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Courses We Love: Northwood Golf Club

Northwood Golf Club:

Course Review: Northwood Golf Course
Photo Credit: PJKoenig Golf Photography

There’s nothing we love more than a 9 hole gem and when you add in the design pedigree of Northwood’s architect, Dr. Alistair MacKenzie, and giant 400 year old redwoods, you have a truly special place to enjoy a good walk spoiled. Set on the Russin River in the heart of Sonoma wine country, the course was built in 1928 at the behest of Jack Neville, of Pebble Beach fame. Since the completion of the course there have been several owners and some difficult times. The property was foreclosed on in 1970 and it was then that the Northwood Recreation group bought the property out of foreclosure. Since then, the property has experienced a bit of a renaissance becoming well known in golf architecture forums across the country.

The little 9 holer, plays to 2,893 yards and a par of 36, but the challenge at Northwood is not the distance, but rather avoiding the large redwoods that the course plays amongst. Many of these trees are both beautiful and enormous and positioning your ball on one side of the fairway is a must to avoid being blocked out on many shots. However, one thing we can say is there is no experience like playing Northwood within the redwoods. The way the light flints magically through the trees creates a scene that can’t be found on any other course we have ever played. We would especially recommend an early morning round when the fog clears and the sun shines through the trees as the light does special things revealing the subtle ground contours.

The first hole is one of the few open tee shots and at 293 yards, this dogleg left provides a relatively easy start to the round. A long iron or hybrid to avoid the fairway bunkers will leave a wedge or short iron to the 1st green deep in the shadows of the redwoods. The green slopes pretty dramatically and is a preview of the genius of MacKenzie.

Photo Credit: PJKoenig Golf Photography

The 2nd hole is one of our favorites on the course. A modest length par 4 of 382 yards, the 2nd is completely surrounded by redwoods. The landing area is relatively wide, but in effect is much narrower as the redwoods begin to encroach on either side of the fairway as you get closer to the green. If you venture too far right, you’ll need to play a big slice to reach the putting surface. The green is best approached from the left side as the green features a large mound on the right and is a slight punchbowl. Find the putting surface and birdie is an option.

After the short par 3 3rd hole, the 4th is a sweeping dogleg right par 4 with out of bounds tight along the left side and several large trees encroaching on the right. A cut is needed off the tee to avoid a long second shot. The green is severely sloped back to front and with faster green speeds would be a nightmare being above the hole.

Photo Credit: Northwood Golf Club

The 5th hole is the first of two par 5s and a possible birdie hole at 469 yards. The drive needs to find the fairway as both sides are lined by tall redwoods. The green features a few MacKenzie style bunkers on the left and is well framed in the trees.

Photo Credit: PJKoenig Golf Photography

The 6th hole takes you back to the clubhouse and is a sharp dogleg right of about 280 yards. A huge cut could get you near the elevated green with grass bunkers on either side. The long narrow green slopes from back to front.

The 7th is one of our favorite holes on the course. A slight dogleg right of 381 yards to a well bunkered green set amongst the redwoods. Playing down the right will leave you to negotiate some trees blocking the entrance to the green, while the left side of the fairway leaves a much better angle. The green is narrow and avoiding the bunkers leaves a good chance for par.
Photo Credit: Northwood Golf Club

The 8th hole is a short 120 yard par 3 with a deep bunker to the left and several others right and long that must be avoided.

Finally, the 9th is a long narrow par 5 that requires some shaping of your ball to reach in two shots. The tee shot is narrow with out of bounds left and tall trees to the right. The second shot bends slightly back to the left and narrows with trees on either side that pinch in towards the green making accuracy a must to have a clear shot to the green. Making par here is a good score. When you’ve put out on 9, it’s time to walk back to the clubhouse and do it again!

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