The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon: Beauty and the beast rolled into the fairways
SAN RAMON, Calif. - So many golf courses claim to be playable for every level of golfer. Not The Bridges Golf Club.
Yes, it features five sets of tees and ladies' and men's handicaps, but really, The Bridges isn't a course for beginners. It's not overly difficult - and certainly not unfair - but if you play all your shots near the ground or hit a giant, uncontrollable slice, you could spend more money on golf balls than green fees.
Perhaps that's why the Northern California Golf Association rated The Bridges Golf Club as one of the most difficult courses in its region. From the tips at just 6,861 yards, the par-72 layout has a rating/slope of 74.5/147. Even one tee up at less than 6,600 yards, it's still 73.4/141. And from the forward tees at 5,153 yards, The Bridges remains 71.4/123.
In other words, there's no easy way around The Bridges, no doubt named for the paths that cross the golf course's many creeks and ravines.
The Bridges G.C. has a high degree of difficulty and beauty
Johnny Miller, the well-known television analyst and former U.S. Open champion, regularly receives credit for the design of The Bridges Golf Club.
Miller's designs often elicit a polarizing response in the golf community. And while he visited site, golf-course architect Damian Pascuzzo did the brunt of the work.
Pascuzzo began his career alongside famed designer Robert Muir Graves and most recently joined tour veteran Steve Pate to form Pascuzzo and Pate Golf Course Design. Based in El Dorado Hills, Calif., Pascuzzo has worked extensively in his home state, around the United States and Asia.
Really, The Bridges was Pascuzzo's baby. And he began with an interesting canvas.
Thirty-five miles east of San Francisco near the in the Tri-Valley foothills of Mount Diablo, the golf course was built on a challenging piece of land, according to Pascuzzo. He routed through a series of valleys, weaving from hillside to hillside.
With the exception of a few spots, there are few trees. Large, native shrubs were added along the hillsides to provide visual appeal and challenge.
The Bridges Golf Club also features plenty of bunkers in addition quick greens that are undulating and sometimes large.
The 18th, for example, is the course's largest green at 75 yards across.
That's yards, folks, as Miller might say, not feet, which means you could play any of five or six clubs into the green and still reach the putting surface. Of course, pick the wrong club and you could be a looking at a four-putt because of the undulation.
A few forced carries emphasize the importance of tee selection.
"Sometimes, we'll give a group or a player a gentle suggestion as to which tees they should play," course marshal Barry Brunckhorst said. "It makes it a lot more enjoyable."
But every visitor, no matter the tees, is forced to face some carries.
No need to be a single-digit player, but golfers need a set of basic skills to enjoy The Bridges. If you play once or twice a year or just on the holidays, The Bridges probably isn't your golf course.
Practice and lessons at The Bridges Golf Club
For serious golfers, The Bridges offers some serious practice facilities. A lighted range for after-hours practice accompanies the short-game area and practice greens.
Lessons are also available from the teaching staff at two indoor bays, which include state-of-the-art, video-analysis equipment.
The Bridges Golf Club: The verdict
All golf courses don't need to be all things to all players, a concept forgotten at many resorts.
The Bridges caters to avid golfers, not the casual player who never works at his or her game. It's also visually stunning. Many of the elevated tees provide great views of the golf course and its surroundings.
You'll find The Bridges in excellent condition, and it includes terrific and smooth, bentgrass greens.
Inside, there's a well-stocked and attractive golf shop, plenty of banquet and meeting space and an inviting clubhouse grill and bar. A revamped menu features the club's signature steak salad, a local favorite among golfers and non-golfers alike.
December 10, 2009