NCGA Golf

Winter 2018

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24 WINTER 2018 | NCGA.ORG Fast forward to early 2018 in Fair Oaks, and the scene could not be more different. Madison Avenue bustles with traffic and activity, a snapshot of American commer- cial suburbia—until you turn into the club and drive along a picturesque entrance road flanked by trees on both sides—a Northern California version of Magnolia Lane. This is the beauty and appeal of North Ridge, an oasis of serenity in a congested world. The club boasts a rich history dating to 1952, when William P. "Billy" Bell and his son, William F. Bell, designed the course. And now it steams toward a reshaped future, in the wake of a Robert Trent Jones Jr. renovation headed by senior project architect Mike Gorman. The $3.5 million redesign mostly was meant to give North Ridge modernized greens and repositioned bunkers. Gorman realized the course is set on an ex- ceptional piece of land, rolling hills with gentle elevation changes, so no dramatic work was necessary. Or, as general manager Rink Sanford put it in quoting Jones about the project, "They were look- ing at putting a new dress on a grand old lady." • • • • • Bell was selected as the course's original architect, in part, because he had previously designed layouts such as Stanford Golf Course, historic Tamarisk Country Club near Palm Springs (where Ben Hogan was the first head pro) and Del Rio Country Club in Modesto. But Bell died nearly a year after he started working on North Ridge, before construction began. His son already was involved in the project and took it over; he later would design Torrey Pines in San Diego, a future U.S. Open site. The Bells were prolific, with a long list of courses in California and the West to their credit. Their ties to North Ridge provide some cachet, and a connection to an earlier, golden era in golf. "For a private club, the history is huge," Sanford said. "It makes us stand out in the crowd. We have a saturated market, and I think that's one of the things that makes us special." All these years later, it's fitting for Gor- man to play such a central role in refurbish- ing the course. He grew up in Sacramento, played Ancil Hoffman Golf Course (another William F. Bell design) in his youth and occasionally partici- pated in high school tournaments at North Ridge in the early 1990s. Construction on the redesign began last April and stretched into November. North Ridge hopes to unveil its new greens for play in April 2018 (all holes currently have temporary greens), assuming Sacramento's winter weather cooperates. "It's a beautiful walking course with long, flowing terrain," Gor- man said. "It was always a treat to play in high school. In my mind, the strength of North Ridge is the routing. It's got great bones. "The direction we were given was that the greens had sort of deteriorated over time. They were push-up greens, with no sand layer, so they really took a beating in the winter." Two snapshots tell the story of North Ridge's rise from farmland to local treasure. Top: From October 1952, looking east; San Juan Avenue across foreground. Bottom: From April 2000, Madison Avenue along left side of photo, San Juan Avenue across bottom.

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