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2014 BEST Golf Course: Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club

Author: Karen Hart
May, 2014 Issue

“A member can decide to come out at 10 a.m. for a round of golf and be playing by 10:30.” —Don Floriani.

A five-time winner for BEST Golf Course, Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club has been a fixture in Sonoma County for nearly 100 years. While the club offers one of the most beautiful courses in Northern California and award-winning cuisine, it’s the members who make it exceptional. “The strength is in our culture,” says Don Floriani, general manager and chief operating officer. “There’s camaraderie here and it’s palpable. We work hard every year to make sure that never changes.”
The club was initially conceived in 1916, and incorporated in 1921 by a group of local golfers on the east side of Santa Rosa. In the mid 1950s, the club was relocated to its current location on Country Club Drive, which features 128 acres of sweeping views, rolling hills, lakes and California oak trees. The 18-hole course (fully restored in 1997) features a driving range, putting and chipping greens, and a 125-yard practice hole with bunkers. The original clubhouse was leveled in 2001 and a new $9.6 million facility with banquet and meeting rooms was constructed in its place and opened in 2002.
While the club is private and today has 575 members, it’s also one of the most affordable private clubs in the North Bay, says Floriani. And while golf is the prime focus and PGA-trained golf pros are on staff to help members improve their game, the club is family-focused and also features tennis, swimming, yoga classes and a fitness room. In addition, members have reciprocal privileges to more than 200 private golf courses in the United States.
What’s so great about the club? A public course often takes on about 80,000 rounds of golf per year. In contrast, the club hosts about 22,000 to 24,000 rounds of golf per year, meaning members can play anytime and get in a round of golf in four hours or less (as opposed to five or six hours per round at a public course). “Because we hold every other tee time for walk-on players, members can arrive at 10 a.m. for a round of golf and be playing by 10:30 or sooner,” says Floriani.
In addition, the club’s facilities are open to the public for weddings, banquets and special events. Heather Mills, director of catering and special events, is now part of the staff. Award-winning chef, Jan Salisbury, oversees the kitchen. The club hosts about 12 weddings per year and Mills orchestrates events to ensure they all go smoothly.
As for member events, there’s always something happening at the club whether it’s pizza-pasta nights, crab feeds, locals nights or music on the greens. What’s more, Mills is planning wine-blending courses. “It’s a new spin from what we’ve been doing and will be fun and educational,” she says.
Currently, the course is being renovatedwith new turf grass that’s more drought-tolerant and improves playability for golfers. And while the club features various levels of membership, two new levels were added last year. A young professional membership was added for those under age 40, as well as a new corporate partner membership, which allows multiple members of the corporation full access to the club.
What’s the key to its success? “Being conceived in 1916, and adding the $9.6 million building in 2001, we’re the oldest—yet the newest—country club in the area,” adds Floriani. “And we’re always evolving, but maintaining traditions.”



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