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"More than a wee bit o' fun in Dublin"

San Mateo County Times
April 5, 2005

By Gib Papazian

The idea of a so-called "executive length" golf course is an instant turn-off for many players; unfortunately they miss some unique layouts like Dublin Ranch Golf Course, the subject of this month's installment of our
"Road Trips for County Golfers" series.

Located just two miles off highway 580 at the Fallon Road exit in Dublin, CA architect Don Knott transformed an undulating parcel of land into a delightful and entertaining string of holes for players of every ability.

There is a tendency in this country to dismiss any golf course with a par of less than 70 with yardage under 6500 yards as "too easy". Dublin Ranch, with a par of 63 and 4820 yards is a legitimate test of golf. Throw in a little wind and the average 15 handicapper will do well to break 80.

It reminds me of an English fellow I met in a pub many years ago. We were discussing the overall length of golf courses in England vs. the United States. He chuckled (with a hint of a sneer) "Well, your courses may be longer than ours, but not certainly not better. In America, "big" is its own justification, isn't it"?

Ouch. One only has to look at that horrendous mess at "The Ranch Golf Club" in San Jose for an example of the stupidity of trying to jam a full sized layout on acreage better suited to a shorter course.

By contrast, Dublin Ranch flows with the land, taking full advantage of scenic views and natural greensites with an ingenious routing that includes a par-five on both sides of the 31-32-63 total par. Each nine hole sequence more or less follows a clockwise circle, presenting a different wind direction from all points on the compass.

The strength of the golf course is in the eleven par-three holes. They vary in length from 143 to 224 yards, each completely unique. The shorter holes require pinpoint precision, the longer ones provide ample area to use the contours of the ground to run the ball to the hole.

Our favorite features on the course were part of an overall theme to encourage several different approach shot options with mounds, rolls, folds and kick-points. Depending on the pin placement and shifting wind directions, a 150 yard shot might require anything between a 9-iron and a 4-iron.

The fringes of the green are kept closely mowed on one side or another, so short hitters, women and seniors have few forced carries to contend with.

Despite the awful weather of late, the conditions were outstanding with firm fairways, manicured nearly perfect. The putting surfaces are smooth and consistent. In truth, it is a public course with better overall agronomy than the vast majority of the private clubs.

Unless you show up on a weekend morning, play moves along at a brisk pace. A gentleman I played with tells me you can walk up most afternoons with little or no waiting. We played on a Sunday afternoon and got around the course in about three hours. Dublin Ranch opened a year ago and word of its quality has not spread much further than the locals.

Our favorite holes included the 7th, a drop-shot from a terraced tee box to a green nestled at the bottom of a natural depression. In the distance are rolling hills with towering Mt. Diablo as the centerpiece. To the left a lonely Air Force station with a radar dish listening to the stars.

As Dublin Ranch is routed along a series of high ridges, there are expansive panoramas on nearly every hole. My only complaint was a series of garish tract houses on three holes crowding the fringes of my photos with the requisite tiny backyards, enclosed with ugly green iron fences.

We also liked the ninth hole, a par-4 that slides around a corner bunker to a firm green fronted by a steep ramp. The putting surface is divided into sections, altering the strategy of where to land the approach shot with every move of the pin.

Normally, long par-3's can be a slog with no personality. Knott did a superb job with the 224 yard 15th by constructing a sprawling putting surface with 40 yards in front to chase the ball onto the green. At Dublin Ranch, the holes that look difficult can be parred with nothing more than a decent swing and a little brains.

By contrast, for the overly aggressive, trouble lurks. The phrase "deceptively easy" is an apt description of the 17th - a 143 yard par- 3 that looks to be little more than a long pitch. Yet the wind swirls, and the narrow and wide putting surface guarded front and left lures you towards a steep fall-off. The smart play is to the bailout area hidden on the right, that kicks the ball onto the green.

At Dublin Ranch you must look hard and think carefully. The par-5 18th hole might be the most intricate, strategic and downright clever finishing hole in the Bay Area. At 521 yards, the fairway splits into two landing areas, divided by a grassy wall. The left side is an easier target and carry, but confronts players with a blind second shot over a bunker. Staying left also leaves a maddening uphill third over yawning bunkers with the green falling away.

Staying to the right off the tee has its own set of problems, including an uphill carry and a hungry bunker that must be carried on the second.

However, two good shots that reach the optimal landing area are rewarded with an inviting pitch to a wide-open target.

For apres golf, the clubhouse facilities and hilltop view are first cabin.
Fees run from $47 to $65, Twilight rates (3PM) from $35 to $48. A replay is only $35 and there are special rates for Juniors and Seniors. Phone 925-556-7040 Ext#2, or look them up on the web at


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