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Get into the Saddle

Golf and Wine on a Higher Plateau

by Robert Farmer

If you’ve read this space before—even occasionally (you do, right?)—then you already know of my penchant for golf, good food, and wine. And when the opportunity presents itself to combine all three, it’s generally easy for me to get fully on board with the plan. Not surprisingly, a few in my well-established inner circle are similarly persuaded. So when I asked a longtime golfing buddy to spend a couple of days with me at Saddle Creek Resort, I found myself with an eager and willing audience.

The resort is situated beautifully in California’s Calaveras County, known by me when I was a kid during family trips to Big Trees State Park as home to, well, the biggest trees I’d ever seen. But now it is known to me for its burgeoning wine culture, where in towns like Murphys, Jackson, and Sutter Creek, the rolling, oak-dotted hills are planted with wine grapes and tended by winemakers who know how to coax exceptional wine from their fruit.

Saddle Creek is in the neighboring town of Copperoplis, so named because of the Civil Ware-era discovery of a copper mother lode here, at which time the town flourished. Today, it exists happily as a sleepy foothill berg of about 2200 people. But that may soon change as the secret about the golf course and all-new town gets out. In fact, the completion of the overall 900-acre master-planned community is poised to transform the area, with a mix of custom private homes, new retail, and a vibrant town-square-centered community.

And as I happily discovered, Saddle Creek Resort is a self-contained good-life paradise. The course is flanked by fully equipped and very comfortable cottages, each of which lives like a private home with all the amenities and each of which is just steps from the course. You can sit out on your back patio and watch the balls land and await their player to stroll up to knock it a little further—and you’re close enough to see the Titleist logo.

I, however, prefer to be hitting the ball myself. So it was during my weekend at Saddle Creek – hitting the ball a lot. Way too much, to be honest. But still an excellent golf experience because the course is in such immaculate playing shape and so perfectly challenging for all skill levels. You can play it long or short. The layout has ample opportunity to test your game—from gut-checking approach shots over water to gutsy, go-for-it drive opportunities. (I took advantage of too few such chances.)

But I didn’t miss my chance post-round to take advantage of the Resort’s wine cellar—a recently expanded beauty housing more than 1,500 bottles from 250 wineries throughout the surrounding region as well as the best-known wine producing regions of California and indeed the world. It’s an unexpected treasure in these parts, and as tempting as it was spend all my time in there, the dining room at the Copper Grille proved an equally inviting environment. With big-city service and a great menu of hearty, well-prepared American classics, I soon found the day’s bad shots drifting into memory (of course, new such memories would be made on the course the following morning).

It’s an ideal environment for those who, like me, find little better in life than to pass a weekend golfing by day and enjoying fine wine and great food by night. Saddle Creek is a great discovery, and they help patrons get involved in exploring great wine with programs like their monthly Wine Discovery Night, a hosted tasting of highlights from the cellar. Now, if only they’d had a little program to help me “discover” my short game, I might have never left the place.

Saddle Creek Resort
1001 Saddle Creek Drive
Copperopolis, CA 95228