The Ridge: Full of Diverse Challenges Near Sacramento

By Jeffrey Weidel, Contributor

Cattle once regularly grazed on this gorgeous piece of property. It was a carefree existence for the herd, a spacious ranch with its share of both water and mature oak trees for shade.

Those carefree times still exist, although the cattle have departed. The ranch has been transformed into a scenic golf course, thanks in part to the design work of Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

This is a course the famed golf architect wouldn't mind putting on the resume. Located in the foothills east of Sacramento, The Ridge has earned praise from many golfers. This is one beautiful golf course. Yet beware, it can make your golf game look ugly.

"Some people have said it's a little more difficult than they expected," said Greg French, the head professional at The Ridge. "If you are not a very good player it may be too much of a challenge. It can bite the halfway decent player. But you know what, most of them can't wait to get back here and try it again. That's the way a good golf course should be."

Make no mistake, this is a good course. A hilly track located on 170 acres, The Ridge will test any golfer's game. Four sets of tee boxes make it playable for high handicappers from the red tees (5,354 yards) or the scratch golfer from the tips (6,734 yards). The blues go 6,345 yards and the white tees run 5,855 yards.

Judging by the yardage, this is no lengthy course. Don't be fooled, it plays much longer. Many of the holes meander up the hilly terrain, making the yardage deceiving. A good drive doesn't always mean a short iron into the green. When in doubt, go with the extra club, you will probably need it.

The fairways can be troublesome at some holes, but for the most part, the landing area is adequate. And the rough is maintained so well it's not really all that rough. But don't miss the second cut because often times that will lead to a lost ball. Penalty strokes are always unwanted, yet even more so here because birdies and pars are hard-earned.

"I like the course, it has a lot of variety to it," said Dick Daniels, from Reno, Nevada. "It has uphill holes, downhill holes, it can really test your game."

Not everything is perfect at The Ridge. In an effort to keep the fairways in fine shape, golf carts stay on the path at all times. The smooth fairways may help your ball get some extra roll. However, it's also an annoyance at times, especially when your ball is located, but the appropriate club lies 50 yards away where the golf cart is parked.

Carts on the path also slows down play, which considering the number of lost balls being sought, only adds to the problem. A round at The Ridge typically won't go quickly. The round played here went over the five-hour mark. French says the issue is currently being discussed.

The hard bunkers also need addressing. These are more like concrete bunkers than sand traps. The best advice here is avoid them. Even the good bunker player can experience trouble. More sand is the obvious solution and apparently that is in the course's short-range plans.

Yet clearly the negatives don't overshadow the potential of this track, which has well-manicured greens that typically run fast. "This is a well-designed course with a lot of good character to it," said Mike McKeon, who lives in nearby Roseville, Calif. "It makes generous use of the tees, but doesn't play all that tight. You can hit the shots you want."

You better hit them well on the first hole, certainly no easy start. The par 4 runs 404 yards (all yards are from the blue tees) and plays longer. Welcome to the first of many uphill journeys. This hole plays long and is tough, what one might expect from the course's No. 1 handicap.

The second hole (par 5, 551 yards) can also be a little scary, certainly off the tee, where anything right is a goner and left lies the cart path. At least the hole runs downhill. Careful on approach, water lurks to the right and the green is triple-tiered.

Sandwiched in between two par 3s, is the No. 4 hole (par 4, 383 yards), deemed the third toughest on the par 71 course. It features a dogleg left location, which requires a sizable drive, a must considering a demanding second shot.

The approach must carry over a sizable rocky area near a bunker. Get a par here and it's well-deserved. Many golfers might consider this hole the toughest on the course.

For some nice diversity, The Ridge gives golfers a breather at the par 4 No. 6, which measures 328 yards. Avoid the fairway bunkers and what's left is a wedge into a shallow green. If all goes well, this can be a definite birdie hole.

Another short par 4 (344 yards) comes at No. 7 and No. 8 (333 yards). The front side concludes with the ninth hole that runs parallel to No. 2. This one is also a par 5 (541 yards) that will greatly penalize the errant shot. The third shot must go over water and tests one's nerves.

A straight-ahead par 4 (405 yards) starts off the back nine. Stay clear of the fairway traps and this hole doesn't present major problems. Neither does No. 11, a par 5 (511 yards) that plays longer, running uphill.

Don't relax on the par 3 at No. 12. It's all carry to this 177-yard hole and its bowl-shaped green. Another uphill hole comes at the 13th, this par 4 feeling much longer than 409 yards. Think about an extra club on the approach.

Following another par 3, the 15h arrives as a challenge, a par 5 (540 yards) that heads downhill. The hole narrows and accuracy is a must. The 16th (par 4, 392 yards) also is demanding. Beware of the water on the second shot.

The final par 3 on the backside offers a nice view of the recently finished clubhouse, which rests in a distance on the hill. Don't get too distracted at No. 17, water lingers to the right and a trap guards the 152-yard hole to the left.

One final uphill trip remains at No. 18, a nice finishing hole. Although great distance isn't required off the tee, the hole seems longer than 387 yards. Water lurks to the left and the second shot heads to a large, undulating green.

Green fees at The Ridge run $40 during the week and $55 on weekends and holidays.

The Ridge
2020 Golf Course Road
Auburn, CA 95602
Phone: (530) 888-7880
Head pro: Greg French

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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