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New Lease, New Life

Foxtail Golf Club
Cover feature
Bay Area Golf Guide
Volume 5, Issue 2

A management change is followed by wholesale renovation at Sonoma County’s Foxtail Golf Club

By Andrew Hidas

To behold the wonders of Sonoma County in springtime —its billowing knee-high grasses, lambs trundling after their mamas across the greener-than-green hills, vines bursting with new buds —is to understand why visitors long to extend their stay for oh, the rest of their lives. And why once people manage to move there, they fantasize about keeping Highway 101 under lock and key, the better to maintain their newfound paradise as a tidy little secret among select relatives and friends.

But nothing remains static for long in a land so pregnant with life, and the region’s golf courses are no exception. As this is written in the spring of 2003, Foxtail Golf Club in Rohnert Park exemplifies this constant transformation of the local landscape. The club’s two renovated and renamed municipal courses, formerly known as Mountain Shadows, came under new management by Petaluma-based CourseCo in 2001.

The company’s marriage with the city has produced a beautifully matured pair of siblings named after their geography—North and South. These are the kinds of kids destined to be apples of their parents’ eye and true assets to their community for many years to come.

The marriage partners spent some $4.2 million to spruce up their charges in two distinct stages—the first of which required $1.3 million for the South course. Architect Gary Linn teamed up with the new management team of general manager John Theilade, course superintendent Dick Rudolph and maintenance chief Deepak Lal to lead a thorough reconstruction of the drainage system. New tees, bunkers, contours and mounding also helped enhance the original Bob Baldock design of 1963.

When the course reopened in April 2002 after a year-long reconstruction, it was both more interesting and more playable year-round that it had ever been. It had, however, retained the essentially straightforward, player-friendly character that had always been its main attraction.

Then came the North course. Re-opened after a $3 million renovation on May 2, 2003, it features even more dramatic changes that have resulted in an essentially new course. The relatively flat former layout, created in two 9-hole stages from 1978-80 by Gary Roger Baird, has been transformed by Linn into a rolling and undulating series of mini-puzzles that create far more visual interest than the previous design, while challenging golfers to think through each shot.

Forty-five new bunkers require a strategic approach on the par-72, 6,851-yard layout. Three other tee placements can take the distance down to 6,394, 5,846 and 5,261 yards, respectively.

Demonstrating why it was known as the “Redwoods” course during its Mountain Shadows days, Foxtail North is generously dotted with the region’s favorite tree. Indeed, part of the re-design involved transplanting some 20 mature, 30-foot high redwoods to increase the course’s character and playability.

Water is a factor on eight holes of the North Course, which includes a large lake between Nos. 5 and 7 that used to be nearly obscured with plant life. Now, small squadrons of ducks and geese paddle merrily along, with even more wildlife likely to arrive in the future. That’s because Foxtail is proceeding with an application to the National Audubon Society that will hopefully earn it the conservation group’s coveted blessing as a “Cooperative” course sometime in the next year. Animal habitat, water conservation and pesticide alternatives are just some of the areas covered by the Audubon designation process.

Reconstructed Coleman Creek is another water delight that is now crossed with three bridges on the North course. The creek is sourced in the Mayacamas Mountains, which provides the postcard views to the east for both courses. The rugged coastal mountains, with their vast carpet of redwoods, loom to the west.

“Until you look around at all the mountains, almost nothing about the North course is the same as it was,” says Theilade, a 25-year golf industry veteran. “Each hole has its own identity and feel with sand bunkers strategically placed and undulating greens that account for interesting pin placements.”

Golfers who remember the regular winter bogs of yore will delight in the innumerable tons of dirt and miles of pipe that were brought in to create a state-of-the-art drainage system. In addition, some 22 acres of former rough have now been declared out of play, the better to let tall grasses and wildflowers provide cover for wildlife habitat while reducing irrigation needs.
The start and finishing holes on the North course are both notable. At 563 yards, No. 1 presents the longest distance challenge on either course, with strategically placed bunkers that will force some early decision-making. No. 18 has seen the lake it shares with No. 10 reduced enough in size to give you a good shot at par, thus increasing your chances to arrive in the clubhouse with a rosy glow of accomplishment.

Though it sparkles with all the panache of the best modern courses, Foxtail’s fee structure attempts to retain a stout working class affordability. The South Course runs from $17.50 to $28 on weekdays, $25 to $36 on weekends, the North course from $24 to $32 Monday – Thursday, $26 to $36 on Friday and $35 to $48 on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Local stay-and-play promotional tie-ins are available at the adjacent DoubleTree Hotel and a short skip up the highway at Vintage Creek in Santa Rosa.

With affordable golf on mightily improved companion courses just a minute off Highway 101, Foxtail looks set for an extended run of popularity. That makes it a perfect match for the county it has always called home.


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Knott & Linn Golf Design Group, LLC
All Rights Reserved

Photography Courtesy of John & Jeannine Henebry

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