Silos standing guard at the 3rdThe driveable par 4 8th!!Placement is key on the 14th
This is a private club that does take visitors and a course that I would very much recommend you play while you’re out here. Sam Whiting, who lists the Olympic Club among his many great achievements, designed this track that opened for play in 1928.
The moment you drive through the gate from Arnold Drive and see the beautifully designed hacienda-style clubhouse, you know you’re in for a treat. I’m standing on the first tee while the starter runs through a few details about how the front nine runs round the outside of the course and the back nine runs inside, just in case you get yourself lost along the way. But it’s like white noise – I’m looking down the fairway thinking: wow, that is beautiful. I just want to hit my ball.
When he lets me loose I pull out the driver and crack and the impact echoes through the trees. I love that sound. The ball sails down the fairway and I’m off. Strange, I feel like a kid at Christmas. I just want to get out there, it looks so immaculate. Upon a second glance it’s clear why. There must be at least two people looking after every hole, or at least it feels that way. Later on I see guys heading out to fill divots. If I thought Windsor was in great condition, Sonoma GC takes it up another level. Even the members (I presumed they were members) are polite. They let me and my playing partner for the day – Tyler, a doctor from Canada – through. We actually go through two groups and make it round in three hours.
It’s a bit hard to name standout holes as I really enjoy them all. If there are weak holes on the course they would be the second and 12th but only when you compare them to the other sixteen. The run from the sixth to the ninth is great, including the par-3 192-yard seventh which is a beautifully designed hole and aesthetically pleasing. I love the way the green on the eighth nestles in the land and is surrounded by trees on this long par-5, and the ninth is a great hole to finish this loop with – it’s uphill to a three-tiered green protected by bunkers. You really need to be in the right positions on this hole.
Even if you’re not playing from the back tees, go and have a quick look from the back tee on the 10th, it makes it a completely different hole than the forward tees. You drive out over water, through the tees to the fairway beyond. This, the 11th and 18th were my favourite holes on the course. The 11th really does look impressive from the tee. The fairway sweeps up the hill from right to left, with bunkers protecting each side of the fairway. Then you play to the two-tiered green that is at least a club more than what you think and could even be two. Four bunkers, all of which are at the front – three on the left and one on the right – protect the green. It really is a remarkable hole.
The 18th is a fitting finale. It offers everything. At 373 yards it’s not the longest and on this dog-leg right you could try and fly the bunker that protects it, leaving you a short iron in to this green. But make sure you are short of the pin – putting back down the slope could see you at least three-putting and maybe more and it would be a shame to end the round like that on this wonderful track.