Winchester Country Club – California Gold Country Find

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Opening in 2000, Winchester Country Club is the last course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr at the remarkable age of 92.  His last few courses were designed in partnership with his son, Robert Trend Jones, Jr. Forty miles north of Sacramento and nine miles north of Auburn, Winchester Country Club has a unique way to position themselves:

Above the fog, Below the snow- Winchester Country Club

 

Only 2.5 miles north of the Hwy 80 freeway, it was perfectly tucked away into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada at an elevation of 1700 feet.

As with many private golf clubs, the 2008 downturn took its toll on the developer and the club.  As a result,  the club opened up play to outside groups. Coming out of receivership in January 2013, Winchester Country Club is enjoying a rebound.

Jones created moderately tight fairways with tall thick grasses for wayward shots surrounded by extremely dense forest.

Thankfully, the few homes on the course blend closely with the natural environment.

The Par 3 Hole #7 is classic.  A marvelous moderate length all-carry downhill  Par 3 challenges with a severely right to left sloping green.

All of a sudden we see water as Jones closes the front nine with a reachable Par 5 with moderate bunkering.

 

Winchester Country Club Back Nine

Navigating your opening back nine tee shot on this long downhill dogleg left Par 4 leaves a scary mid length approach shot to a tight green. Once at the green, the penalty for wayward shots only steps from the putting surface is 1-2 foot high wild grasses. Nevertheless, the tall wild grasses present real problems for shots that stray too far.

But on the next Par 3, Hole #15, a classic is exhibited with surrounding water and a length of 223 yards from the tips.  The player is treated to views of some tremendous homes surrounding the course.

 

Perfect Bentgrass Greens

Winchester Country Club suffered a major setback in early 2014.  Defective herbicides killed all eighteen greens. Then the club made a bold decision as the first California course to use the new Pure Distinction strain of creeping bentgrass.  Bentgrass is the gold standard providing fast, firm putting surfaces.  It grows upright so the ball rolls on the tips.  It has high leave density allowing it to withstand very low mowing heights (down to 0.1 inch).  However, it cannot handle sustained high heat (>90 degrees), needs more water and is susceptible to disease.  Hence, maintenance costs can be higher.

The 15th green is illustrative of the fabulous result.  Two years after reopening Winchester Country Club still has nearly perfect greens.

Finishing, the Par 5 18th Hole at Winchester Country Club nothing short of magnificent.  The Clubhouse towers like a castle over the 18th fairway.

Winchester Country Club is a hidden gem.  On the other hand, ranked #99 the Golfweek 2014 list of Top 100 residential courses, it dropped out in 2015.  Public play is available after 11am on weekdays.   You will choke on the whopping $225 greens fee, but the perfect bentgrass greens may ease your pain.  Winchester Country Club sometimes has promotions for Northern California Golf Association (Aconcagua) members that you may find at $125.

 

Notable

The first cut rough on the Hole #18 challenges with an enormous boulder at Winchester Country Club.