The Golf Club at Rio Vista

January 14, 2008 2:29:22 PM PST
There aren't many courses in northern California where you can play all day for one green fee, but this is one of them. We visited Rio Vista on a Wednesday, and played thirty-six holes. When we left, we still had time to kill, and cash in our pockets.

This undulating, but walk-able course is about an hour from San Francisco, in Solano county. It sits amidst farmland, a retirement community, and beneath the continually circling jumbo jets of Travis Air Force Base, which can make for fairly good plane watching. In spring and summer, the wind blows fiercely. Patience and the ability to hit a good knock-down shot will help.

Ted Robinson's design is respectable, although not superlative. It winds through rustic areas, but also subdivisions. You'll face tight tee shots, plenty of out of bounds, fly your ball around and over water hazards, and deal with forced carries.

The course has four sets of tees, with noticeable differences between them. From the tips (73.6/131/6800 yards), Rio Vista can easily beat you up, even on calm days. Two of the par 3's are well in excess of 200 yards, and the other two are close. The white tees (71.9/124/6393 yards), offer more fun, and remain challenging in all but the most extreme conditions.

The pace of play impressed us. Many club members appeared to be retirees who didn't dawdle while zooming their golf carts around the course. My group consisted of reasonably fast players (3-3.5 hours), but we couldn't shake the regulars. Once they finished, we had the course to ourselves, a relative luxury in these crowded times.

The conditions that day could have been better, however. We hear that Rio Vista runs hard and fast in the summer, but it didn't the day we played due, in part, to light rain the night before. The rough was manageable. The fairways remained firm and provided good lies. The greens, however, played bumpy and slow. The holes looked small and a bit grown in, as if the grounds crew had not cut new ones for a couple of days. Maybe they hadn't, due to the weather.

Additionally, we found Rio Vista's sand traps to be inconsistent, due to poor drainage. Again, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt because of the weather.

No matter what the state of your game, you may take solace in the fact that Rio Vista's bar pours reasonably stiff drinks and provides cheerful, prompt service. The menu offers good variety.


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