“Please don’t hit the deer” was all I could manage to mutter from the tee pad, hovering over my ball contemplatively.
“Should I just wait for them to cross?”
“Doesn’t look like they’re in any kind of hurry.”
“They’re eating the rough there.”
“Just aim left a ways.”
“They’ll move on, just give ‘em a second.”
Imagine a place where herds of deer and golfers coexist peacefully in a serene Sierra meadow alongside the Feather River, surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
Safe to say, I saw more deer in one round of golf that day at Graeagle Meadows Golf Course than at every other course I’ve ever played combined — and no, no deer were harmed during our round. It makes sense, so many of them being out here: deer live to eat the good grass and golf courses are in the business of growing the best stuff there is. Imagine a place where herds of deer and golfers coexist peacefully in a serene Sierra meadow alongside the Feather River, surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
18 holes | Par 72
Yardage | 5,589 to 6,725
Slope | 123 to 125
Ratings | 69.3 to 71.3
All right, I think I ran off on a tangent there, the deer clearly made a lasting impression. Anyhow, wide-open fairways (narrowing as play goes on), stunning views around every bend, meticulously maintained multiple-tiered greens and a high-caliber layout worthy of championship status without the crowds is only a fraction of the goodness you’ll find at this gem of a golf club.
It was a good long while until golf came to Sierra Valley; started out with the usual suspects of industry ‘round the Sierra: lots of lumber and gold. Gold was discovered on Eureka Peak in the fall of 1850, bringing heaps of new folks and mining outfits from all across the globe into the valley. The nearby town of Johnsville was established shortly thereafter, where around 65 miles of tunnels were excavated and over $8 million of gold was processed. Graeagle came to fruition in 1916, supported mainly by the lumber company and box factory, which manufactured boxes in which fruits and vegetables were shipped.
In the late 1950s, gold fever was long gone and both the box and lumber companies had shut down; Graeagle was nearly abandoned. That is until the late Harvey West Jr. purchased the town from the California Fruit Exchange and relocated his family, with the vision of revitalizing the place. West loved the game of golf and in 1968, he contracted golf architect Ellis Van Gorder and began construction on a new course, the first 18-hole design in the area. Nine holes were completed by 1969 and the full 18 were done in 1970. The course became an instant staple of the community and has remained so to this day.
The playing field is generally fair and scorable, with moderately large greens and properly manicured grass tee to green. Hole 6 is as fun of a hole as it is easy on the eyes. Teeing off the hilltop, drastically downhill, 386 holes from the back tees to the cup, right into a backdrop of the towering Eureka Peak. Miss the large fairway bunker and you’re golden grams; land in the sand and you’ve got a project on your hands.
Next time you’re anywhere near the Sierra Valley, be sure to bring along the clubs and checkout this historical wonder of a golf facility. It is one you won’t want to miss. There’s a spacious clubhouse with pro shop, bar and restaurant onsite, as well as a large driving range and putting/chipping area. | (530) 836-2323, graeaglemeadows.com