Twelve Bridges Golf Club: Sacramento's LPGA Tour stop

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

Looking for a challenge? You've come to the right location. This is a golf course that will severely test your physical capabilities and provide a formidable task.

Nestled in a scenic setting amidst statuesque oak trees and large granite outcroppings, Twelve Bridges Golf Club will have any golf purist gushing over its beauty. The average hacker can enjoy the course's attractiveness and so can professionals like LPGA veteran Cindy Figg-Currier.

"It's definitely in the top five of courses we play," Figg-Currier said. "It's so beautiful out here."

The LPGA sets down roots at Twelve Bridges each spring, this year arriving the second week of April. Rumor has it many of the tour's big names like Karrie Webb and Laura Davis don't want anything to do with the tight fairways, tricky greens, and difficult rough.

Webb and Davis can both shorten the average golf course with their sizable drives. At Twelve Bridges, their tee shot might be a 3-wood as the driver remains in the bag.

What hampered Twelve Bridges in its infancy was youth. Totally sodded to speed up the opening, an LPGA tournament sampled the course in 1996 before any outsider had played even one round. And the pros didn't like it initially.

"It takes most golf courses around five years to really mature," Twelve Bridges superintendent Neil Hladik said. "We took our share of criticism those first couple of years. I think the comments you're starting to see now reflect well on how the course has developed."

One prominent LPGA player who loves the challenge of Twelve Bridges is Annika Sorenstam. She won the tournament in 1997, recording a 3-over 285, the highest winning total that season. She defends the course. It's certainly no cookie-cutter.

"This is a thinker's golf course," Sorenstam said. "I don't like a course where you always step up and hit a driver. Here you have to really think. It feels great to conquer a course like this, it's very tricky. It's real strategic. It's not enough to just hit the greens, you have to be on the right side of the green."

If you possess the accuracy of Sorenstam, Twelve Bridges doesn't appear as formidable. But what about the high handicapper? The best advice here is put away the scorecard, enjoy the scenery and try not to lose too many balls. The course can be part beauty, part beast.

On an early March day this year, Gary Traynham visited Twelve Bridges for only the third time since the course opened 1996. A solid golfer with a wonderful knack around the greens, he struggled at times. He departed with a higher score than normal and considerable respect.

"Course knowledge is very important out here," Traynham said. "It's one of the most challenging courses in the Sacramento area. It has tight fairways, challenging rough, and the greens are real tricky to read. I think any golfer is going to have a tough time shooting his handicap."

The round begins with a reasonable first hole that goes around 408 yards from the green tees (which measure 6,706 yards; the back tees are 7,150). Stay right and the tee shot is fine, go left and your ball is wet. A good drive is crucial, setting up a not-to-distant second shot on this par 4 hole.

At No. 2, a nice drive off the elevated tee box will result in a short approach to the green at the 370-yard, par 4. Stay to the right, go too far left off the tee and trees become the obstacles to the green.

Things get a little tougher at No. 3 where a tight fairway can make this a hole to forget. It's long enough (518 yards) that most golfers won't reach it in two.

The first par-3 comes at No. 4. Only 159 yards, it features some magnificent granite boulders that aren't a factor. A steep bunker guarding the right side is one to avoid. Go right with the tee shot at No. 5. Any shot even slightly to the left will encounter overhanging tree limbs on the approach. Not a particularly tough test, the par-4 measures 365 yards.

Another par-3 comes up at No. 6, this one is a bit long at 202 yards. Watch out for the hidden creek in front and a large oak to the right. Next up at the seventh is "Old Granddad," a gentle par-4 that measures only 342 yards and has golfers contemplating club use off the tee. Don't be fooled by the short distance, be accurate or pay the price.

A difficult test waits at No. 8, a par-5 that requires a big poke. It goes 568 yards from the green tees, requiring three well-struck shots to get home. Even cutting the corner won't get you home in two.

The landing area has been widened at No. 9, a nice finishing hole for the front side. Creeks, cattails, and cascades are part of the obstacles on this par-4 that goes 385 yards. The second shot is a real tester, an uphill climb to an elevated green guarded by three bunkers.

Don't lose your concentration, the back nine doesn't get any easier. Several major changes at No. 10 have helped, but this is still a tough par-4 with a sloped green that seems a bit unfair. The LPGA rated this hole as one of the most challenging it plays all season.

After surviving No. 10, up next is a par-5 that has birdie potential. The 11th hole goes 485 yards and requires a solid tee shot to see around the corner on this dogleg left hole. Gamblers might try to fly the trees on the left-hand side.

A tight par-4 arrives at No. 12. Go three-wood and play for position, a good drive doesn't provide much more of an advantage on this hole, which measures around 350 yards. An accurate iron is a must when approaching this lake-guarded green.

No. 13 is a modest par-3 (165 yards), but features a tough-to-read, two-tiered green. Watch out for the dreaded three-putt. A long par-4 (450 yards) is next at the 14th. Stay focused, a beautiful view of the Sacramento Valley sits below. Tough second shot. Hit it straight and long or pay the price.

Don't relax here. This long par-5 at No. 6 goes 578 yards and doesn't reward wayward tee shots. The fairway curves right and gets narrow in certain spots. The green offers no relief, either. A par here can feel like a birdie.

A harsh winter that knocked down a tree, makes No. 16 a bit easier, widening the landing area. The second shot should pass over one of the original 12 bridges, still intact after more than 100 years. A good second shot can mean a birdie attempt on this 379-yard, par 4.

Enjoy this challenging par-3 at No. 17. Be careful of the water and lush terrain that surrounds this scenic hole. One hole left and it's a tough one, featuring a blind shot to the green unless the tee shot goes deep. There's a small stream that protects the green at 18, a par-4 that measures 419 yards.

After navigating this difficult track, head into the bar for a beverage of choice. Much like the course, the lounge at Chadwick's is also first class. For those who seek immediate damage control with their game, there are also great practice areas available.

"Twelve Bridges is a beautiful course," Traynham said. "The tees are set up so any level golfer can play. It's a course that demands a lot from your game. And the finishing hole might be the toughest."

The cost is $45 during the week, which includes cart fee. The price increases to $60 Friday through Sunday. For tee times, call (916)645-7200.

Jeffrey WeidelJeffrey Weidel, Contributor

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

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