnic, go horseback riding or simply a perfect destination to take an afternoon nap in the shade of an oak tree.

Although the typically lazy American River is close by, it can not be seen or heard on the golf course. On many of the holes, the only sounds are golf balls being struck. Some shots find their way down the narrow fairways and a good number of them also find a nearby tree.

After playing the course for the past 15 years, Larry Palley of Fair Oaks clearly understands the top priority at Hoffman: Get off the tee safely. "This is a first-shot course," said Palley, a 15-handicapper." If you don't hit your tee shot straight, you're in the trees playing for a bogey, not a par."

On all but a few holes, that is indeed the case. It is advisable to spend at least a few minutes at the driving range. Work out the troubles there because there is no room for error at Hoffman, not if you're looking to score.

However, hit the ball straight and you are in for a wonderful day. There is nothing tricky about designer William F. Bell's layout. It is extremely fair, rewarding the good shot. The fairways are well cut and the greens have some slope and generally the ball runs true. Putts must be struck with authority because the greens are on the slow side.

Another strong selling point to Ancil Hoffman is the price. It remains a bargain any day of the week. Weekday prices (Monday through Thursday) run $21 to walk and $33 with a cart. Overall, the price to walks ranges from $8-$24, depending on the time and day.

That remains a priority for Sacramento County golf manager Thom Oliver. Once an area starving for more courses, the new tracks have arrived over the past decade in Sacramento. Not everyone likes the new prices, which is why Hoffman still remains a popular destination.

"That's one of our goals, to keep the prices low," Oliver said. "There are top-end courses in the area that cost a lot more and they are deserving of that. For us, we need to be mindful of the value. We think our prices are still very affordable.

The course suffered a bit in the late 1990s when the county lacked funds to properly maintain the facility. It did not help that the rounds remained high and play was typically slow. That is no longer the case.

"The course was over-golfed and under-maintained for awhile," said Paul Savona, an original Hoffman club member. "But in the last year or so it has improved dramatically. I remember the first time I came here, I thought this was a private course. It is still a beautiful course where you have to play smart golf."

Measured from the tips, Hoffman goes 6,794 yards, earning a 72.8 rating and a 128 slope. More golfers hit from the white tees, which run 6,434 yards (slope 124). And the red tees are quite the test for the ladies at 5,954 yards.

On the front side, the round begins with a modest par-4 of 348 yards (all quoted yardage from the white tees). Hit one down the middle, avoiding a congregation of ducks, and a birdie putt is a good possibility.

A narrow par-5 that goes 531 yards at No. 2, begins the real test. Make the journey without landing in the trees and the only problem is traps on either side of the hole. This is the typical setup around many of the greens. Be prepared to hit your best shots on the sixth through eighth holes. The third toughest hole is No. 6, a long par-4 (421 yards). There is nothing overwhelming about the hole, other than the distance and Hoffman's typically tight fairways.

That is not the case at the seventh, the course's No. 1 handicapped hole. A ditch runs along the left side of yet another narrow fairway. How do I know about the ditch? My unhittable ball landed in it.

A unique hole arrives at No. 14. This uphill par-3 (112 yards) looks tougher than it plays, requiring a blind shot to a green that features traps on three sides, plus an out-of-bounds area in the back. Club selection is obviously the key here.

Walk to the 15th and catch a view of the former governor's mansion. Many of California's famous governors called this home while taking care of business in the state's capitol. The property is currently for sale, no longer serving as the governor's getaway.

A short par-4 (318 yards) makes No. 15 a challenge. Club selection is again crucial. Hang the shot out to the right side and a short approach is the reward. Go left and the journey gets real troublesome.

A final test comes at No. 18 (par-5, 515 yards). The hole opens up on the second shot, affording more of a comfort zone. It is typical of Ancil Hoffman. Good shots are a necessity and bad shots get severely penalized.

Ancil Hoffman Golf Course
6700 Tarshes Drive
Carmichael, CA 95608
Phone: (916) 575-4653
Web: www.empiregolf.com/ah.htm
Head Pro: Curt David

Jeffrey WeidelJeffrey Weidel, Contributor

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


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