Since 1931, Ukiah residents and visitors have enjoyed a beautiful 18-hole championship golf course, thought by many to one of the best public courses in Northern California. “This is our community golf course, and we’re very proud of that fact,” notes Frank Johnson, PGA Director of Golf for the Ukiah Valley Golf Course.
The first nine holes were built by the community and, through donations and volunteer labor, the back nine holes were added to the course in the 1970’s. Boasting a stunning location tucked into Ukiah’s western hills, the undulating course provides interest and challenge to players. The rural course is home to a number of stately oaks, redwoods and some local fauna, who are accustomed to sharing the course with their human neighbors. “Deer and wild turkeys can definitely be part of your round,” smiles Johnson.
“We are a course, not a club. We’re fully open to the public—to kids, seniors, anyone who wants to play golf,” he continues. “We aren’t an elitist course—we have something to make everyone feel welcome.”
Golfers limber up at the practice area, which offers a full green and a chipping area. “We offer three sets of tees to ensure a fair test of skill,” says Johnson. The course stretches to just under 6000 yards from the back, blue tee boxes. Players average about four hours to complete the 6-mile, 18-hole course. A 9-hole option is also available, convenient for those who wish to golf for a couple hours following work or school.
Johnson sees many people returning to the sport. “A good description for golf is that you can play your entire life. You might play less during your family and career years, but when the kids go off to college, you can get right back into it. It’s a fun sport that just about everyone can play, which I think is really important,” says Johnson, who learned golf from his grandfather at the age of three, and has played at celebrated courses throughout the world.
For beginners or those needing a refresher, Johnson suggests taking a course. “With golf, there are no training wheels, and you’re not the only one out on the course, so we’re here to help. One thing we stress is that you’re playing against the course, not someone else. We have a ‘Get back to Golf’ course which consists of five one-hour sessions for $99 to help you get started.” The class includes the rental of clubs, and Johnson says they teach about 5-6 new people every week.
“Most new players stick around. Class members exchange emails so they can continue to golf together after they complete the program. We encourage new players to rent their clubs. Then, when they’re ready, we can help them get the appropriate equipment.” More women are playing golf. “It used to be a small group of ladies who played, but at our last Lady’s Invitational, 76 women came out for the event.”
Kids must be six years old to be on the course. “We have a full-service teaching program featuring private and group lessons. Classes and clinics happen throughout the year. We host all the Ukiah High golf events which gives boys and girls access to the course, and we encourage the junior high and other schools to come out and play.”
Community fundraisers and tournaments take place year-round, with the schedule posted on the website. “We book tournaments for anything from 16 to 144 players,” says Johnson.
The on-site pro shop stocks the latest high-end equipment, and knowledgeable PGA professionals are available to answer questions. Club fitting and repair, including re-gripping and re-shafting is available. Visitors to the area can rent everything they need, from clubs to golf carts. After your round, grab a bacon cheeseburger, fries, a beer or a cocktail, and enjoy the view from the club’s newly remodeled patio.
Johnson is passionate about the course and the game. “There’s something about having fun with your friends, the camaraderie you build, having a nice change of pace for a few hours. We’re proud that visitors who arrive at the course with nothing can get set up and play, and newcomers to our community can come here and make new friends. But in the end,” smiles Johnson, “it is just a little white ball,” he smiles.
A variety of limited and unlimited memberships are available, including senior, couple and junior rates.
Until October 31, the course is open from 6:00 am until 8:00 pm. From November 1 – February 28, the course opens from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm. Walk-in players can usually be accommodated, but it’s best to call ahead or use the online booking system to reserve a teeing time.
The Ukiah Valley Golf Course is located at 599 Park Boulevard, in Ukiah. For more information www.UkiahGolf.com or phone 707-467-2832.