The course – Golf where the crystal waters flow
The azure-blue Crystal Springs Reservoir that you can see sparkling in the sunshine as you drive down I-280 in Hillsborough is also the site of one of the Bay Area’s most unique golf courses. The first dam was built here in 1888 to create a reservoir, part of the San Francisco watershed, that fills a portion of the rift valley of the San Andreas Fault.
The course came later, in 1924, the design of William Herbert Fowler, a noted British golf architect who pioneered in designing courses that naturally followed the lay of the land as does Crystal Springs. Besides working on many famous courses in the British Isles, Fowler did golf designs on the East and West coasts of the United States.
Most of his basic design remains, although some holes were rerouted in the 80 years since the course was built. At 6,628 yards, this par-72 course offers you a true championship test with a slope of 124 from the back tees. But if you play from the middle or forward tees, you’ll find Crystal Springs manageable and enjoyable for all skill levels. Among the tests you will face are well-bunkered greens and rolling hillsides that will amaze you with their uneven lies. The course generally slopes downward toward the reservoir.
Over the past few years, we have greatly improved the drainage and irrigation on the course so that conditions are excellent and also friendly to the environment. We are known for our wildlife – 61 different kinds of birds, mule deer and bobcat are in abundance here. Watch for the red-tailed hawks, the American kestrel and the ever-present turkey vultures wheeling high overhead.
You’ll start your round with a par-4 that measures 386 yards from the back tees and 380 from the front. You’ll be taking a tee shot that bounces about 30 yards downhill to a fairway that slopes from left to right. “Some players will use a driver off the tee, but I usually hit a long iron,” said Steve Bratcher, general manager. “Aim left and your ball will roll quite a bit. There is a bunker about 10 to 20 yards short of the green which slopes from back to front and left to right.” Expect a long- to mid-iron shot into the green.
On the front nine, you’ll find our famous No. 6, one of the most popular holes on the course, according to Bratcher and Superintendent Tim Powers. It could well be one of the most beautiful golf holes in Northern California. Almost every week, wedding couples plight their troth in the gazebo overlooking the 6th. “There is a couple 100 feet of drop-off from tee to green,” said Powers. “You can see the reservoir and the water from here. It’s one of the highest points on the course.”
Whether you hit to the right or the left on this par-4 that plays at 427 yards from the back and 411 from the front, a good drive will take you over the ridge and roll for what seems like miles. Expect a difficult lie on the fairway once you get to your ball. The green, however, is relatively flat.
On No. 9, a par-4 that measures 452 yards from the back and 423 from the front, you’ll find out-of-bounds areas left and right make for a very tight tee shot, according to Bratcher. “The first shot and approach shot on this dogleg right are very difficult,” he said. You’ll want to hit your approach shot short of the pin.
You will reach the lower part of the course on the back nine and will find that the back is not as hilly as the front nine.
You’ll start out with an elevated tee shot to a dogleg left on the 10th, a par-4 that plays at 372 yards from the back and 325 from the front. “Big hitters can definitely cut the corner here and even short hitters can cut off a lot of distance,” said Bratcher. “But the green slopes away from you, and you have to judge your approach shot correctly to hit the green.”
On the 13th, you come to a short par-3 that requires a shot from an elevated tee box. The hole plays at 150 yards from the back and 144 from the front. “You usually need about one club less than usual,” said Bratcher. “It’s an easy par-3 that golfers can really take advantage of.”
The 15th is a short par-4 (317 yards from the back and 300 from the front) with trees left and right. You can hit driver here, but a wayward shot can put you into the trees.
No. 16 takes you to a short par-5 (468 yards from the back and 449 from the front) that Bratcher said is reachable in two for big hitters. “Even short hitters have a chance at it with a good drive and second shot,” he said. “It’s a dogleg right and you can cut the corner, although there are high trees there and you need height to get over them.”
Your finishing hole is a par-5 (528 yards from the back and 508 from the front) with a generous landing area. “A good drive gives you an opportunity to hit into the green,” Bratcher said. “The green has a slope from back to front so avoid going long.”
Distance, slope and rating: Championship tees, 6,628 yards (124/72.2); Middle tees, 6,212 yards (122/70.1); Forward tees, 5,580 yards (126/72.3)
To Book a Tee Time, click here, or call the Golf Shop at 650-342-0603.