Saddle Creek Golf Club
COPPEROPOLIS, Calif. - There had to be some connection to copper, hence the unusual name: Copperopolis. Copper was indeed the origin of this centrally located Sierra Nevada town.
There were 19 million pounds of copper mined during the 1860s, definitely providing Calaveras County with some notoriety. The region was second in national production of ore during that period.
The area numbered between 2,000 to 4,000 residents at the height of its copper-producing ways during Civil War times. Gradually, the mines shut down over the years as the population dwindled.
Copperopolis no longer has any connection to the mines; they have all shut down. Funny thing is, the population has begun to rise again as people recognize the beauty of this area, seeking a slower, more relaxed way of life.
These days visitors and people looking to settle down are choosing Copperopolis because of its recreational attractions. Take your pick, there is literally something for everyone.
There is snow skiing at nearby Bear Valley in the winter, plus water skiing on one of the area's 12 lakes in the warmer months. For water enthusiasts, there is also kayaking, canoeing, white water rafting and some excellent fishing holes.
A trip to Yosemite National Park is an option, along with Mercer Caverns, gold panning, hiking, biking or simply hanging out along the 55 miles of shoreline Lake Tulloch provides.
For another kind of sportsman, there is also an excellent golf course to conquer. Situated in the rolling hills with stately oaks, panoramic views and natural beauty, Saddle Creek Golf Club provides quite the setting.
Owning five sets of tees, it also offers a suitable challenge for any level golfer. Stretched to the tips, Saddle Creek plays 6,828 yards with a slope of 134. The next set of tees goes 6,434 (slope 130), still a suitable test for low to mid-range players. The yardage dips to 4,488 for the ladies.
"Women can come out here, feel comfortable playing the course and have a great time," Saddle Creek head pro Chris Bitticks said. "Higher handicaps can play the course from their tees (6,049 yards), while the really good players can get a great test from the tips."
A scenic course with plenty of good holes, Saddle Creek typically receives its share of praise from area players and vacationing golfers. Apparently Golf Digest is among the admirers as well, giving the course a major endorsement with a 4½ star rating.
What golfers will easily recognize are the diverse holes. This is no cookie-cutter track. Play a hole and move on, there will not be another one like it. Saddle Creek provides considerable variety.
Consider the par-3 holes. On the front side, the fourth hole measures 178 yards (all measurements from the second set of tees). There is an elevated tee box, making this a downhill shot with the foothills providing a pretty backdrop.
Up ahead at No. 7, this par-3 runs uphill all the way with plenty of traps. It plays longer than the 149 yards on the card. The next par-3 at the 11th requires just the right club, a downhill shot that must stay clear of the water and travel 142 yards.
The final par-3 measures a whopping 245 yards from the back tees and still is troublesome hole (224 yards) from the championship location. It's another in a series of beautiful, challenging holes, the type most golfers will not get tired of playing.
"I think this golf course has a tremendous flow," said Chris Traina of Sacramento, a first-time visitor in late September. "It just flows real nice from hole to hole."
Distance keeps changing throughout. There are six par-4s that range from 390 to 316 yards, all with their own little nuances. The par-5s are on the short side, although assuming they could all be birdie opportunities would be foolish. The longest one goes 533 yards and the shortest a mere 464 yards and one of the easiest holes on the course.
"What you get out here are 18 individual holes," Bitticks said.
Unfortunately, this particular round was played only a day after fall aerating had commenced. It should tell you something about the course that Saddle Creek was still highly playable, with fairways in decent shape and greens worth putting. In normal conditions, they run very true and fairly quick.
This is a layout that will test your entire game. The rolling hills make for some unusual lies, requiring various club decisions and some sound technique when addressing the ball. Don't leave any clubs behind, you will need them all, including the sand wedge, because there are more than 100 bunkers.
Saddle Creek is a course that will tempt many golfers, especially on the short holes. Playing smart is a necessity.
"You choose your poison out here," Traina said. "There are some real risk-reward holes. You can play them safely or you can be daring."
Copperopolis is situated near Angels Camp, about 20 miles from Greenhorn Creek, another very fine gold country golf course. The drive to Saddle Creek is just over two hours from both Sacramento and San Francisco.
Weekday green fees run $55 for walking and hike to $70 with cart. The weekend rate (Friday through Sunday) goes $90 with cart. Afternoon fees (after 2 p.m.) are a bargain, going $45 with cart, while twilight prices are $35.
January 1, 2003