If one were to boil Keith Foster’s golf course architectural career down to one niche, it might be his specialty for carrying out A.W. Tillinghast restorations. That said, Foster’s appreciation for the Golden Age architect has not necessarily been obvious in his own original designs (a statement on Foster’s originality, not a lack of quality). There are a few instances at Darkhorse Golf Club, located northeast of Sacramento, that show a tip of the hat to Tillie.
For one, as players conclude the first nine, they’ll notice the talon-like bunker clawing at the green...a style made famous at Bethpage Black and numerous other Tillinghast standbys. Two holes later, on the course’s longest par five, Foster creates his own version of the “Double Dogleg,” a concept that his icon wrote extensively about (and designed numerous examples of, as well).
Even if you’re not an architecture buff, you’ll quickly grasp the concept at nos. 2 and 14, short par fours that dare you to pull driver. The angel on your shoulder may point out that both feature sizable centerline bunkers, which may be safer to lay up in front of.
Keith foster did a wonderful job with darkhorse. He took a great piece of property and created 16 great holes. There are only 2 holes I would say leave it shot of a 4.5 or 5.
Darkhorse is golf focused. No club house, only a shack. Just a range, green, and course. More clubs need to do this.
The course used nearly every club in my bag, had elevation on some tees, a lack of purely flat lies, and large but interesting greens. The only holes I really don't like are 10 and 9. Just trying to slot the holes in a smaller part of land to make it work.
While it is a great challenge from the tips (+2 handicap here) its still fair for the regular player as landing areas are reasonable for shorter players.
Can't recommend dark horse enough.
Restoring of the conditions going on as we speak. Good spray programs and greens are amazingly pure bent grass. Almost no Poa sneaking into these greens and they roll amazing. This is one of the best kept tracks and challenging courses in all of Sacramento, highly recommend.
One of the more underrated architects is Keith Foster. His work has clearly showed first-rate results -- both on the private and public side. And he has done exemplary work in bringing back to life classic courses -- see Eastward Ho! as one great example and to a lesser extent his work at the old-time gem Apawamis in Westchester County, NY, to name just two.
Dark Horse has breathtaking terrain -- plenty of movement. The opening five holes are attention grabbers extraordinaire. There's movement in the terrain and a wonderful mixture of different length and par designations.
It amazes me how the greater Sacramento area is often forgotten by many people who come to the State and simply head to the major metro areas with LA, SF and SD leading the way.
Dark Horse is aptly named -- because so few pay attention. I guess -- out of sight can mean out of mind for those have not sampled the leading facilities in around the State's Capital.
Anyone making the trek via I-80 to/from the Bay Area and Reno should stop and see firsthand. Public golf in the Golden State is quite competitive and the Foster design is clearly one with plenty of punch and pizzazz.
M. James Ward