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Zinfandel No. 2 PHOTO: JOANN DOST

Rees Jones should just carry around a pager. Since 1988, the man known as the U.S. Open Doctor has

been on-call for major championship renovations. Jones has remodeled seven U.S. Open venues, six PGA Championship courses, and the layouts of four Ryder Cups, two Walker Cups and a Presidents Cup. Then again, the Northern California Golf Association has always known how to reach the Jones family.


he NCGA hosts the majority of its championships at Robert Trent Jones-jewel Spyglass Hill GC, which was built in 1966. The NCGA then established Poppy

Hills GC in 1986 by enlisting the help of Robert Trent Jones Jr. And 10 years after that, the NCGA opened a second golf course, leaving the cozy confi nes of Pebble Beach to build the Rees Jones-designed Poppy Ridge GC in sun-drenched Livermore. “It was an opportunity to build some-

thing different,” Rees Jones told NCGA Golf shortly after the project. “Dad had the dunes at Spyglass Hill, (my brother) Bobby had the woods at Poppy Hills and I had the open site at Poppy Ridge. So it gave the NCGA an opportunity to have a different style golf course.” Three nines as distinct as the grape

varietals they are named after—Merlot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel—sweep through 3,000 acres of the toasted, savannah-covered hills that roll through Livermore Valley wine country.

“It was a rugged piece of property,” said Rees Jones, who also renovated Lake Merced GC and Monterey Pen- insula CC’s Dunes Course in Northern California. “It had fantastic views.” But just one tree—a valley oak near the eighth hole of the Chardonnay nine. “When you don’t have trees, you

need something to defi ne the shots,” Rees Jones said. “You do that with con- trasts of grasses. That’s really what the links look is all about, the brown hues

Porter’s Restaurant

This dish is one of executive chef Raymond Evernham’s specials: fresh local Petrole Sole Dole’ with a caper lemon smoked paprika sauce over green chili rice and sautéed vegetables. PRICE: $13.95

versus the green. The native grasses were out there already, so we just incor- porated what was natural, as my father and brother did on their sites.” The fairways and greens pop from

their golden surroundings, and vine- yards just beyond the property provide a beautiful backdrop that can feel almost endless. That lack of perspective is also why the bunkers on all three nines appear larger than life. “A lot of Rees Jones’ courses are go-

ing to have many small bunkers, which was originally the plan out here,” said John Ball, Poppy Ridge’s superinten- dent. “But because of the scale of this property, and the vistas, he built many large bunkers. “If you’ve got a huge vista and a couple of little bunkers, it doesn’t do a whole lot for you.” When the 27-hole facility was

built, there was actually more acre- age in bunkers than greens. That has since evened out, thanks to an ongoing bunker project that will replace all the greenside sand by next year. Merlot was fi xed up last year, Chardonnay is nearly complete, and Zinfandel will be worked on in 2014. “We’ve vastly reduced the size of a

lot of greenside bunkers that were out here,” Ball said.

The immaculate greens are the high-

light of all three nines, as the Poa annua and bent grass mix putts as smooth as glass. The greens, which average about

SUMMER 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 21

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