Sacramento's 'best'

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Rumsey Band develops nature-inspired golf destination

BROOKS, Calif. - Since its grand opening Jan. 2, the Yocha-De-He Golf Club has quickly become a destination golf course in the northern California region. Operated by the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians, the course is being described by golf experts and visitors alike as the ''best'' in the area.

''It's by far the best public access golf course in the Sacramento market,'' said Daniel Kane, the director of the course. ''There really is no competition in this market for us - we're so unique compared to what's out here.''

Yocha-De-He means ''spring camp'' or ''spring home'' in the Wintun language, and the scenic site of the course was home to the Rumsey Band's traditional spring camp for hundreds of years. According to tribal history, bands of Wintun people lived along the waters of Cache Creek for thousands of years before non-Indians came along.

The Yocha-De-He Golf Club covers close to 165 acres and is nestled in the secluded Capay Valley about a half-mile from Cache Creek Casino Resort, which is also owned by the tribe. The course offers pristine playing conditions and more than 7,300 yards of championship 18-hole golf; it is managed by Troon Golf, a leader in upscale golf course management.

Amenities include a unique driving range spreading out into the valley hillside, practice putting greens, a hospitality cart and a golfer's comfort station. A 16,000-square-foot clubhouse and restaurant are under construction and should be completed by fall.

A top goal at Yocha-De-He is to ensure that golfers maximize the enjoyment of their round while playing the course. That's why tee times are set at 15-minute intervals, rather than seven- or eight-minute intervals like many other courses. Planners said the timing ensures that golfers won't feel pushed or pressured during their round by other golfers.

''I want to make sure everyone has a great experience,'' Kane said in a press release. ''Golfing Yocha-De-He is more about the experience than anything else.''

Brad Bell, a premier California-based golf course designer who conceptualized Yocha-De-He, said that one of the course's most remarkable features is the natural, majestic setting of its first tee. Set on a 170-foot-high cliff with the hole 460 yards down in the valley, the tee offers an awe-inspiring view that spans the entire valley.

''I wanted it to be something that you don't see every day on your home golf course,'' said Bell, a PGA Tour veteran who's played in two U.S. Open tournaments. ''The setting is quite idyllic. It's a pure golf experience.''

The course offers challenges for any level of golfer.

''I worked hard on keeping it fun and playable,'' he continued. ''The overall experience of being out there is incredible.''

Officials wouldn't give a specific figure on how much it cost to build Yocha-De-He, but they said many millions of dollars would be an appropriate estimate.

Bell hasn't worked with other tribes on developing courses to date, but said the Wintun Band was easy to work with and placed a lot of trust in him. He said tribes should expect to spend upwards of $10 million to be able to offer courses of Yocha-De-He's stature.

The multimillion-dollar golf course is just the latest development that tribal officials hope will attract visitors to its casino and resort offerings. From its humble beginnings as a bingo hall in 1985, Cache Creek currently features more than 3,000 slot machines and 142 table games, including a 28-table poker room. The 415,000-square-foot property also includes a 200-room luxury hotel and health spa, eight restaurants, an expansive entertainment venue, outdoor swimming pool, casino gift shop, and a tribally operated gas station, convenience store and fire station. The tribe is currently exploring a $400 million expansion to its casino.

Passage of Proposition 1A by California voters in 2000 allowed the tribe to create its first casino-focused developments. The tribe is now completely independent of U.S. government aid and is a generous contributor to local, state, national and international causes.

Tribal officials believe Yocha-De-He is another way to diversify the tribe's growing economy. Planners hope the golf course will attract corporate events from a national market as well as collegiate events and professional tours.

''The experience is great, especially from a service level, which begins with valet parking, and golf course staff will make contact with golfers six or seven times over the course of a round,'' Kane said in a release. ''They'll receive a five-star service level.''

Competition from other tribal casinos is not really an issue right now, developers said, since many tribes in the area don't have their sights set on golf courses yet.

With Yocha-De-He currently running at 90 to 95 percent occupancy, Kane said he can't wait for more visitors to come and experience Yocha-De-He for themselves.

''I'm really happy with how the numbers have turned out,'' he said in a release. ''We aim to show golfers that our course is the hidden gem in northern California.''

Green fees are $85 for 18 holes, a cart and access to the driving range. Tee times are available Wednesday through Sunday, with times dependent on daylight hours and weather.