By Bruce Meadows
Fountaingrove rising from the ashes
Fountaingrove Golf Club has always been considered one of the more challenging and well-designed courses to play in this area.
The course, the work of architect Ted Robinson in 1985, still is, although there are obviously some big differences to what the 18-hole championship course was, prior to Oct. 9, and what it is now.
While the course survived the terrible firestorm that raced through Fountaingrove and other areas, the stately clubhouse did not, nor did hundreds of nearby homes.
“It’s tragic what happened,” said Fountaingrove Chief Operating Officer Ron Banaszak. “But we were blessed that the course and the (athletic) center are still there.”
He said a sprinkler system at the athletic center may have been the key to that structure surviving, although there was significant fire damage around the building.
And the course not only survived the fire, but it seems to have thrived, possibly from the fact it was closed for play until recently. Rest is always good for a golf course so maybe that helped. And the fact the fairways and greens retained moisture also made a difference.
“I played the back nine when it opened and the course is playing beautifully,” said Banaszak. “We never felt we would lose the course, but it is in outstanding shape.”
Banaszak, who said a debris barrier has been installed around homes that were lost, added that play has returned to normal, or as normal as it can be considering the tragedy that ravaged Fountaingrove and so many other neighborhoods in the county.
“We waited to open because of the safety factor,” he explained, noting the threat of falling trees and branches.
Banaszak said dues have been suspended until an assessment can be made in April. He also said the clubhouse and maintenance buildings, which were leveled by the fire, will be rebuilt.
The “pro shop” is presently operating out of a modular structure and the administrative offices are off-site.
“We have an architect and we will get input from our (over 1,000) members to see what they want,” adding that the old clubhouse “was really not user friendly.”
Banaszak thinks as many as 200 member families may have lost homes and he has no idea how many will stay and rebuild.
“But people are generally upbeat about the future,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of golfers coming back to play.”
Honors for Kelseyville golf coach
John Berry has heard from the Coastal Mountain Conference that the National Federation of High Schools has named its “Coaches of the Year” in a number of high school sports. And Berry, longtime coach at Kelseyville High, is on the list for golf.
“I’m very pleased to be recognized,” says John, also the general manager at Adams Springs GC. “Unlike my decorated coaching peers, I have never had a Kelseyville High team win NorCals or a State title so I appreciate being recognized for my longevity as well as my volunteer efforts with North Coast Section golf.”
John adds “I’m not sure how they found me in faraway Kelseyville but somebody nominated me and the NFHS determined I was their Coach of the Year.”
In other matters, John was “shocked” to hear about the closing of Aetna Springs in Pope Valley, an outstanding nine-hole course redesigned by Tom Doak, which was reportedly 125 years old this year.
I have fond memories of Aetna Springs, a quaint layout many consider to be the oldest course west of the Mississippi.
I remember taking my daughters there when they were young, when a funky old cabin was used as the pro shop. We would golf a few holes, then take a break and do some bass fishing in several ponds on the property. Good fishing, good memories, good golf.
When the Napa County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors rejected plans by developers Robert Radovan and William Criswell to expand the resort 10 years ago, the handwriting appeared to be on the wall.
The project would have included an 18-hole Doak-designed championship course in addition to the classic nine-hole layout, but arguments against stressed “a protection of agriculture.”
New owners have reportedly talked of building a wellness resort and spa on the 1,000-acre site but whether golf of any kind will be part of the plan is uncertain. I really hope it is.
Berry notes that two courses on Cobb Mountain, Adams Springs and Black Rock (formerly Hoberg’s) “have had a quiet winter due to weather.”
Clear Lake Riviera, a nine-hole course, has closed due to lack of play “and I fear it’s just a matter of time before another Lake County nine-hole course closes its doors,” notes Berry.
“Similar to what folks are experiencing following the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, we still haven’t recovered from the Valley Fire in September of 2015,” says John. “Our tourist revenues are way down in Lake County and are courses have suffered accordingly.”
Oakmont plans for kids’ activities
We may be in the middle of winter, but that doesn’t keep Oakmont’s Rebecka Heimert and Jessica Reese Quayle from looking ahead.
Summer Camps 2018: June 11-15th half day: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or full day 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; July 9-13th half day: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or full day 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Aug. 6-10th half day: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or full day 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Registration will open later this Spring.
PGA Junior League: Oakmont is also kicking off the PGA League Season on March 3 at 2 pm. “We had a lot of fun with the league last year and we will have an Oakmont team again this year,” says Rebecka. “This is a free event and everyone is welcome to join us on the East Course to play a few holes on the course.
Wednesday Junior Skill Development Practice: “We are looking forward to seeing the juniors back at practice on Wednesday March 7.” Cost is $200 which includes a private 30-minute lesson (value $40) for each participant and 10 free tokens in the Pro Shop. “We would love to see more juniors at the course practicing and playing.”
Note: The lesson and tokens must be used during the duration of the program. Sign up by emailing at [email protected]
Dates: March 7, March 14, March 21, March 28, April 11, April 18, April 25, May 2, all 3:30 p.m. Classes are 90 minutes. Instruction at East Course, pick-up at West.
A number of NorCal PGA members, including Windsor’s Jason Schmuhl, have been selected on the list for the Global Golf Post All-Pro Teams.
The list of NCPGA pros include Stuart Smith, Somersett G&CC (Reno) on the first team; Schmuhl second team, and Shawn Kelly (The Ridge GC, Auburn) and Shawn McEntee (Coyote Creek, Morgan Hill) honorable mention.
“Not sure the significance, just noticed it when the NCPGA shared it on Facebook,” says Jason. “Looks like an all-star team of club pros from around the country. Not sure how long they have been doing this, but I am assuming this is my first time making the list. There are obviously many very good playing club pros on that list so it feels pretty good to be included with those guys.”
The NCPGA’s Ellen Lalande also notes that there is a memorial family fundraiser April 23 at The Olympic Club to benefit the family of the NCPGA’s late Executive Director Chris Thomas. Details will be forthcoming.
News from Middletown
Hidden Valley Lake GC, the only 18-hole course in Lake County and a challenging and unique 18-hole course, is offering a special golfing opportunity through April 30.
For $58, two golfers can play one weekday round; pay $10 more to play Saturday, Sunday or holidays before noon.
Hidden Valley Lake GC is about 45 minutes northeast of Santa Rosa and 20 minutes from Calistoga in the Hidden Valley Lake development. The front nine, while challenging with lots of water, is fairly flat, while the back nine wanders through the hills and includes a really unique par-4, dogleg right No. 15 hole that has golfers teeing off on the side of a hill high above a landing area.
If it’s your first time there, you might be tempted to use more club than you need, thereby running the risk of flying the fairway 150 feet below. Some big hitters might consider hitting one over the large trees on the right in an effort to get close to the green but this is a high-risk shot.
Hidden Valley is 6,708 yards from the tips with a 125 slope, and 6,297 yards from the white tees, 70.6/121 course and slope ratings, designed by Billy Bell in the 1960s.
For more details, call 987-3035 or go to www.golfhvl.com
Another one bites the dust . . .
You can add San Geronimo, an 18-hole course in Marin County, to the growing list of golf courses shutting their doors.
San Geronimo had been operating for more than 50 years, and its closure will leave just two 18-hole public courses in the county, Indian Valley in Novato and Peacock Gap in San Rafael.
According to one report, San Geronimo becomes at least the eighth course to shut down in this area in the past two years. Sportswriter Ron Kroichick pointed out Sunol Valley, Springtown (Livermore), Pine Meadow (Martinez) and Grayson Woods (Pleasant Hill) were 2015 casualties.
Roddy Ranch (Antioch) and Petaluma’s Adobe Creek shut down in 2016 and early 2017 and Shadow Lakes (Brentwood) has closed pending a planned consolidation with nearby Deer Ridge.
Additional reporting by Kroichick cites statistics that more than 800 courses have closed across the country in the past 10 years with the future depending on the ability of “an overbuilt market to correct itself.”
Other statistics from the National Golf Foundation shows that the number of people who played golf at least once in 2016 fell 1.2 percent from a year earlier to 23.8 million after the total reached 30 million in 2005.
But other stats showed the list of “beginning golfers” grew 14 percent to 2.5 million, which is somewhat encouraging, as is an NCGA report showing a 2.5 percent growth in membership the past two years following a 15-year decline.
San Geronimo, which had peaked at 50,000 rounds annually, fell to 37,000 last year. So it was not totally surprising that owner Robert Lee and his partners put the course up for sale.
The 155-acre course was eventually sold to the Trust for Public Land for $8.85 million, with the county preparing to take over once it raises funds to purchase the property, according to Kroichick’s reporting.
The Trust for Public Land sought a “request for proposal” in an effort to get someone to run the course for two years, but there was no light at the end of that tunnel and no takers.
It seems apparent to most experts that San Geronimo is history, the long-range plan to develop the land into a large park with hiking and biking trails in coordination with an effort to protect endangered Coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout in San Geronimo Creek.
Are you hooked on golf ?
If you play golf and want to know what’s going on in Northern California and beyond, you have no doubt heard or listened to John Abendroth and Mitch Juricich and their long-running “Hooked on Golf” show.
John, a PGA pro, says there are “big changes” at radio station KNBR in regards to Hooked on Golf, which is beginning its 25th year.
The popular show, after a one-month hiatus, returns Feb. 10-11 for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Those weekend shows will air Saturday from 6-8 pm and on Sunday, 7-8 am, 9-11 am and 3-5 pm. Future shows will air Sunday 7-8 am with another hiatus March 18-April 1.
Some additional news from John involves “Fairway to Fitness,” in its second year offering golf tips, fitness and nutrition ideas in workshops for high school and junior high golf programs in the Bay Area.
Founded and conducted by Abendroth and Certified Personal Trainer Cynthia E. Newman, the workshops are presented free of charge by The Hooked on Golf Foundation with support from the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and the NCGA Foundation.
“We felt that many sports provide fitness and nutrition support for their players, but golf is often overlooked but it is important to improved play to be fit and healthy,” according to John.
For more information or to schedule a workshop, contact Abendroth at [email protected] or 650-692-6261.
Coming up . . .
In response to to the devastating fires, City of Santa Rosa Firefighters Foundation is sponsoring a golf tournament.
The money raised is used to support the firefighters for training, special equipment, for donations, scholarships, peer support programs and much more.
“They have had a devastating year . . . please get a team together and enjoy the day with them. If you can’t play and can make a prize donation please do,” urges Windsor pro Jason Schmuhl. “It will be much appreciated.”
The date is Monday May 14, at Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club. For information, go to [email protected]
Let’s hear from you . . .
The next GOLF 707 will talk about the revival of The First Tee in this area as well as suggestions about how to play in cold, wet weather.
And as usual, we would love to hear from you with any golf-related item or golf questions.
Do you have a favorite course or golf pro or golf shop? If so, why? And what about the other side of that question: Are there courses or golf pros or golf shops you would rather not frequent? Why not?
When I wrote for the Press Democrat, I would periodically ask readers to a list of favorites, including golf courses, pros, etc. and I would love to come up with a new list.
If you have any tournaments, clinics or any golf-related item to contribute, or have any questions about golf, please send it to me at [email protected]