Wildhorse Golf Course
DAVIS, CA - It is easy sometimes to get lost in the midst of a major influx of new products and services.
Such is the case for Wildhorse Golf Course in Davis, California.
The course that opened in the late 1990s, has yet to receive much publicity or notoriety in the Sacramento region because of the sudden boom of new courses in the area. While much of the attention has gone to Turkey Creek and Twelve Bridges in Lincoln, Teal Bend in Sacramento and The Dragon and Gold Mountain, Wildhorse has simply plodded along as a major, 6,000-yard plus test for those who have found it.
Getting the word out about Wildhorse is now in the hands of new general manager Steve Walker. For seven years, Walker worked at Paradise Valley Golf Course in Fairfield - about 30 miles west of Davis - and helped turn the course from a fresh newborn into a fully developed track with no problems filling tee times. Paradise is one of the most played public courses in Solano County.
Now, his goal is to bring in more business to Wildhorse. He's hoping a word of mouth campaign based on strong customer service will be the start.
``I was stubborn about focusing on our daily operation while at Paradise Valley," Walker said. ``I want to focus on our daily operation here because the best thing is word of mouth."
The similarities between Paradise and Wildhorse don't end with Walker's connection. Both courses are the centerpiece of surrounding housing developments. While Paradise's has been completed for a few years now, the Wildhorse development is nearing completion. A good majority of homes around the course are completed with only a small number still in the construction process.
``Paradise was tremendously successful, but natural growth contributed to it's success," Walker said. ``We've got a great up-scale housing development here. I can't afford to live here. We'll use kind of the same strategy as Paradise."
Two reasons Walker has to be excited about the course’s future is the amazing growth of Davis and a possible relationship with the University of California at Davis. In the last 10 years, Davis has grown by nearly 15,000 people. Many are people that work in Sacramento, 10 miles away, who don't want to live in Roseville or Rocklin east of the city, and have to deal with a constantly worsening commute.
UC Davis is a resource that was not tapped by the previous general manager. The campus is a mere 5-10 minutes away from the course and some apartment complexes are within walking distance of the course. With 22,000 students attending the university. Walker sees the growth of the sport and possibilities with the students.
``Davis is growing so well and with the college base, we should be able to give them what they want here," Walker said.
While reaching out to the poor college student, Walker also wants to make Wildhorse a bit more upscale, without jacking up prices.
``I want to try and build Wildhorse into an upscale type thing without the price connected. Ultimately we want it to be Wildhorse Golf Club," Walker said.
The course itself is a challenging 6,400 yards from the blue tees and more than 6,700 from the blacks. There are some issues with the course’s routing and hole layout that Walker hopes to address by next spring.
The routing has been changed three times already in the courses' short existence. Two holes - now No. 1 and 2 - are across the road from the main property. Originally they were 17 and 18 and led perfectly back to the clubhouse and parking lot. They wouldn't make the most difficult closing holes, but returning them to 17 and 18 would make sense.
``We're thinking about the new routing and how we can change people's attitude about the course by changing the routing," Walker said.
By making No 1 and 2 Nos. 17 and 18 again, it would be an improvement over the two closing holes now. The current No. 17 is a par 5 with water all down the left hand side of the hole. There are also bunkers on the right of the fairway, so if you don't cut the water enough, you'll run through the fairway and into the bunkers.
The 18th is a long par 4 with a large ravine about 70 yards wide in front of the green. Walker said he plans on getting rid of the black tees on that hole because it essentially plays as a par 5 from the black tees. And a poor tee shot from the blues can turn the hole into par 5 as well.
The two closing holes can easily ruin a good round with its penalty. Turning them into 15 and 16 would still give the golfer a chance to rebound and finish well on 17 and 18.
``You've got to let people play the game," Walker said. ``A quality golf shot has to be rewarded or else guys are not gong to come back to play."
While Wildhorse does have some issues to deal with - a blind tee box on No. 11 and a brutal 450 yard par-4 12th - it does have some very good golf holes. The par-3s on the course all are a little different not only in length, but shots that needs to be played. The par-5 seventh is also a good long hole that is almost impossible to be reached in two.
One thing to watch out for on a number of holes is the environmentally protected areas. They jut out and come into play on a number of holes and can be a royal pain if a shot is slightly off. The rough isn't nasty, but the course was cut out of a former orchard and some of the native trees are still around. They can cause major problems if your shot goes through the rough and into the trees. The wind can also play major havoc, but really doesn't kick up unless a weather front is moving through.
The course finished its clubhouse at the beginning of 2001 and is nicely stocked. The accompanying restaurant is affordable and a nice stop for a bite to eat while making the turn.
Wildhorse is worth at least one trip around in the near future. After that, depending on what Walker has in store for the course, it's up to you.
``I want you to shoot a low score here," Walker said.
January 1, 2003