Stonetree Golf Course

January 1, 2008 2:01:51 PM PST
We criticized Stonetree in the past because of two impossible greens; the 7th and 14th, both of which required blind, uphill approaches into crowned, ridiculously canted slopes that rejected or ruined all but the most perfect shots.

No more.

After fielding numerous complaints in person, and in a survey via the internet, Stonetree has renovated those greens and also widened the par 5, 16th fairway. The course is still quite challenging, but it is now manageable and fun to play from your first shot to your last.

Stonetree, like a fine cigar or single malt scotch, maybe an acquired taste for some people. The course is strategic. This is not a course for newbies, despite several sets of tees. The wind cam blow. The greens are fast and tricky. With experience, a player should note where to land the ball in fairways to find ideal spots on the greens.

Stonetree's conditioning has always been excellent. In summer, it can run hard and fast. The course drains exceptionally well during winter. The clubhouse is beautiful. The service is excellent. The staff is friendly.

A good score depends on how you play holes 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, and 15. They leave little margin for error, and if you're seeing them for the first time, they may test your patience.

The 358/331/328, par 4, 7th, plays uphill from tee to green. From the middle tees, it requires a carry of 200 yards into pinched fairway with rising slopes on either side. You'll find a nice, flat, landing area just past a small tree crimping the fairway on the right side. The second shot on this hole used to be blind. Now, if players are far enough along in the fairway, they'll get a good look at the flag, and have the option of flying a ball in high, or punching it low. Either way, the green holds.

The 175/152/138 yard, par 3, 8th is a challenging par three from one hilltop, across a no-man's land, to a green on a second, lower hill. Use one club less, unless the wind is in your face. If so, play your normal shot for the distance. Note the flag position. The green slopes up to a point in the middle, then falls off to the back. This is a good hole.

The 430/408/388/324 yard, par 4, 9th, is a great hole--- a long, picturesque dogleg to the right from an elevated tee.. Water guards the inside corner and right side as you hit your drive. Try a high fade around the creek, if possible, but expect a shot of between 160 and 185 yards, or more, into the green. A lake runs alongside the left of the fairway for your second shot, but shouldn't be a factor. It took me five tries to make par on this hole?and then, it should have been a birdie. Very satisfying.

Beware the 316/302/260 yard, uphill 13th. If you hit a good drive and an accurate approach, this is an easy hole. But this is now the most severe of Stonetree's greens. If you land above the hole, you may find yourself revisiting the fairway.

The 491/472/431/400 yard, par 5, 14th, is much improved. From an elevated tee box, bunt a drive to the fairway below, then play up to the green. If you go for it in two, play your shot to the left side. If you lay back, plan on an uneven lie for your third shot, which is remains somewhat blind. The good news...if your ball lands on the green, it will probably remain there. The new green, while much flatter, remains challenging. I say that, having missed another four-footer for birdie.

The 460/430/406 yard, par 4, dogleg right 15th is another devilish test. From the tips, play your drive high on the left side and let it trickle down. The optimal landing area is a gravity-assisted, 300 yards away. But, that landing area is very small, and it is possible to line in another player's divot. If, instead, you lay back, you'll have a tricky shot of at least 180 yards. This is another very tough hole, but rewarding when you make par.

A word of warning: Stonetree does not have a driving range. Instead, you'll warm up by hitting from a mat into a net. If you can't feel how you're hitting the ball, you may be in for a long day.

Having visited Stonetree numerous times since it opened in 2000, I have enjoyed watching it evolve and improve. This is, by far, the classy trend-setter for public golf in Marin, and much of Sonoma Counties.