Richmond Country Club

RCC'S 510 yard, par 5, 18th, finishes in full view of the clubhouse. After tight drive on this dogleg left, the green is one of the toughest on the course. (Wayne Freedman)
December 29, 2009 1:19:49 PM PST
Richmond may call itself a 'country club', but what's in a name? It's about the golf, the golf, the golf, and the golf. This classic parklands course has a rich history dating back to 1924. In the 1940's and 50's, it served as a PGA and LPGA tour stop. Sam Snead and Patty Berg both won tournaments there. Ms. Berg still holds the course record for women, with a 64 in 1952. George Archer holds the men's record, with a 63, shot in 1963. Clearly, the course is not getting any easier, but at least Richmond looks benign. You will rarely lose a ball, there. It's a wonderful walk and very pleasant place to play, but do not take the course lightly. First-timers rarely shoot their handicaps. When the round is finished, they scratch their heads, pondering, "What happened?"

The answer: they got Roberta Flacked. Her song, Killing Me Softly would make a fine anthem for the place.

Richmond is so challenging that it regularly hosts US Open qualifiers. Last year, none of the senior men broke par...this, on a course measuring 6555 yards from the tips, with just six fairway bunkers, and where water factors into only one hole, the 347 yard, par 4, 1st.

Richmond has tree-lined fairways, distance-sapping kikuyu grass, seasonally stiff winds, and small, swift, undulating bent grass greens, which were new as of spring, 2003. Those greens and subtle elevation changes from the fairways can whittle away at scores by a shot or even half a shot at a time. The course can bogey you to death. It matters where your ball lands in a fairway, because you will want optimal approach angles into greens that exact high prices from wrong positions.

If you can survive the first seven holes at Richmond, you may be in for a good day. They turn up, down, and around a large hill from which you can see San Francisco, the Golden Gate, and points to the northeast.

A few years ago we featured the par 3, 167 yard 3rd as one of the eighteen toughest holes in northern California. Members describe it as, "The easiest par five on the course." The hole plays uphill, sometimes through befuddling breezes, to a green defended by deep bunkers, a false front, and wicked placements. The fun on this hole begins after you land on the green. Never take par for granted, particularly when putting to a shallow pin from above the hole.

The par 4, 377 yard 6th, provides another early challenge. This hole doglegs right, down a hill into a small valley. Trees block the right side. A large bunker threatens the left. Play a high cut off the tee. Favor the left side of the horizontally, two-tiered green when making your approach. If putting from the right, or above the hole, you'll need all your skills and touch to lag near the cup.

After the difficult, downhill, par 3, 235 yard 7th, Richmond trends more toward the subtle than the overt. The 268/317/344/372 yard, par four, 8th, for instance, is straight-away, but has a slanting, two-tiered green, guarded by front bunkers right and left. Approach from the right side, and keep your ball below the hole.

Despite Richmond's allure and history, it is not ritzy, pretentious, or impossibly expensive to join. Membership fees are lower than most other private equity clubs in the bay area. It's all about the course, the grass driving range, the low-key lounge in the pro-shop, the nice meals in its dining room, and a liberal pouring policy from those fine ladies behind the bar.

The course is seven minutes by freeway, bridge, and parkway, from San Rafael, and half an hour from San Francisco. Radio personality Frank Dill is a member, along with former Giant Willie McGee, Jim Lange of Dating Game fame, and a certain television news reporter who also writes a Website at ABC7News.com. You'll find the heart of this club in its rich, multi-cultural membership of doctors, lawyers, mayors, police, contractors, and business people. All would tell you that Richmond is a golf club, not a country club.


Load Comments