Last updateMon, 23 Oct 2017 3pm


Old-time Santa Cruz golf course softened a bit, improved at DeLaveaga

This is the sixth in a series of articles reviewing the top 20 public golf courses within easy reach of Los Altos.

If you are looking for a shorter course – only 6,000 yards from the tips – one that's in good condition and offers plenty of challenge, DeLaveaga Golf and Lodge is No. 15 on Dawson's list of nearby courses and probably the best of those at this length.

Its strategy is to make up for lack of distance with plenty of hazards. Much of the trouble used to come from firm fairways and crowned roughs that allowed well-hit balls to roll into deep ravines and barrancas. Recent maintenance and design changes added more frequent watering to the course and some changes to the greens. The results are softer turf and fairer hole positioning, making the course more playable for those who want a little relaxation on their weekly escape to the links.

Don't worry, plenty of danger still lurks, but it's not from bad rolls, just from narrow fairways well guarded by plenty of trees. For example, No. 10 is a 590-yard par 5 with a tiny drive landing area bordered by trees, a creek and a road. The next shot needs to clear a ravine and stop quickly before heading out of bounds. Finally, bunkers and a creek surround the elevated green. This is one of the toughest par 5s in the South Bay.

Another hole, No. 14, has a tree limb hanging so low in front of the blue tee-box that players need to be careful to hit the drive underneath it. The par 3s here are not long, but they often require crossing deep gullies to elevated greens. Forget about shots having level lies anywhere on the course – they are few and far between.

DeLaveaga, constructed in 1970, was named for the family that donated the land to the city of Santa Cruz. The city still operates it and, given water restrictions and low maintenance budgets, has a fine resource in its parklike setting. The greens were in outstanding condition last summer – holding shots well, beautifully groomed and with plenty of character, rivaling nearby Pasatiempo Golf Club in quality.

Despite recent improvements, the fairways still have many dry spots. They are kept so closely cut that the ball "sits down" without much grass underneath it. The resulting "tight" lies are difficult for most amateurs. Why does the course persist with this condition? Probably due to style, a water shortage and an outdated irrigation system.

For quality and interesting golf, DeLaveaga remains an excellent value. After you have either conquered the course due to its short distance, or succumbed to its hazards, try the DeLaveaga Golf Lodge, upstairs above the pro shop. It's popular with golfers and nongolfers alike. The food is great and meal portions are gargantuan. What better than a full stomach and a beer to celebrate a day overlooking Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay?

DeLaveaga Golf and Lodge is located at 401 Upper Park Road, Santa Cruz. Greens fees range from $43-$60 and cart fee is $36. Carts have access to fairways.

For more information, call (831) 423-7214 or visit www.delaveagagolf.com.

Longtime Los Altos resident Doug Dawson is a recently retired manufacturing business manager who is researching and writing a book, "Northern California's 100 Best Public and Resort Golf Courses."

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