Opened for play at the start of the new millennium, the 18-hole layout at Winchester Country Club in Meadow Vista is one of only seven golf courses ever co-produced by the father-son design partnership of Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr.
It’s a densely forested, hilly course that’s laid out in the Sierra Nevada foothills above Sacramento, where streams, elevation changes and granite outcroppings are all incorporated into the layout.
“One of our challenges at Winchester was to design natural golf holes on an occasionally steep site, while creating a golf course worthy of its dramatic setting,” commented Robert Trent Jones Jr. on his website. “As one solution, we built rock retaining walls that helped bolster certain areas of play and simultaneously added an aesthetic element to the landscape.
Another challenge was to seamlessly integrate the course with 385 home sites ranging from one to six acres. The result is a natural golf course where the environment dominates – evidenced by the deer and other wildlife that visit and reside there.
Winchester plays through three distinct topographies, starting out in steep woodlands, emerging into rolling prairies, and winding amid natural rock outcroppings. It encompasses several crossings over wetlands and ravines and requires shots shaped around towering evergreens.”
A number of years ago I was provided a tip from a golf writer in the Sacramento area who wondered why so much of my golf travels featured courses just within the major metro areas of the State but neglected the State Capital area.
I said to him I would certainly do so and after a number of times playing the wide assortment of courses in the immediate area it amazes me how my original ignorance is like a pandemic with so many others to simply stay away.
Winchester is blessed with a quality side. Although RTJ, Sr. is mentioned in tandem with his son RTJ, Jr -- the overall sum total of the design is more aligned with the son's presentation style.
The facility did reach a zenith when Golf Digest had the course as high as 13th in the State but for whatever reason which I cannot fathom the course has simply fallen off the radar screen.
The foothills of the Sierras is quite a location to behold. Yes, there is housing sprinkled about but the land plan, to its immense credit, did not go via overloading to the point of a constant bombardment and intrusive nature.
The bunkering and greensites are quite good -- constantly changing and eschewing the sameness that RTJ, Sr. was wont to do with many of his later designs.
There are numerous rock outcroppings that provide an ideal frame and can insert themselves at various times strategically in the round.
I recently reviewed Golf Digest's best State listing for California and laughed out loud when I saw a few layouts listed that are clearly below the level of Winchester.
The sad reality is that the immediate Sacramento area resides in the shadows for many who should know better when assessing the sum total of California golf. Winchester is a winner.
M. James Ward