Although the sport of golf has waned somewhat in popularity in recent years and a course or two in the region has struggled to stay in business, Sonoma County’s golf scene is still seeing strong activity. Golfers are attracted to the affordable green fees here, as compared to most of the Bay Area, and to those endless fairways surrounded by dazzling coastal vistas and oak-studded hillsides.
Sonoma County’s mild climate makes for playable golf weather in nearly every week of the year on 14 long-established, well-maintained courses throughout the region, from the town of Sonoma to Santa Rosa, from Windsor to the coast. Among the wide variety of clubs, some offer tough challenges for the low-handicap, serious player, while most tracks are enjoyable for the average golfer, and some are good choices for beginners and kids.
Oakmont Golf Club in the Sonoma Valley sports two 18-holers: the 6,300-yard, championship West Course and the executive-length East Course. Anchoring the complex is the Quail Inn bar and restaurant with huge views of the fairways and the wall of Mayacmas Mountains, a panorama so impressive that many weddings and parties are held here. The pro shop overlooks a double- ended grass practice range and two putting greens, and offers instruction by PGA pros, from junior camps to clinics and private lessons.
You can play a round in a couple of hours on the East Course, one of the prettiest and most easily playable tracks in the county, where the deer roam beneath the old oaks and the willows and waterfowl paddle in the ponds. Smart players on the longer West Course aim for the center of the wide fairways, the better approach to those notoriously small greens.
A few miles west, on the southeast side of Santa Rosa, Matanzas Creek winds beneath oaks, redwoods and pines on Bennett Valley Golf Course, a 6,500-yard, city-operated course. PGA pros teach kids, teens and adults on the grass-teed driving range and practice putting green, offer private sessions and NIKE golf camps for ages 5 to 10 and adult clinics, including high-tech video and swing analysis. Open seven days a week, Legends is a lively sports bar and grill with big TVs, popular happy hours and live music on the patio on Friday nights all summer.
On the busy summertime schedule at Rohnert Park-based, city-owned Foxtail Golf Club are full-day golf camps for ages 10 to 15; PGA Junior League for ages 13 and under; and skills clinics for all ages. After warming up on the driving range and the chipping and putting practice areas, players head for the generous fairways and big greens of the South Course, while those seeking a tougher test play the 6,851-yard North Course, which was recently upgraded with new tees and bunkers and drainage improvement. An Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, the club closely monitors wildlife habitat for its resident waterfowl and birds.
Wrapped with vineyards on the outskirts of Petaluma, on gently rolling terrain, Rooster Run Golf Club is famous for six lakes, ball-drowning creeks and an island green, plus dozens of willows, cottonwoods and oaks. In spite of the multiple water features and a reputation for windy days, the top-notch drainage on fairways and greens makes for good playing conditions all winter. From the adjacent airport, vintage aircraft come and go over the 7,000-yard track, which is complete with two putting greens, a short game area with a sand bunker and a grass-tee driving range. Twilight and super-twilight super- affordable green fees are offered late in the day, when breezes have died down and summer evenings are long. Kids under 18 play for $10 anytime.
If You Play
All Sonoma County golf courses ask you to wear soft-spike golf shoes, although many junior and beginner players get away with low-top athletic shoes with tread. Push carts and power carts are available for rent at all of the clubs, with exceptions noted below; a bucket of balls for the practice range may be $4-$10. Allow 4.25 to 4.5 hours for an 18-hole round, and half that for 9 holes. Green fees vary as to time of day and day of the week, with highest rates on weekends; ask about late-afternoon “twilight” rates and resident rates. Fees for junior and senior golfers are lower, and most clubs offer annual memberships that include discounted rates. The green fee for the guest of a private club member varies with the type of membership. Fees noted below are for 18 holes.
Oakmont Golf Club
707-539-0415, www.oakmontgc.com. East Course $20-$54; West Course $20-$70.
Bennett Valley Golf Course
707-528-3673, www.bennettvalleygolf.com. $30-$43.
Foxtail Golf Club
707-584-7766, www.playfoxtail.com. North Course $44-$70; South Course $31 (rates include power cart).
Rooster Run Golf Club
707-778-1211, www.roosterrun.com. $33-$60.
Windsor Golf Club
707-838-7888, www.windsorgolf.com. $36-$59.
Links at Bodega Harbour
707-875-3538, www.bodegaharbourgolf.com. $60-$90 including power cart.
The Sea Ranch Golf Links
707-785-2468, www.searanchgolf.com. $57-$67.
Northwood Golf Club
707-865-1116, www.northwoodgolf.com. $37-$45.
Healdsburg Golf Club
707-433-4275, www.healdsburggolfclub.com. $22-$29.
Fairgrounds Golf Course
707-284-3520, www.fairgroundsgolfcourse.com. $18-$20 (push carts only to rent).
Fountaingrove Golf Club Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club
Mayacama Golf Club
707-569-2900, www.mayacama.com. No power carts; caddies required before 2 p.m.
Sonoma Golf Club
707-939-4100, www.sonomagolfclub.com. $225 for guests at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.