I first heard about Roddy Ranch from my good friend and golf course architecture buff, John Sheehan. "You have to play it," he used to say. My only regret is that I didn't take his advice, sooner. This is certainly one of the best new public courses in the San Francisco Bay area.
World Champion steer wrestler and all-around cowboy Jack Roddy built the course on sprawling ranch land he has owned since the 1970's. It runs up and down hillsides and into valleys. There are no homes. You'll feel as if you're on top of the county. The turf is in immaculate condition, drains well and runs hard and fast. Roddy Ranch will demand every club in your bag, including the pitch-and-run. Every bunker has a place and a purpose, creating risks and rewards on most holes.
Roddy's 511 yard, par five, 1st, combines generosity with temptation. Aim just right of a tree on the left side of the fairway, and then make a decision. Long hitters might reach the green in two. Otherwise, play around a mid-fairway bunker to the left side. The green opens from there.
For first-timers, Roddy's Par three, 159 yard 3rd, may be a bit puzzling. It's all downhill. Use one club less. Large, deep bunkers guard the right side, and a hill guards the left. When the pin is back, expect your shot to kick right, and down to the hole.
No matter how well you play, nobody owns Roddy's par four, 428 yard 4th. This is the number one handicap; a dogleg right, forced by an array of bunkers in the middle of the fairway. The more you challenge them, the more you can cut off to the right, and the shorter your approach. Your second shot will be uphill, so the position of that drive will be crucial.
We've always been big fans of the 571 yard, par five 6th. This hole plays downhill from an elevated tee box, into a valley, and then up to the green. Consider a long iron or fairway wood off the tee. Your best route to the green requires flying a line of bunkers with your second shot. Or, play short, and carry a right, greenside bunker, but to a shallower target. Your choice.
Now to the back nine, and the 537 yard, par five 10th, a modified cape hole due to water along much of the left side. If it scares you, play away from it. The fairway slopes. Upon landing, your ball will bounce left, and trickle into a decent lie. But, if you're bold, fly as much water as you dare. You might even reach this elevated green in two.
The 419 yard, par four 12th is among the most beautiful holes on the course. You'll tee from a ridge, into a fairway that sweeps down, right, and up to the green. Short hitters will prefer the left side, along line of fairway bunkers. The green opens from there. Boomers should swing away, because this hole plays downwind. If you can carry the right-side cross bunker, your ball will kick off the slope, leaving a shorter shot into the green.
The par four, 420 yard, 6th is the number two handicap, and a perfect strategic design. Again, you'll hit from an elevated tee, this time into a beautifully framed canyon-like chute. Hit your ball far enough, and it will crest a ridge, creating extra distance. Ideally, put your drive down the left side, challenging a fairway bunker for an open approach to the green. Be careful, however, because that green has a sloping, false front, so land your ball in the middle. And watch your speed on any downhill putts.
You'll finish with the 494 yard, par five, 18th. This slight, dogleg left is a bit of a mystery. Play your tee shot right, because upon landing, it will kick left. If you dare, and the pin is to the right or the middle, try to reach this green in two, but you'll need to be strong. Your shot will have to carry bunkers, and also a yawning, grassy, uphill swale. For a safer play, hit your second shot to the right side. This will give you an opening to a bisected green that slopes in opposite directions. The front goes to the front, and the back to the back.
For other golfing options in the Antioch or Brentwood, check out Shadow Lakes, just down the road. Between those two courses, the area could easily become a golfing mecca.