Spending two hours on the road to get to a golf course in Northern California means you are passing many good courses that are much closer to home.
In order to put in that time on the road, it better be a special track, one worthy of your time on the brutally bad California freeways.
Yocha Dehe is such a course.
Located in Brooks – on the property of the Cache Creek Casino and Resort on Highway 16 – Yocha Dehe is what I would call the definitive resort course. It’s beautiful, fair, yet challenging and a wonderful way to spend five hours.
Set in the Capay Valley, you are removed from the rat race that has become Northern California. By the time you take the long road from Highway 16 to arrive in the peaceful valley, you realize this will be a wonderful day on the links.
Managed by Troon Golf, the customer service is as can be expected from Troon – first class all the way. I have played many courses, managed by different organizations and without a doubt, Troon is as consistent a classy organization as any.
On the golf side, the course offers wide landing areas off the tee, with the approaches as difficult as you want to make them. In other words, there are options to go right at the pin, but there are always safer, bailout options on most holes.
Playing the right tee boxes is essential for the enjoyment of your round. For example, from the white tees it plays 6,649 yards with a slope of 131 and a rating of 71.4.
Step back to the gold tees and it jumps to 6,907 yards, a slope of 139 and a rating of 73.3. Take on the tips and it’s 7,337 yards with a 144 slope and a rating of 75. But this what makes it a great resort course – there are five sets of tees and it can be as challenging or as easy as you want.
In other words – something for everyone.
For my money the back nine is the better, more dramatic of the two halves, but the opening tee shot sets the tone for the day.
After checking in at the private-club feel pro shop, you head up a hill to the unique practice center, that features shots traveling over a smaller canyon to targets on the opposite hillside.
From there it’s up more of a climb to the first tee box, located approximately 10 stories above the first fairway. The 451-yard, par 4 allows for a great beginning to the round as you watch your tee shot soar into the clouds before coming back to earth.
The second and third holes are into the prevailing wind, with the third – a 464-yard, par 4 – the No. 1 handicap hole on the course. The 6th hole gives you a chance to take advantage of the wind, as the 523-yard, par 5 plays with the wind at your back.
There are a series of bunkers that come into play about 100 yards out from the hole and the undulating fairway the closer you get to the green can come into play.
The outward nine ends fairly-strong with a potentially drive-able 299-yard, par 4 8th hole (the wiser shot is to lay-up) as well as 391-yard par 4 9th that is heavily bunkered down the left and trouble down the right.
No. 10 sets the tone for the inward nine, starting with a 516-yard, par 5. There is a lake on the right and the hole doglegs to the left, with the elevated green maybe taking a club more to get there.
The 12th is another hole into the wind and at 425 yards, it’s a tough one. There are vineyards behind the hole at the end as you reach the furthest point away from the clubhouse on the course.
No. 13 – a 198-yard, par 3 – is beautiful as vineyards frame the hole, adding to the serenity of the day. What follows next is arguably the most unique hole on the course.
The 399-yard, par 4 has a fairway that goes out 260 yards and then takes a right-hand turn towards the green. There is waste area between the end of the first fairway and the approach fairway, so the tee shot requires diligence.
No. 15 – a 405-yard, 4-par, offers a split fairway, with water running down the middle. The more direct route offers a narrow fairway, while the longer option offers a wide landing area, but the approach is back over the water.
After the 180-par, par 3 No. 16, you hit a wonderful, two-hole closing stretch.
The 17th I would call the Signature Hole for the course. The 512-yard, par 5 features a blind tee shot where they have a marshal out on the course to let you know when it is safe to hit. There is water right starting halfway through the hole and any throughs of going for it in two can be compromised by a semi-island green awaiting.
Any shots at the green are all carry over the water. The bunkers behind the green can corral any long shots, but then you are faced with a delicate bunker shot where anything long heads into the drink. Just a classic golf hole.
No 18 is a 423-yard, par 4 that is a picturesque golf hole with a huge lake guarding the entire right side of the hole, with most of the tee shots requiring carry over the water. A huge, undulating green awaits the golfer as you finish your round.
Most of my golfing buddies have made the drive to play the course and the two gentlemen we played with recently were from the Sacramento area and repeatedly make the drive down. It’s that good.
It’s a first-class course to play and well worth making the drive.
For more information please go to www.yochedehegolfclub.com.
By Dennis Miller