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Wine Country Winner
Challenge and Value: Foxtail’s New North Course
is a rare Bay Area breed

Fairways & Greens Magazine
April 2003, Volume 6, Number 3

Out from the Shadows
A complete overhaul makes FOXTAIL GOLF CLUB’S NORTH COURSE the most handsome public golfing venue in Sonoma County

By Vic Williams

It’s amazing what a little $3 million investment will do for a golf course when it’s secured by a progressive management company, doled out by a committed public entity and put into action by the steady, practiced hands of a top-notch architect and course superintendent.

Amazing indeed … and very good news for thousands of public golfers in Sonoma County who have longed for – and deserved – an affordable track that’s engaging enough to bring them back for more.

Foxtail Golf Club’s new North Course in Rohnert Park, a John Daly drive east of Highway 101 and 45 minutes north of the Golden Gate, is just such a track. People who remember the old Mountain Shadows North Course (Redwoods) as a fairly flat, featureless stroll through a housing development are in for a delicious shock when it reopens in early May. Golfers will recognize the setting and routing, but beyond that, it’s a whole new world out there among the redwoods and wetlands.

After negotiating a long-term contract with the city of Rohnert Park, Petaluma-based management firm CourseCo convinced officials that to stay competitive in the tough North Bay market, a big change – and sizable chunk of change – was the perfect prescription for curing Mountain Shadow’s cosmetic woes and long-in-tooth look. They hired architect Gary Linn, former point man for Robert Trent Jones Jr. (see sidebar), to oversee the two-tiered project: A few strategic improvements on the 34-year old South Course, which were completed last year, followed by a down-to-the-bones reconstruction of the North Course, which originally opened in nine-hole stages from 1978 to 1980.

“Were excited, because from a public golf [standpoint], we think the North Course will be one of the finest courses in the area,” says John Thielade, Foxtail’s director of golf-general manager.
In the past, golf course improvements could not get past the planning because of financial obstacles.
“CourseCo came in and presented to the city of Rohnert Park an improvement plan that addressed the needs of both the South and North courses, along with a fee structure that was necessary to meet the financial obligations,” Thielade adds. “And they agreed to it.”
While the North Course’s greens fees will increase slightly to help offset the cost, they’re still reasonable – unbelievable, actually, for a track of this quality.

“Our rates will be $32 weekdays, $36 Friday, $48 on the weekends,” Thielade says. “Our philosophy is to provide quality golf coupled with outstanding customer service for a fair price. In return, this allows Foxtail to build strong, lasting relationships through enhancing the golf experience.”

Foxtail Golf Club joins an ever-growing family of CourseCo-operated properties – at last count, 13 Northern California golf courses including Valley Oaks in Visalia, Los Lagos in San Jose and the new Metropolitan Golf Links – formerly the Lew Galbraith Golf Course, which reopens April 16th in the East Bay lowlands halfway between Alameda and Monarch Bay.

Metropolitan promises to give Bay Area golfers it’s own brand of “links” charm, but Foxtail’s North Course will be a CourseCo standard-bearer for years to come – with the potential to give Rohnert Park a quick and lasting return on it’s investment. It’s that good.

“Gary Linn did a wonderful job, far beyond my expectations,” Thielade says. “And Dick Rudolph, our golf course superintendent was very much involved with both the South and North course projects.”

“I’m lucky to have found an owner and management company who found the money to rebuild it,” Rudolph adds. “My predecessors struggled to drain the course and didn’t have the financing to repair the irrigation system.
“As a superintendent, to have the ability to rebuild and develop a product that will be very competitive in the market as an upper-end public facility…it’s very rewarding to see the change.”

Likewise for past players and new golfers fortunate enough to secure a tee time on the North Course. Thank’s to Linn’s expert shapers and Rudolph’s crack maintenance crew – led by his top assistant, Deepak Lal, a 22-year on-site vet who “knows everything about the property and was critical in doing the project right” – Golfers will be rewarded with clearer drive strategies off every tee, beautifully contoured cuts from rough to fairway, seven completely new greens and artfully blended bunkering. Additionally, they’ll share the North Course’s acreage with a steady parade of critters, from deer to wood ducks. Part of Foxtail’s master plan is to follow strict environmental guidelines and eventually earn Signature status from the National Audubon Society.

“We’re converting 22 acres of former rough to meadow areas – tall grass areas out of play,” Rudolph says. “That will give the course a totally different appearance from before and reduce our irrigation, fertilization and mowing. It will also give us more habitat for wildlife.”

These meadows transition into water hazards on at least a third of the North Course’s holes and are in strong evidence on the back nine. Nos. 10 and 18 share a lake that has been reduced in size from the old design, making the finishing hole much more user-friendly for higher handicappers.

On a handsome horseshoe of holes that comprise the strategic heart of the course – Nos. 12 through 15 – water is very prominent. No. 15 is the toughest par 3 on either course, with water and wetlands caressing the right edge of the green and ample but not generous bailout to the left. When the southwest breeze blows in from the ocean a couple of mountain ranges away, it will determine whether the homestretch (including the tough par-4 No. 17) is a victory walk or a stop-the-bleeding proposition.

All in all, Linn says the North Course is “Subtler and more complex, but not necessarily more difficult. There will be more tees to suit all levels of skill, and comprehensive drainage and irrigation changes will assure quality conditions.”

Other cosmetic and structural improvements seal the deal for Rudolph. “Cart paths went to eight-foot widths,” he says. “We’ve got three bridges crossing Coleman Creek; before we had dip sections in the cart path and had to close the course when it rained. Now we can keep Foxtail open in inclement weather.”

Just another reason why investing a cool $3 million in the North Course was a hot idea. And off-course improvements are taking shape, too. A new bar-snack area will give golfers their own pre- or post-round space.

Sounds like CourseCo and the city of Rohnert Park have their hearts – and wallets – in the right place. And Foxtail Golf Club is the right place for value-minded Bay Area golfers, as well.

Foxtail Golf Club

100 Golf Course Drive, Rohnert Park, CA 94928
INFO: (707) 584-7766,
DIRECTIONS: From San Francisco or Marin County, take U.S. 101 north to Rohnert Park-Golf Course Drive exit. Bear right to course entrance.
COURSES: North Course: 6,881 yards, par 72
South Course: 6,502, par 71
DESIGNERS: North Course: Original layout by Gary Roger Baird (1978-80); reconstructed by Gary Linn of Knott-Brooks-Linn design (2003)
South Course: Bob Baldock (1963); updated by Gary Linn (2002)


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Knott & Linn Golf Design Group, LLC
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Photography Courtesy of John & Jeannine Henebry

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