Whitney Oaks Golf Club has a rich and varied history – and that’s before it was ever considered a place to play golf. It stretches across a swath of California land that could represent the quintessential rugged Western landscape.
Before the western migration brought on by Western Hemisphere explorers followed by the Gold Rush, the area was populated by the native Maidu culture’s Nisenan, which hunted game and fish, gathered nuts, seeds and roots.
George Whitney established the Whitney Ranch in 1857 when he purchased 320 acres of grazing land west of downtown Rocklin to run a special crossbreed of Australian and California sheep. His son, Joel Parker Whitney, known as Parker, grew the ranch in the early 1870s when he diversified its activities and expanded it to about 20,000 acres.
Whitney Oaks today covers the middle of a 250+ acre canyon-like valley which was vineyards and orchards at one time. It’s been said that the Whitneys actually set out an informal “course” for golf, so it’s not a stretch to call the area home to one of California’s first golf courses. Indeed, the family still maintains a constant presence on the grounds – a pyramid-shaped mausoleum which Parker Whitney had built for his family and himself is located near the 11th green. It is constructed of granite blocks and adjacent to Joe's Fort, a 40-foot diameter enclosure of piled rocks and native-granite boulders. The boulders show bedrock mortars where Nisenan women and children ground acorns into an edible mash.
The Golf Course
In time, a bona fide course would be constructed. In the early 1990s, the Landmark Land Development Company broke ground to build out Stanford Oaks, a country club-like development with homes integrated with course. The project was abandoned due to financial problems. Live Oak Enterprises acquired the site and completed the golf course, with design consultation by professional golfer Johnny Miller, and named it Whitney Oaks Golf Club. It opened for play in 1997.
The 18-hole public course features 6,793 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 71. The course rating is 73.7 and it has a slope rating of 132 on Bermuda grass.
The topography includes native oaks popping out of rugged rock outcroppings, sloping greens tucked behind big granite slabs, seasonal creeks and riparian habitats – all creating a shotmaker’s challenge.
In 2005, BrightStar Golf Group LLC, a Carlsbad, CA-based golf management firm, assumed ownership of Whitney Oaks. They instituted course changes that included reshaping greens, softening green surrounds, increasing fairways, and improving overall playability.
Rental clubs are available. The practice area at the facility includes a chipping zone and putting green. Food and beverage choices include the Pyramid Grill restaurant and an on-course snack bar and beverage cart.