Shadow Lakes Golf Club

By Doug Saunders, Contributor

BRENTWOOD, CA.- Just ninety minutes away from the metropolitan hub of San Francisco, the little town of Brentwood is going through a great transition. The region was, for decades, an agricultural and ranching town that has slowly turned into a bedroom community for the Bay Area. With the growth have come many new home developments and golf course communities. The most recent addition, Shadow Lakes Golf Club, is one that will set a new standard for public fee golf in Northern California.

Shadow Lakes Golf Club is a joint effort with a real estate development firm, Brookfield Homes, and Troon Golf, the highly respected golf management firm based in Arizona. Brookfield took a 1500 acre parcel of former farmland on the edge of town and wanted a golf course to be a draw for the home sites. They gave Troon Golf complete control to build and manage the course which allows Troon to set the course up to be maintained the “Troon Way,” guaranteeing the best playing conditions possible.

This course is also another great example of design work by one of the young up and coming designers in the game today. The recognized names in course design like Robert Trent Jones Jr., Arthur Hills, Jack Nicklaus, and Pete Dye have been joined by some new names as over 300 courses a year have opened in the last three years. The works of the likes of Keith Foster, John Harbottle, and Dana Fry are dotting the landscape and the name of Todd Eckenrode will soon join them.

The design firm of Gary Roger Baird created the course at Shadow Lakes and design associate Todd Eckenrode was involved in this layout from the outset. During his five years with Baird, he had developed a great knack for blending the look and feel of a subtle old style golf course with the advantages of modern technology to create a very inviting, challenging, and playable layout.

“I played collegiate at Arizona and UCSB and was lucky enough to play many of the great old courses around the country during my amateur years. I like the style of the old designers like Alister MacKenzie and Tillinghast and have tried to capture that philosophy and look in the courses I have worked on,” Eckunrude, explained.

These touches really come through at Shadow Lakes. The terrain for the course is a series of rolling hillsides of former pastureland with no trees. Eckenrode and Baird developed a routing that used the terrain change to their advantage and added six lakes that fit naturally to the landscape. Greens with enticing false fronts are perched on tops of hills, and hung out on peninsulas surrounded by water to make the golfer think on their approaches. Par fives roll up the large hills and drivable par fours peel down the hills to well protected greens. This course just has a great variety.

The course features four tee boxes and plays from 5,402 yards up front to a healthy 6,710 yards from the back tees. Looking at the card you would think that this isn’t a very long golf course, but when you factor in the elevation climbs and the steady breezes that pass over these hills, you will find that this course will give you all that you can handle. The site is void of mature trees and the designers created wide fairways that let you know that this course is a “grip it and rip it “ track. Big hitters that are on their game will find this course a blast to play.

Right from the opening hole the attraction of Shadow Lakes is evident. This uphill 320-yard par four is a visual treat and one of the best opening holes in the Bay Area. The hole is a subtle dogleg left with a large green surrounded by bunkers sitting in a natural bowl at the top of a rise. The gaping bunkers are a great example of modern shaping emulating the old style bunkers. The green features a false front that adds just that much more challenge in club selection on the approach shot.

After climbing up to the top of the first ridge, the third and fourth holes sweep around a knoll. The 3rd hole is an undulating par 4 and the the 4th is the first of a group of challenging par 3's, a 175 yard shot to a well protected green. This sets up the play into the next rolling valley.

The signature hole for the front nine, and probably for the course is the par 5 6th hole. This 553-yard beauty plays from a big tee and you have to make your drive over a lake to the wide fairway. From here the hole climbs up the hill to a large green perched at the top. Mount Diablo looms in the background and provides a dramatic backdrop for this great hole.

On the back nine the collection of lakes adds another dimension to this wide-open track. The first glimpse of the water comes at #11, a 190 yard par 3 that is aptly named “Not so Right” as the lake runs down the right side of the hole and fronts the right half of the green. The green site is elevated and the bold, rocky face at the green can be imposing.

The tee box at the par 4 12th hole is cleverly placed back on a neck of land that juts back into the lake so that you are surrounded by water on the tee. The 338-yard par 4 runs up the hill as bunkers line the fairway at the landing area. All of these elements blend to create an intimidating look for the tee shot.

After dropping back into the back valley of the course, you set up for a great set of holes for the finish beginning with the 16th hole, a downhill 360 yard par 4. The green sits down the hill and looks drivable from the tee. But the dip in front of the green and the water looming to the right all make you think about how you want to play this hole.

The 17th hole is another par three that slides along the edge of the large lake and you finish with a long rolling par 5 for the finish. Throughout the round, the extra attention of the maintenance staff to the bent grass greens shows through as the greens, though young and firm, still putt true.

Shadow Lakes Golf Club marks the third course in Northern California that is managed by Troon Golf, and is part of their strategy to create clusters of courses in different regions of the country. The idea is to provide well-maintained courses to a region to nurture loyal customers to their product. Shadow Lakes Golf Club is certainly one course that will always draw players back.

DIRECTIONS: From San Francisco take Route 4 to Antioch and exit at Hillcrest Avenue. Go straight on Deer Valley road for 4 miles to Balfour Road. Go left on Balfour Road and the course is 1½ miles on your left.

Doug Saunders, Contributor

Doug Saunders has covered more than 20 major championships and his unique perspectives on the game have appeared in numerous publications including Golf World, GolfWeek, Golf Course Management, Golf Course News, Golfdom, and the USGA Golf Journal. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, California Golf Writers, and the Sierra Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association.

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