Lawrence Links Golf Course
ANTELOPE, CA - There are enough golf courses in the Sacramento area that this one tends to get overlooked for several reasons. Location is a major cause for this Northern California course being somewhat ignored, and being a nine-hole track ranks high as another reason. Yet this is a course that needs a little further investigation.
Let's address the problems one at a time. How about getting there?
If you live in the Antelope area or happen to travel down Watt Avenue heading toward North Highlands, chances are you have seen a golf course that was unrecognizable.
It can't be part of Cherry Island and Antelope Greens is out of the question as well. Situated in a peaceful neighborhood, the course in question use to be part of McClellan Air Force Base.
Welcome to Lawrence Links, easily the Sacramento area's most obscure course. The obscurity has much to do with the Air Force, which naturally only allowed its personnel to play the course.
Yet in a move that disturbed many retired Air Force personnel, the base became one of many closures around the country. The shutdown occurred several years ago, but the official shutdown did not take place until July of 2001.
"A lot of the retired military guys weren't happy when we took over as a public course and you can't blame them," Lawrence Links Head Professional Aaron Roeder said. "They had the course to themselves before. But I think they now realize we're friendly to them and the course remains in good shape."
Many people cannot believe that this was the former McClellan course, due to the Antelope location at 3825 Blackfoot Way. The entrances to the former base are miles away, which leads one to believe the course had no connection to McClellan. That is part of the problem Lawrence Links faces. Getting people to the course, which is located by turning off Blackfoot Way between Antelope and Elkhorn, can be a little tricky.
"We fight that all the time," Roeder said. "This is actually a great location for a private course."
On the second issue: This is not an 18-hole track, yet it can be played as one. Lawrence Links is versatile. Want to play a nine-hole course that measures around 3,000 yards? The choices are limited, but this is one of those locations.
And if 18 holes is the only way you play golf, it can be accomplished here. The setup at Lawrence Links will have you going over the same territory twice, only the second time it runs 166 yards longer and plays much differently.
"This is not a small course like you would think," said Thomas Little, who lives in nearby Elverta. "The way they have the blue and white tees situated, it's like playing a regulation, 18-hole course."
That is exactly what the folks at McClellan Air Force Base thought when they only had so much room to design a golf course in 1968. The public was forbidden to play it until last September when the folks at McClellan reluctantly let the course go as the closing of the base neared.
Nearby Roseville resident Chris Traina played the course when it was private and has also played it occasionally over the past year.
"This is as good as any nine-hole course in the area," Traina said. "The conditions are comparable to when McClellan was running it, I don't really see a difference. The course is in good shape, the price is a nice bargain and it is nine holes that plays like an 18-hole course."
This indeed is a bargain. The cost is $20 (no cart) for 18 holes during the week and $24 during weekends. Nine-hole costs are half that price at $10 (weekdays) and $12 (weekends). Twilight rates go $14 (18 holes) and $8 on weekdays.
Tired of crowded weekend golf? Lawrence Links might be the place to go. The course is fairly accessible early most Saturday afternoons. The same can be said during the week as well, where many area residents can play a rapid nine holes in 1½ hours.
"From about noon on, the course really empties out on Saturdays," Roeder said. "I have no idea why. If you come out here most days in the afternoon it's pretty quiet, it's a good time to play a quick round. But even when we are busy, we can usually work people in somewhere."
What many golfers might also enjoy about Lawrence Links is the set up, which features three par-5s and three par-3s on both the front and backside. The nines certainly have a different look on the rolling landscape, which has both water and mature trees to work around.
The yardage difference can be immediately detected. The first hole is 503 yards, a straightaway par-5. The same hole at No. 10 plays 603 yards, the longest on the course. The second hole is a sizable par-4 (422 yards) that turns into a par-5 (489 yards) on the backside.
One of the tougher holes arrives at No. 5, a par-5 that features a tight fairway, trees to the left and water and more trees to the right. Accuracy is obviously the key. The hole transforms into an easier par-4 on the back.
"The course changes on the backside, it has a completely different look," Roeder said. "Most of the holes are at least a one-club difference."
One caution about Lawrence Links: This is not the typical nine-hole course, with short holes and accommodating layout. The yardage is 2,974 on the front side and 6,114 total. Although the fairways are mostly open, shot making is a must on many holes.
"I think Lawrence Links is fairly tough, but it is also very fair," Traina said. "If you hit it where you are supposed to, you can score. If you don't, you are in trouble."