Kyle Phillips designed the course at Granite Bay Golf Club when he was the lead architect for Robert Trent Jones Jnr. Situated close to the western shores of Folsom Lake, half an hour’s drive from downtown Sacramento, the layout is sympathetically routed around a natural landscape of granite outcrops, mature oaks and sparkling lakes.
The 18-hole layout occupies land that was once the preserve of the Maidu tribe, who used it for cattle and sheep grazing. Purchased by Henry Moss in 1963, the property was then sold to real estate developer George Dunmore twenty years later. Shortly after, Mark Parsinen and another couple of investors became involved and the golf facility finally opened in 1994.
Highlight holes include the par three 3rd which is played across water from tee to green, the short par four 6th and the water-laden par four 9th. On the back nine, the 416-yard 16th is regarded as the signature hole on the card, with a narrow wetland area protecting the front of the green.
Great architecture often stems from first rate land. That is the initial story for the quality layout of Granite Bay. The other is the brilliance in creating an array of memorable holes that really cause the pulse rate to rise.
Kyle Phillips was the point person and his effort here clearly shows the rising trajectory that marks his career in golf design. Granite Bay is not overall produced -- where man's hands are so obvious that the inherent characteristics of the site are simply overridden by man's hubris.
Phillips works in a wide variety of shotmaking challenges and adroitly mandates the seamless blending of power and accuracy.
In my years of playing and assessing courses, I have come to fully appreciate when an architect is able to produce an effort without being so obvious in the "production" side of things. Granite Bay just oozes the kind of golf that seduces you faster and more complete than the Sirens did to fateful sailors from Greek mythology.
One of the more interesting elements about golf in the greater Sacramento area is the quality of land encountered. Granite Bay is clearly stellar but not far away is another effort jointly from RTJ, Sr. and RTF, Jr. called Winchester. Phillips also did a solo effort when starting out in his career - also in the immediate area -- with the riveting Morgan Creek.
I hope to return to the area for a round of golf if/when the PGA Championship is reschedule for the Bay Area which is just a short drive away.
Granite Bay gets far too little attention because so much of the emphasis rests on golf nearer to the metro areas of LA, SF and SD. If you happen to be traveling via I-80 be sure to stop and see firsthand the skills of an architect who knows how to place his fingerprints on a site but ever so careful in masking them so that the end product truly stands apart.
M. James Ward
Designed by the architect of Kingsbarns and the California Golf Club. Truly a great test that will have you using every club in the bag. The club's original motto was "Golf as it should be". Conceived as a caddied course it is walkable, with a few hills on the difficult back nine. I followed Peter Jacobsen several years ago and his comment was that it reminded him of Pine Valley.