Tee time

Photo By Tom Angel

Visiting town or just moved in and have the urge to tear some divots and get sand in your cleats? Look no further than Chico’s fine public golf courses, where players can enjoy a variety of fun, challenging golfing experiences without the expense of a country club membership.

Few cities can offer the magnificent natural settings that Chico does with Bidwell Park. Even fewer, however, can offer people a chance to play 18 holes in the middle of this splendor. Opened in 1934, Bidwell Public Golf Course (pictured) meanders through Upper Bidwell Park, allowing golfers to take in the astounding beauty and tranquility of the park while they play.

The course takes players past grazing deer, over Big Chico Creek, and among the rolling, grassy hills that characterize the Upper Park area. Bidwell is far removed from traffic and people noise, allowing one to be completely calm before taking that tricky 30-foot putt.

Behind the grandeur of the Bidwell Park setting, however, lies a great golf course. Offering holes ranging from around 150 yards to more than 500 yards, as well as an assortment of treacherous water and sand traps, Bidwell can keep golfers of any skill level challenged and entertained.

Another local golfing option, located a short drive away from Chico up the Skyway, is the recently opened Tuscan Ridge Golf Club. Tuscan Ridge features scenic ridge views, combined with brand-spanking-new facilities and a unique course layout.

At the time of this writing, Tuscan Ridge has the front nine holes open for play, and plans to have the back nine complete soon. Those who try out the new course are welcome to contribute their ideas for its later development.

For those who are looking for a short game or want to work on their swing, Chico has that department covered too. Located next to sprawling almond orchards, Sunset Hills Golf Course has offered players nine short but enjoyable holes and a driving range since 1954.

The casual atmosphere of Sunset Hills allows golfers to relax while they attempt to hit the green without getting caught up in one of the several large oak trees that spot the course. All of the holes at Sunset Hills are par 3, with the longest being the 160-yard fourth hole.

Apart from the nine-hole course, you can get a bucket of range balls and spend the afternoon perfecting your swing, or work on sinking and chipping at the designated practice green.

Another opportunity to fine-tune your game comes from Skyway Golf Park. Located at “Longest Drive,” Skyway’s driving range, six practice greens and well-equipped pro shop provide plenty to keep any golfer busy. The driving range has a special area set aside for lessons and is lighted at night. Skyway’s six-hole practice course, which can be deceptively complicated in spite of its compact size, is a great place to work on new techniques or take newer players.

For variety and scenic beauty, Chico is second-to-none for golfers. Novices and aspiring-Tiger Woods alike can find a course to suit their interests and abilities. If you decide to try any of the fine courses mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and check on tee times and hours.

Public Golf Courses

Bidwell Park Golf Course
An 18-hole course in Upper Bidwell Park. Professional lessons available, along with apparel and equipment. Open every day except Christmas, dawn to dusk. Greens fees: Weekdays: $22 until twilight, $14 after. Weekends: $29 until 1 p.m., $17 after. Super twilight hours: $9 weekdays, $11 weekends. Carts (for one person) $11 for 18 holes; $5.50 for nine holes. Will take starting time reservations up to seven days ahead. About a mile up Wildwood Avenue off Manzanita. 891-8417.

Sunset Hills Golf Course
A small, nine-hole course in north Chico. Driving range, snack bar and pro shop on-site. Open every day except Christmas dawn to dusk. Greens fees: $9 for weekdays and $11 for weekends. No reservations. Corner of The Esplanade and Garner Lane. 342-4600.

Skyway Golf Park
Newly expanded to a six-hole course, with lights for night golfing. Driving range, three golf pros on staff, reservations recommended. Fees are $8 weekdays, $9 weekends. Located a 1 Longest Drive. 899-8108.

Tuscan Ridge Golf Club
The newest course in town, Tuscan Ridge is located on the Skyway a little less than halfway to Paradise. It’s a nine-hole course at this point but nice enough to enjoy playing twice. It’s also got a driving range and golf pro instructors. Weekday fees are $25 for 18 holes and $15 for nine holes; weekends, they’re $30 for 18 holes and $20 for nine holes

The Course at Lava Creek
This scenic, nine-hole course and driving range is located at 5325 Clark Road in Paradise. There’s a PGA pro on staff, and tournaments are welcome. Greens fees run $9 for nine holes and $12 to play them twice. Reservations recommended for cart rental. 872-GOLF.