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Course Review: Cache Creek Casino Resort (Yocha Dehe)

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I can’t say enough about Indian Casino Golf Properties. I have played a number of them and have yet to find one sub-standard or disappointing.

If you are looking for one of the best that you will ever find out West, it’s just 40 minutes northwest of Sacramento or north from San Francisco to the Highway 16 exit off Highway 505 heading into the Capay Valley

Once there, you travel along a narrow, twisting two-lane highway for 30 miles or more along where peach orchards and beautiful farming land is found. I kept thinking that I was lost when lo and behold around a blind bend of the road Cache Creek Casino Resort was found in all its vast, elegant glory.

With a 200-room hotel staring at me, I was also entertained by a Vegas look-a-like gambling palace with 3,000 slots, 142 table games, a 28-table poker room, eight restaurants and spa: all adding up to a complete, one-stop golfing and gaming Mecca.

Just a half-mile up the road from Cache Creek you will find the 7,337-yard Yocha Dehe course which means “Home by the spring,” on 165 acres of remarkable secluded valley property. It offers a splendid view spanning the countryside with golf course creator Brad Bell putting it all together. It’s surrounded by serene rolling hills that were once a traditional gathering place for the Patwin people that lived in the oak forests and grasslands along the meandering fish stocked Cache Creek.

The 17,951 square-foot facility contains a 1,400 square foot restaurant, multi-function room and attractive pro shop. The club’s open-air design that begins its quest on a prominent hill site offers a commanding view of the entire course (five sets of tees) and stands where the front nine holes begin and the back nine ends. There was a great deal of effort made to place functional aspects into its design along with visually stimulating features such as Native American, prominent courtyard sculptures and a real working olive orchard.

You better take enough club at No. 4 at Yocha DeHe, which plays 199 yards over water from the tips.

You better take enough club at No. 4 at Yocha Dehe, which plays 199 yards over water from the tips.

If you are ready to get the Yocha Dehe Golf game underway, you might as well start off in spectacular fashion with a par four of 454 yards from a 170-foot high cliff to the valley below. The hole travels along a straight-away, expansive fairway to a small green breaking from left to right and accompanied by two bunkers on its left side. It’s followed by a dogleg right 548-yard five par where dense trees on the right come into immediate play. You will find a batch of bunkers encircling a crowned putter land that breaks a touch from left to right.

If you are looking for a beautiful signature par three, the 199-yard one shot No. 4 might just be the right ticket to gain admission for excitement and difficulty. That’s because a bold body of water cuts the hole in two. It prevents one from easy access to an extra large putting surface that breaks swiftly from left to right and a circular bunker holding up its right side.

The par five 542-yard No. 6 named “Rattlesnake” hole could easily fit that name as the fairway twists around from tee to green with a quadrant of sand traps preventing easy access from 150 yards out. It’s also where a steep green from front to back and from right to left will keep golfers busy trying to avoid a bogie or more. If you are looking for a hole that is perforated with a giant cross bunker and other trappings, the 408-yard par four No. 8 is the one that will keep your sand iron busy from start to finish. That’s unless you keep it in play along the left side while avoiding trappings in the back of a green that slants from left to right.

When you are ready to begin the back nine, you will pass by an imposing sculpted Indian couple overlooking a majestic golf course view on the way to the par five No. 10. You will be entertained by 541 yards of imposing distance associated with a variety of bunkers scattered about the entire hole with a butterfly designed putting surface to have fun on.

No. 12 at Yocha DeHe

No. 12 at Yocha Dehe is long, but there’s plenty of room to the right for slicers. Not so much to the left.

For a change of pace, the 457-yard No. 11 and 452-yard No. 12 are two strong par fours to bring out the best of golfer’s long distance game, including the 254-yard one-shot No. 13 where continuous bunkering hangs around on its right side. A par might be in order if everything goes just right. If nothing else, you have the opportunity of enjoying some sweet hanging Pinot grapes at nearby vineyards around this part of the course.

One of the most memorable holes on the course is the 416-yard No. 14 where the tee shot must be laid up to avoid off fairway woods and shrubbery. Next is an extreme right-turn approach where golfers have to find their way through a gantlet of trees on their way up to an almost level large green that angles from left to right. It’s followed by the most interesting 433-yard No. 15 “Wihnem Ka Cha” (shortcut named) hole. It represents two parcels of turf separated by a lake and a creek dividing the entire scene. It’s just a matter of driving safely over the hazards in as much distance as possible without getting into wet trouble. A crowned green that moves from right to left completes this unique vineyard designed hole.

The last three holes all come with a variety of waterscapes. The par three 206-yard No. 16 bends left from tee to green with a slice of water holding up that side of an extensive putting surface that breaks from right to left.

The longest par five 565-yard No. 17 is a winner from start to finish. The fairway is skinny from the start with a lake hanging almost along its entire right side. It makes its way to a precariously located rock-framed green that keeps company with the lake on the right. Any approach headed for the putting surface from that side had better be perfect in length and location or water will be your unwanted reward.

The second strongest hole on the course ends the great Yocha Dehe Golf Club experience. It’s a heroic 443-yard gem that bends around a body of water on its right side. It’s just a matter of cutting the corner as far a tee shot will go without splashing the water for good as you gradually make your way to a bunker encircled putting surface. There’s also a waterfall not too far on its right to give the hole a touch of finishing class.

Daniel Kane, director of golf, is thrilled by how the golf course and clubhouse turned out as well as the satisfied guests who have had the pleasure of playing it. So whether you’re a casual golfer or a budding World Series of Poker professional, this is one Native American outpost that leaves nothing to chance when it comes to a complete, one-stop golfing and gaming fun since its inception.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Gary

    Sep 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve played this course maybe 10 times since it was constructed. It is an outstanding test of golf. At $90/round it better be.

    >Unlimited practice balls are included on grass tees over a large canyon. You have to hit it 160 yards to clear the canyon.

    >From the elevated practice area you go to the summit of a hill for the first tee. It is a 160 yd carry to reach the fairway. There is no “short of the fairway” shot. Just re-tee it.

    >I’m too old to play from the tips but was more than pleased to par the first five holes during one round. Things went downhill from there.

    >#10 green is a challenging uphill shot…the surface can’t be seen from the fairway. #9 is much the same but is a par 4.

    >There are a number of environmental areas that you aren’t supposed to enter to get your ball. But you do get a free drop…no penalty.

    >Employees are very accommodating and aware of your presence in a resort-type way. Some of them almost too much…almost fawning, as if they are looking for a big tip.

    >The course is impeccable…perfect fairways, perfect greens. The rough is penalizing and is often wild unkept areas. That is except for #13 and #15. You can’t very well play out of the grape vines with harvesting wires strung between the plants.

    >#17 is a nightmare green. The only place to miss is left in the traps. Anything long, short, or right is in the lake. There is virtually no fringe. But it is a large green.

    >Is is worth playing at least once in a lifetime…you bet.

  2. Yohanan

    Sep 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Casino supported courses are usually TPC level from my experience. Have not played this one yet. Many have said that have its worth the drive. Hopefully i will make it someday.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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