Course Review: The Course At Wente Vineyards (Livermore, CA)

November 1, 2012

First, I would like to extend a sincere apology to our readers for not having posted in such a long time. I have unfortunately been travelling too much to post regularly, but have also accumulated a wealth of other material for reviews that should keep the posts coming through the winter. Now, on to the review!

Today, I review the Course at Wente Vineyards. Wente has been a long time coming for me. I heard about this Greg Norman design course when I moved down to the Bay-Area from the Sacramento area, but I never managed to make it out there because the rack rate was too high and Poppy Ridge was right around the corner. But, in the spirit of reviewing new courses for our readers, I decided to scour Golfnow for the best possible rate and was able to get a discount of $25 from the rack rate of $115 and make it worth my while to check out Wente. By way of comparison: Poppy Ridge (just around the corner – and reviewed here by the PowerFade) is $87 for 27 holes on the weekend at NCGA rates. I have also seen exceptionally good offers at Costco from time to time that bundle Wente with another course that might actually put the price below $90.

Wente does, however, make up for the difference in price with service, facilities, and wonderful conditions. The picture above is a view of the putting and chipping greens that sit next to the largely apportioned clubhouse. These greens were probably the fastest I’ve played in Northern California. I was playing Titleist Pro-v1s because I heard I’d need the extra spin on these greens, and boy, they were not kidding. By way of example, my first pitch shot on the green pictured on the right was from near the tree to the middle pin. The ball hit about 4 feet short of the hole, checked up, and rolled out another 10 feet. With that feel in mind, we head to the driving range.

One of the awkward things about Wente is how far away the driving range is from the rest of the course. The cart ride from the clubhouse to the range took about 7 minutes. The nice thing though, is that the drive is beautiful. The picture above is part of the route between the clubhouse and driving range. The other part meanders through the back nine and heads to the top of a high cliff where the driving range is situated. The range is noticeably more exposed than the rest of the course and probably provides a good sense of the worst of the conditions you will face throughout the day. The view below is from the driving range back down to the course.

Now, for the actual course. Some stats:

Black – 7181 yards – 75.8/145
Gold – 6840 yards – 73.9/141
Blue – 6266 yards – 71.6/131
White – 5637 yards – 68.7/124 or 73.4/130
Red – 4866 yards – 69.4/122

I played this course from the gold tees on a hot, slightly breezy day in August. The course was in phenomenal conditions and the fairways were running out. Even then, however, the course felt much longer than 6800 yards. I found myself hitting much longer clubs into holes because of carries near the green, hazards, or uphill shots. On the back nine, the infamous Livermore wind picked up and really had the last 4 holes playing long as they were straight into the wind. On the last hole, a 457 yard par 4, I hit my best driver of the day to the right fairway and had to hit a perfect 3 wood to get to the front of the green. Fortunately for me, I was able to get up and down for a solid par there while a large wedding party was watching nearby. Some more views:

First Tee – Par 4

Fifth Tee – Par 5

Fifth Fairway – Par 5

Seventh Tee – Par 3

One of the most unique features of this course is “Little Lombard.” This meandering part of the cart path goes up one of the steepest hills I have ever seen on a golf course. The switchbacks that make up this part of the path give the feature its name.

The course was phenomenal. The tee shots provided a very clear view of how to play the hole, and a long, accurate drive was a must to have a chance at getting to the green in regulation. Hitting the rough at Wente meant you were probably hacking back into the fairway. To me, the views on the back nine were not as nice as those on the front, but the holes were more interesting. In particular, I recall the risk-reward 10th. This drivable par 4 (plays much shorter than the yardage) could have you tempting disaster, especially if you are in the middle of a good round. I decided to lay up with a 7 iron off the tee instead of hitting driver or 3 wood, but would consider going for it next time because there was more room behind the green than I thought.

Overall, I would call Wente a great course, but not somewhere I could play every weekend. My main reason for this comment is that the course is not really walkable (see Little Lombard). This is the kind of course where I would play a special round, or bring a client from out of town. From a purely financial perspective, Wente is not your best bet. Poppy Ridge, on any given weekend would provide you with a wonderful 27 hole experience for less than a good rate at Wente. The price does have some advantages. The course play relatively quickly because of lower traffic. I played my round in about 4 hours with a cart. Many notable names play this course often. Jerry Rice is known to frequent Wente regularly, and Annika Sorenstam hosts her charity tournament at this venue each year. In the end, I would not turn down an invitation to play at Wente, but would not think of it immediately for my weekend 7am tee time.



2 Responses to “Course Review: The Course At Wente Vineyards (Livermore, CA)”

  1. JK Says:

    this course looks really fun. thanks for the post LG

  2. California Says:

    That was both of those exciting too as insightful!
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

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