There’s a lot to love about the sport of golf. There’s the connection to nature that’s inevitable when you spend hours outside endeavoring to master varied terrains, the easy comradery that develops on the course and, of course, pursuit of the perfect swing. The 209 has a lot to offer golf enthusiasts. We have put together a short list of local courses that will not disappoint. We encourage you to visit one — or all — when the opportunity rises, and also continue to discover other hidden gems around the region.
Del Rio Country Club
Every couple of days, Del Rio Country Club Director of Sales and Marketing Lisa Tessaro offers tours of the 70-plus-year old destination to potential members.
Located on 325 acres at 801 Stewart Road in Modesto, the centerpiece of private club is 27 holes of golf.
“The cart attendants will go to your car and help you with your clubs,” Tessaro said. “They will carry them for you. We’re very service-oriented.”
Golf enthusiasts have the option to play on three different nine-hole courses.
The Oak and Bluff courses were designed by architect Billy Bell in 1946. The average Oak/ Bluff course rating is 71.2 from the blue tees with a course slope of 124.
Del Rio’s River Course opened in 1997. It was designed by architect Robert Muir Graves.
“One of the beauties of Del Rio is you can mix it up,” Tessaro said. “You don’t have to play the same nine holes every time. Being one of the club’s with 27 holes, you don’t have to wait to play the game. Getting people on the course in a timely manner is important.”
Proprietary, Executive and Young Executive club memberships pay for unlimited access to the three golf courses, state-of-the-art practice facilities, fitness center, tennis facility, pickle ball, clubhouse, dining rooms, bocce, and all social events.
“We have a wonderful state-of-the-art practice facility,” Tessaro said. “We have two putting greens, a driving range with all the hazards, and chipping. We also have a lot of professional instruction available. The idea is to give value to everybody.”
For more information about the Del Rio Country Club, visit delriocountryclub.com or call 209-545-0723.
— Dale Butler
River Oaks Golf Course
River Oaks has been a staple in the Ceres community for close to 40 years.
Located at 3441 Golf Links Road off Hatch Road, the par-58, 18-hole golf course changed ownership when it was purchased by the Thornberry and Hall families in August 2015.
“River Oaks is unique in a lot of ways, one being its location on the river bluff and in town,” Ryan Thornberry said. “We’re privately-owned. We’re also an executive-style golf course, meaning shorter than your regulation 7,000-yard par-72 golf course. We’re able to provide the golf experience in a much more condensed time. You can play a round in 2 to 2 and half hours versus four to five hours.”
The par-27 front-nine course sits atop the river bluff and totals 1,111 yards.
One landscaping change that was made involved transforming an old tree stump into a gnome house. It’s located just off the second tee. Longtime teaching pro Greg Silva completed the project in six days. He modeled it after the River Oaks Clubhouse.
“People talk about the gnome house all the time,” Silva said. “There’s not another one like it.”
Located along the banks of Tuolumne River, the par-31 back-nine course currently totals 1,736 yards.
The course’s yardage will be increased to 2,175 yards this June.
“We’ve added yardage,” Thornberry said. “We’ve redesigned all the tees and greens. We’ve made the course a little more challenging and fun.”
River Oaks’ practice facility features a driving range with lights, and a large putting green along with a practice area for chipping and pitching.
The driving range is over 150 yards wide and 300 yards long.
Founded in 1979 by Jim and Carol Phipps, River Oaks has survived flooding, recession and a change of ownership during its existence.
“They bought a golf course that needed a lot of tender loving care,” Silva said. “And have done it. They saved the place.”
For more information, visit riveroaksceres.com or call 209-537-4653.
— Dale Butler
The Golf Club at Copper Valley
Located in the rolling foothills of the 209, The Golf Club at Copper Valley is an 18-hole championship course that provides a challenging — and scenic — round of play. Golfers can not only test their abilities thanks to the course’s dramatic and gentle changes in elevation, but also take in breathtaking views of the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite and the surrounding wildlife as they tee off.
“We have the ability to be one with our area, the Sierra. A lot of the courses around here in the 209 are still kind of city-locked...our course is still a part of nature, and as you’re playing out here you get to see more trees than houses,” Peters said. “You have that seclusion that you’re only able to find in the mountains, which is truly a great getaway from life, the city and all of the craziness that goes on.”
The Golf Club at Copper Valley first opened as Saddle Creek Golf Club in 1996. New ownership took over in November 2018, and the course opened with its new name in July 2019. Since then, ownership has focused on ensuring Copper Valley visitors enjoy golf and events held at the club, as well as exploring new opportunities for the community to go on adventures in the area. Their on-site bungalows allow guests to turn a golfing trip into a vacation, and soon, outdoor excursions like visiting a beekeeping operation, taking a horseback ride or even going for a hike can be coordinated through the club. In addition, 209 residents don’t have to be a member to utilize the club’s sports center where they can play tennis and pickleball, go for a swim or schedule a meeting.
“We want to give people more options than coming here just to golf,” Peters said.
Over the years, the course has received numerous awards, including recognition as the 10th best public access course in the state of California by Golfweek Magazine in 2013. Golf Digest also voted the course the seventh best New Upscale golf course in 1997 and has also rated it four and a half stars. Only Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill are rated higher in the state.
The Golf Club at Copper Valley is located at 1001 Saddle Creek Dr. in Copperopolis. For more information about the course or events, visit www.coppervalleygolf.com, or call 209-785-7400.
— Angelina Martin
Spring Creek Golf & Country Club
Situated along the Stanislaus River amid the neighboring orchards, Spring Creek Golf & Country Club in Ripon has a lot to offer all ages of golfers.
The bucolic course is extremely well treed with valley oaks, evergreens and a variety of deciduous tree specimens. Besides a variety dog-leg holes and some fairway bunkering, the green complexes themselves are strategically guarded with bunkers that can escalate the difference between risk and reward. Also incorporated into portions of the course design is the use of water and other lateral hazards that not only add beauty and character to the surroundings, but create a sense of awareness while playing.
There are five sets of tees to accommodate all skill levels, measuring over 6,400 yards from the championship tees and plays to a par of 71. With its manicured, bent grass greens and predominately Bermuda grass fairways, it can prove to be quite a test, as well as fun, for everyone.
“Spring Creek Golf & Country Club is truly a gem in the Valley,” said general manager Steve Hupe. “The Club is 55 years old this year and has a beautiful eight-year-old clubhouse that has won an award for architectural design excellence. More importantly, the golf course is a challenging and beautifully manicured 18-hole championship layout highlighted by an abundance of majestic, centuries old oaks.”
The Club has just completed the second phase of a three-phase front 9 greens renovation project spearheaded by Certified Superintendent Mike Stieler.
“The new green complexes are state-of-the-art constructed, classic designs reproduced from the Golden Age of golf course architecture in the 1920s and ‘30s and are truly unique in the valley,” said Hupe.
According to Hupe, the Club’s family-centric vision is truly the main drawing card for prospective members. Spring Creek’s Junior golf program, led by PGA section award winner and head golf professional Shea Rollins and PGA Junior golf award winner and director of player development Shelley O’Keefe, is second to none. The Club hosts numerous serious and just-plain-fun tournaments for all family members as well as other family activities that encourage participation in all areas of the Club, including golf, swimming, Bocce ball, fitness and social events.
For more information, visit springcreekcc.com or call 209-599-3258.
— Kristina Hacker
Turlock Golf & Country Club
For nearly a century, Turlock Golf and Country Club has stood as one of the most interesting and challenging courses in the 209. The club is not only one of the oldest golf courses in the Central Valley, but one of the most respected thanks to its neat greens and friendly atmosphere.
The course opened in 1924 and has stood the test of time thanks in part to its unique layout, which features 57 bunkers and water features that come into play on five holes. In addition, all 18 holes now feature freshly-planted Hybrid Bermuda turf, which stays green longer in addition to providing an excellent playing surface.
The club invites players to improve both their golf game and their social life courtesy of the clubhouse — a gathering place for events of all shapes and sizes, from wedding receptions and birthday parties to business seminars or work meetings. Couples exchange vows on the course often, and many a fundraiser has been hosted on the links.
In addition to the golf course, the club has a fully-stocked Pro Shop, an Olympic-sized swimming pool staffed with a certified lifeguard from Memorial Day through Labor Day and a full-sized restaurant and catering facility. Friendly PGA professionals are also on staff who are qualified to teach private, semi-private or group lessons to men, women and junior golfers, and instructors utilize state-of-the-art computerized swing analysis to perfect the swings of both novice and veteran golfers.
According to Club President Steve Williams, Turlock Golf and Country Club offers a “warm, friendly and relaxed culture combined with competitive golf and camaraderie on the best manicured golf course in the Valley.”
For more information on TGCC, visit www.turlockcountryclub.com or call 209-634-5471.
— Angelina Martin
The Reserve at Spanos Park
Often referred to as “Stockton’s hidden gem,” The Reserve at Spanos Park offers 209 golf enthusiasts a nearby escape featuring impeccable greens. The renowned links-style golf course showcases incredible sunrises and sunsets with Mt. Diablo as a backdrop, and is secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
“The greens are fast and it’s a true links-style golf course. It really takes players back to the original golf courses that were first designed in Stockton — lots of water, lots of sand,” said Terry Jones of The Reserve at Spanos Park. “It’s a golf course you could play every day and not get tired of it.”
The championship course offers a challenging layout and was designed by noted golf course architect Andy Raugust, formerly a member of the Jack Nicklaus design team. It opened in 1999 and totals 360 acres, and its 18 holes feature 7,000 yards, Par 72 and four sets of tees.
Guests can also indulge lakeside thanks to The Reserve at Spanos Park’s very own restaurant, which provides a vast selection of craft beers and wine as well as delicious breakfast and lunch menus.
The golf course’s pristine condition entices players near and far to visit, Jones added, with Bay Area golfers often making the trek over the hill to play. In addition to the well-kept course, there are plenty of views to take in while they play thanks to the blue herons and egrets who call the course’s many lakes home.
“The golf course is in great condition and it’s really a nice place to play,” Jones said. “People are willing to drive the extra mile for it.”
For more information on TGCC, visit www.reserveatspanospark.com or call 209-477-4653.
— Angelina Martin
Greenhorn Creek Resort
Situated perfectly “above the fog and below the snow” the par 72 Greenhorn Creek Resort golf course has become a true destination location in the 209.
The 6,740-yard course is a Robert Trent Jones II design and is within easy reach, a short drive away in picturesque Angels Camp.
“It is the perfect situation,” explained Director of Marketing and Sales Bonner Grupe, whose family has owned Greenhorn Creek since 1998. “Sometimes when you are playing, you can see the fog right below us.”
The course is just one of the amenities at Greenhorn Creek, as there is also lodging, bocce ball, swimming, tennis, a fitness center, a PGA teaching area for golf lessons, a putting green, driving range, and the popular CAMPS Restaurant at Greenhorn Creek.
Under the direction of noted Chef Bob Anderson, Grupe said he is known throughout the region and around the state.
“He has quite his own following,” Grupe said. “Our food is probably the finest food in the Gold Country.”
The restaurant does private events and Greenhorn Creek Resort is also a wedding venue; they have room for up to 250 people.
“There is lodging available through our Caddy Shack and cottages,” Grupe added.
In fact, the ‘Caddy Shack’ is unique in that it can host up to 12 people, so if a group of golfers want to make it a destination for a special overnight or weekend outing, they can stay there as a group. The location is also available for parties of up to 12 people coming in just to explore the Gold Country; you don’t have to be there to play golf to enjoy a stay in the Caddy Shack.
“We specialize in groups of eight to 12 but we also host tournaments of all sizes,” Grupe added of the golfing side of the resort business.
Greenhorn Creek Resort is open daily; the hours vary by season and so do prices for the multiple amenities.
Greenhorn Creek Resort is located at 711 McCauley Ranch Road in Angels Camp. For information on booking a tee time, visit www.greenhorncreek.com or call 209-729-8111
— Marg Jackson