Saddle Creek Resort: Gold Country haven leaps into national prominence

By David R. Holland, Contributor

COPPEROPOLIS, Calif. -- For more than 100 years, Calaveras County, a notable spot near California's Highway 49 in the Gold Country, has been known for a famous author, awesome hoppers and ground loaded with copper.

Saddle Creek Resort - 14
Carter Morrish and Tad Buchanan designed the golf course at Saddle Creek Resort.
Saddle Creek Resort - 14Saddle Creek Resort - golf course
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The Golf Club at Copper Valley

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1001 Saddle Creek Dr
Copperopolis, California 95228
Calaveras County
Phone(s): (209) 785-3700
18 Holes | Semi-Private/Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 6803 yards | Book online | ... details »

Mark Twain spent time here back in 1865 when he penned his famous story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." About the same time, miners dug up 19 million pounds of copper to aid in the Civil War effort.

Even to this day, the frogs jump every May in a festival-sponsored contest publicized throughout the world.

But this scenic spot in the Sierra Nevada foothills, 133 miles east of San Francisco and 135 miles west of Lake Tahoe, Nev., is also becoming known for its award-winning golf.

Not only is Saddle Creek designed by Carter Morrish and Tad Buchanan, it recently placed No. 39 on Golfweek's 2005 ranking of "America's Best Residential Golf Courses."

Saddle Creek has become a sanctuary for retirees and second-home owners, who can easily make the trip for a weekend from the Bay Area or the Central Coast to enjoy the golf; explore the interesting gold rush towns; sample award-winning vineyards, tasting rooms, micro-breweries and pubs; or roam through art galleries, antique shops, and museums.

Kent and Mary Ellen Lazarus of San Carlos, Calif., a two-hour-plus drive to Saddle Creek, found solitude and scenic golf when they bought a second home in the resort's Cottages at Mitchell Lake area.

"We found a peaceful, tranquil place-a safe harbor from a torrent of business," said Kent. "We loved the golf course immediately. It is one of the most beautiful I've played with great visuals. I kept thinking about golf in the city or even on TV where you see cars driving by on highways or planes taking off nearby. You don't have that here. You have a little slice of heaven."

Saddle Creek Resort is a gated, 900-acre Castle & Cooke community, with a backdrop of the picturesque California Foothills. The layout rolls out to 6,826 yards from the tips at par 72 and includes more than 100 trademark bunkers, with white sand and rough edges. Membership hovers around 250, but with the possibility of another nine or 18 holes, that figure should pass 400.

The routing has no parallel holes, no blind shots, old oaks, rolling hills and a handful of gleaming lakes. The rise and fall of the land leads to interesting pathways to each undulating green.

The par-3 14th hole, a daunting downhiller of 245 yards from the back tees might just humble you. Wind can make it even tougher and water short and left makes you aim for the right edge of the green.

Other notable challenges include the 433-yard No. 2. Water and bunkers along the right side dictate a long, straight drive from an elevated tee. Because of the bunkering, the approach must be pinpointed.

They call No. 6, a 417-yard par-4, The Beast because it is uphill with trouble surrounding you. The green slopes from back to front. The finale will keep your heart pumping. Named "Motherlode", it's a par-5, 535 yards with wetlands to avoid. Drive it down the left side to avoid the wet stuff then lay-up for an easy wedge and par to finish the day.

Saddle Creek: The verdict

When you are an award-winner in highly competitive California, you know you have something special. Saddle Creek is a secluded destination for golf and for outdoors activities at nearby Lake Tulloch and the Stanislaus River.

The Sports Club at Saddle Creek also offers a fitness center, pool, bocce ball and tennis courts. Hikers and bikers can take on the seven miles of Quail Trail and five miles of improved walks let you soak up nature. Vacationers can explore the historic cities such as Murphys, Angels Camp and Jamestown that allow for a glimpse into the past of Gold Country.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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