MOUNT SHASTA, Calif. -- Interstate 5 is the main north/south artery in California that runs from Oregon to Mexico and takes the traveler through the diverse landscapes that define California. After running through the arid southwest desert and traversing the 600 mile wide San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys that are the bread baskets of the nation, the road climbs out of the flat terrain and into a dramatic transformation near the town of Red Bluff.
Here, Interstate 5 begins a steady climb up into the foothills of the Cascade Mountain Range and into the secluded and mysterious land of Northern California; a region at a crossroads in the 21st century. And looming above this massive expanse of thick pine forests, wild rivers, ranches, and old homesteads is the awesome 14,161 foot high ancient volcano known as Mount Shasta.
This overwhelming remnant dominates the landscape and is visible for over 100 miles in every direction. Located just 60 miles from the Oregon border, it stands as a foreboding testament to Mother Nature's most awesome power. The high slopes of the fractured cones of the volcano cradle two glaciers and snow clings to the rocks here year round. The surrounding towns of Mount Shasta City, Weed, Evergreen, and Shastina are built on the remains of the violent eruptions that shaped the landscape over the past 10,000 years. In fact, Mount Shasta last erupted in 1786 and is considered an active volcano even today.
Around this powerful center is a solitary landscape that was once the center of a booming lumber industry. Little lumber towns and mills that once dotted the northeastern region of the state have been closed and the booming modern economy that has gripped the rest of the state has made little impact on this region.
Today, the area's biggest attraction is the great fishing and hunting that has brought outdoorsmen to this area for generations, as well as a burgeoning second industry of "New Age" devotees who have been drawn to the perceived super natural powers that the mountain itself exudes.
Ashrams of Buddhists, meditation camps, and massage retreats are sifted into the thick forests and have drawn people who seek out the higher energies that supposedly rise from the earth's core through the volcano Legends abound here of hidden cities within the mountain, the presence of UFO's, sightings of Bigfoot and the myths of lemurians and Atlanteans all contribute to a strange mix of old and new cultures in this wild region.
The phenomenal landscape is a natural draw for tourists and the region is striving to provide something to every traveler including the discerning golfer. Mount Shasta Resort, which opened in 1993, is an exclusive retreat for lodging, dining, and golf. The resort offers a relatively small collection of accommodations, just 50 one- and two-bedroom chalets and 15 hotel-style rooms near Lake Siskiyou. It also offers an intriguing 18-hole golf course that slips through the thick forest along the edge of Box Canyon on the Sacramento River.
Mount Shasta Resort's golf course was designed by the architectural team of Jim Summers and Sandy Tatum. Tatum's foray into golf architecture includes input at Spanish Bay Golf Links in Monterey as well as at several courses in the state. His partner, Jim Summers, is a renowned landscape architect and the input of these two men was pushed to the limits on this small site.
The site for the course is a hillside that sits just above the Sacramento River. This property, right next to the railroad, was a one time a landfill for the area and the land that now holds the driving range was at one time a landing strip for private planes. From the clubhouse site, with Mount Shasta looming in the background, the golf course peels off of the hillside and drops down into the thick trees.
"The entire site is less than 100 acres and we had to be very careful to create a routing that kept players separated and give each hole an individual feel. We really had to work hard to fill in some of the holes, but I think using the hilly nature helped in accomplishing that," Summers explained.
"This isn't a long course, only 6,035 yards from the back tees, but it is important to be accurate here," Head Professional Jeremy Dunkason said.
The course plays to a par 70 from three sets of tees, with the white tees set at 5,673 yards and the front gold tees playing to only 5,092 yards. The need for accuracy is apparent right from the first tee as the first hole, which is a dogleg right, par five, is only 35 yards wide and is bordered by the driving range and small pine trees on the left and a series of pine trees that separate the hole from the tenth hole on the right.
After hitting your drive, the course cuts hard to the right and sails down the hillside to an undulating green that is protected by the bunkers in front. Any variation from the middle of this fairway and your approach is going to be hampered by the overhanging limbs that line this hole. If you are blocked, punching back to the fairway is the best play as a wild off line shot will just lead to even worse trouble. If you are short, the bunkers will get you and if you are long, your ball can cut down the hill and leave a very difficult recovery shot.
This first holes brings you down from the clubhouse and into a valley where the majority of the golf course lies. This area was obviously thickly wooded so both routing and cutting in these golf holes had to take some work. The designers were lucky to build this course in logging country, as it was probably easy to find someone to take out trees at a rather reasonable rate.
The front nine plays to a par 35 with two par 5's and three par threes. The experience of the first hole is a good example of the challenges to come. This course doesn't give much room for error because there is just not much room anywhere.
The third hole is an odd one, a 276-yard par 4 that doglegs left. From an elevated tee, the safe shot is to play a five iron out to the landing area to set up your approach. Trying to drive this green is just asking for trouble as there is a gaping bunker in the front and to the right, and the elevated green has no bailout area at all. If you go left, you can end up in a thicket of woods that only Bigfoot would find inviting. But just trying to lay up is a challenge as you have to play a bit left as the steep hillside right offers a miserable stance. This hole is just awkward.
The par-5 fourth hole follows up as one of the best on the front. The hole plays 535 yards and sweeps right from a secluded tee box where you are forced to drive over a deep barranca. The second shot is the test, as you have to clear another deep swale that has no room to the right. If you can hit a good shot here, your approach is a relatively easy shot to a rather large green.
From this valley of thick trees, the course works back up to the open meadow near the clubhouse. The front nine finishes with a strong hole that suddenly demands a long tee shot. A lake runs down the entire left side of this 402 yard hole and has a knack for grabbing errant shots so play to the right here. The green is slightly elevated and slopes from back to front so it will accept a long approach shot. Par is a great score on this long hole.
The back nine is basically a repeat of the front as it starts out near the clubhouse but drops off the hillside and slides back down into the forest. There are two par 3's and just one par 5 on this side and the tightness of these holes makes iron play off of the tees a smart move.
Through this nine you have to be impressed by how the designers managed to fit holes in here and still keep golfers away from each other. Even at the collection area of the 12th tee , the 14th green , and the cart paths from 11, you don't feel that you are about to be drilled by an incoming shot. The number of big trees that were left around the course provides just enough seclusion to make each hole enjoyable. This setting is also great in the late afternoon as the sun filtering through the pine boughs creates a great lighting effect to these final holes.
The 401-yard 14th hole is one of the prettiest holes on the course. From the tee, Mount Shasta rises above the trees to remind you of where you are. You need to take your drive out across a thicket of brambles and draw it just a bit to set up the approach. The smallish green is framed by towering trees and makes for an inviting target.
The only par 5 on the back nine is the 18th, an uphill 455 yarder. This hole is set up by the tee shot which has to be threaded past a tree in the fairway and kept away from a lake on the left. If you get too far left, you find yourself with a difficult stance on this sloping fairway. A good drive can put you in position to reach this large green in two but beware of the bunker in front. This is the largest green on the course and has quite a bit of movement to it but makes for a good finish to this tight little golf course.
Mount Shasta Resort is a great couples course because of its length, and the secluded cabin condo with spas make it a great spot for a romantic getaway. The Lodge Restaurant is a wonderful place to watch the sunset on Mount Shasta and the steaks here are wonderful. All in all, Mount Shasta Resort is a great place to stay while visiting an area that is just a little different from the rest.