Inside the Gates: Oakmont Golf club

No. 13 at Oakmont Golf Club’s East Course

Sonoma Valley’s Oakmont Golf Club offers scenic views and challenging courses in the heart of wine country

By Tom LaMarre

For golfers who like a little wine and cheese after their golf, there’s no place like the famed Northern California wine country.

A great place to start a wine country tour would be in the Valley of the Moon at Oakmont Golf Club, an enjoyable daily-fee establishment in a sleepy corner of Santa Rosa, one of those places that makes you feel like a member of your own private club for a day, or in this case, even two.

That’s because Oakmont boasts two fine layouts designed by Ted Robinson, the par-72 West Course and its sister, the East Course, one of the most challenging executive courses in the wine-and-golf rich area.

“We’re semi-private, so we have our members, but we also cater to the public–including seniors–from Sonoma County and elsewhere,” Oakmont General Manager Mike Ash said. “Our course conditions weren’t as good for awhile because we had some construction on the course, putting in a new irrigation system after Kemper Sports took over in January of 2014.

“Now that our course conditions are much better and improving all the time, the golfers are coming back in droves and we’ve had a great last six-to-eight months.”

Both courses meander through rolling terrain lined by tall pines and mature oaks, naturally, given the name Oakmont. Lakes, in addition to a creek that winds across both courses, also dot the property.

Oakmont is located at the foot of Sugarloaf Peak, part of the Maya Mountains, and its next-door neighbor is Annadel State Park Forest, so both courses offer some of the best golf views in Sonoma County.

“I’m fortunate to have a big window here to take it all in,” Ash said.

No. 4 at Oakmont Golf Club’s West Course

The West Course, which opened in 1964, plays to 6,379 yards from the back tees, with a United States Golf Association rating of 70.8 and a slope of 128. Water comes into play on eight holes and there are 68 bunkers to deal with.

The signature hole is the par-5 10th, which stretches to 481 yards from the back tees, but big hitters have to be careful because the creek comes into play at about 290 yards. Large trees on both sides of the fairway also make it a difficult driving hole, and even for those who can get there in two, the green slopes from front to back and can take shots into more trees beyond.

The eighth is a deceiving par-3 that plays between 122 and 145 yards, with the green guarded by a large bunker on the right side. A good shot might lead to a birdie, but anything that goes long can get stuck in deep rough if it doesn’t reach the creek.

The most difficult hole on the card is the par-4, 399-yard 17th, a tough driving hole with water all the way down the right side in the form of a lake and the stream that runs into it. Not only that, there’s another pond about 270 yards out on the left, and the approach must be accurate to a long, narrow green guarded by bunkers left, right and front.

The East Course, which opened in 1973, plays to a par of 63 and measures 4,293 yards, with a USGA rating of 59.8 and a slope of 100. Oh, and there are 45 bunkers on the 18-hole executive course.

There are nine par-4s and the same number of par-3s, the first coming at No. 4, but don’t think it gets easier than the first three holes because it’s the longest short hole on the property at 221 yards to a green guarded by bunkers on both sides.

Perhaps the best hole on the East is No. 15, a par-4 that measures only 290 yards and gives bombers an opportunity to drive the green. However, it’s another difficult driving hole, with bunkers on both sides of the fairway in the landing area and the creek down the right side. It offers another birdie chance, but don’t get caught on the back of the two-tiered green if the hole is down in front.

East Course No. 13 at Oakmont Golf Club

No matter when you finish at Oakmont, you can eat in the Quail Inn Restaurant and Bar, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

And don’t forget those wineries, with Kenwood, St. Francis and J. Lohr among those right down the road. Kenwood offers its award-winning Jack London line, made with grapes from the author’s vineyard.
Just make sure you make those visits after  your round at Oakmont.

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