FALL 2017

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52 FALL 2017 | NCGA.ORG ing the 293-yard opening hole that bends left and introduces golfers to the distinctive landscape. Miss the fairway and you're going to be- come acquainted with some of the second-growth redwoods, many rising to the height of a 15-story building. "If you get around nine holes never touching a limb or a leaf, you have indeed done okay," says Maltbie. "It gets very narrow in spots." When Maltbie and his buddies play Northwood, the rules of their game man- date driver off every tee except the two par 3s (Nos. 3 and 8). Most golfers gear back on some holes. No one knows what Ken Venturi's club selection was in 1952, but according to Northwood head professional Vern Ayres, Venturi set the 18-hole course record (63) that year, when he played the course as a San Jose State student while visiting an uncle who lived nearby. Not only is Northwood a well-seasoned course, but so is its management. Ayres has been in his job since 1997. The superin- tendent, Ed Bale, and general manager, Gaylord Schaap, grew up as kids on the property during the 1960s, because their families had vacation homes near the course. "I learned to play golf out here, played baseball, rode my bike, traipsed all over the place in the dark," says Bale, who has been in his role since 1980. "We'd come up on winter weekends, too, and I would hang out with HomerWilliams, who maintained the course and worked in the shop for many years. He'd pay me to cut firewood for him. There was an old redwood log halfway up the hill behind nine green. I'd take an ax and take out big chunks of it and bring it back to Homer." Bale's fond boyhood memories not with - standing, by that point Northwood had en- dured a rocky history, its condition as dodgy as its finances. In 1970, a group including Dr. Don Bale and Dr. Charles Schaap— the fathers of Ed and Gaylord, respec- tively—purchased the course as it was being foreclosed. "We didn't really know it was an Alister MacKenzie design at that time—we dis- covered that a bit down the road," says Gay- lord Schaap. "They didn't buy it for that reason. They just wanted to preserve it as a golf course, and an asset for the commu- nity. Now, we bill it as the world's most affordable MacKenzie golf course." In addition to rebuilding the eighth green after it was destroyed during an epic 1986 flood, Bale has restored a smattering of bunkers at Northwood in MacKenzie's style, with what Whitten approvingly calls "a lot of capes and bays and flashed sand," on Nos. 1, 5, 7 and 8. The second-genera- tion owners would someday like to under- take a full restoration—but they are limited not only by budget, but the lack of docu- mentation on what the course looked like nearly 90 years ago. "You can clearly see MacKenzie's influ- ence there," Links says. "The holes are intimate and approachable, but the angle of attack matters. Targets are small and greens have good movement. You can see several bumps and hollows in the fairways, which makes you wonder if they were once sites for cloud-shaped bunkers. Man, I'd love to see an aerial of the course in the early 1930s." So would Schaap. "Most courses have some [detailed] plans that have been kept, but we don't," he says. "The previous own- ers probably didn't understand the value of those things, and they were likely put in a box and misplaced. Not necessarily intentionally, but it happened." Northwood attracts a blend of golfers, many unaware or unconcerned about its architectural heritage, but a minority who do so visit because of the MacKenzie ties. "Two gentlemen came all the way from Japan to play it," Bale says. "They told me they were going to the Monterey Peninsula the next day, but they came back to North- wood. That was pretty wonderful." Dr. Merton Goode of San Francisco, a former member of the USGA executive committee who played Northwood a cou- ple of years ago, doesn't associate it so much with an architect as an attitude. "I had such an enjoyable day there," Goode says. "It was such a throwback. The course seems old and untouched, a gift from another era." Bill Fields has covered golf since the 1980s, with much of his career spent at Golf World magazine as a writer and editor. Northwood, located on a bend of the R ussian River, ranks among the country's top nine-hole courses. Northwood Golf Club 19400 Highway 116, Monte Rio, Calif. (707) 865-1116 • Weekdays (Monday–Friday) Walking: 9 Holes $27; 18 Holes $37; After 5 p.m. $16 Riding: 9 Holes $35; 18 Holes $51; After 5 p.m. $24 Weekends (Saturday–Sunday and Holidays) Walking: 9 Holes $30; 18 Holes $45; After 5 p.m. $19 Riding: 9 Holes $38; 18 Holes $59; After 5 p.m. $27 Juniors: $10 Weekday/$15 Weekends/ Youth on Course $5 Rental Clubs: $15 per bag Open year-round

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