Although gold was discovered long ago in central California, there are still some nuggets remaining nearly 170 years later. Apple Mountain Golf Resort, which is located outside of historic Placerville, is one of those hidden treasures. Located about 50 miles east of Sacramento off U.S. Hwy. 50, Apple Mountain is carved out of towering stands of pine, cedar, and madrone trees. The surrounding area features Apple Hill orchards and the snowcapped mountains of the Sierra Nevadas.
With mild weather all year, Apple Mountain averages 28,000 – 32,000 rounds annually, weather permitting. Stretching to a mere 6,308 yards from the tips, the course is deceptively challenging. If you are playing the course for the first time and not with a local who can provide background information, pick up a copy of the yardage book. Otherwise, you’ll be adding lots of extra strokes. There are several blind shots and elevation fluctuations that come into play and knowing this beforehand will prevent miscues on the course. General Manager Ryan Bill explains “Apple Mountain is one of the best kept secrets in central California. It also feels like worlds apart, but only minutes away from the city courses.”
Play the course once, and you’re guaranteed to return. One of the most unique holes you’ll find on any golf course is the par 5, 5th hole, which measures 571 yards. Nicknamed Eternity, this is a true three shot, double dogleg par 5. The uphill shot to the green plays one club longer. Another unique hole is the picturesque par 3, 17th. Deemed the signature hole by the general manager, the 169-yard, 17th features an elevated tee box, and is dubbed Crystal View for a good reason.
The apple and fruit farms, bake shops, wineries, and Christmas tree farms of the local Apple Hill Growers have been a family destination since 1964. The farms are located just east of Placerville off U.S. Hwy. 50. There are also 70 wineries in the area. El Dorado Wine Country is renowned for its award winning wines grown at the high elevations of the Sierra Foothills. You can enjoy historic cellars and breathtaking views as you explore some very quaint wineries throughout the county.
One of the most popular wineries, which is only a short drive from Apple Mountain Golf Course, is Crystal Basin Cellars. Featuring several red wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvedre, Crystal Basin was awarded the Best Syrah in California at the 2013 California State Fair. Frequent live entertainment and a great menu also keep locals and visitors stopping by throughout the year.
RVers will enjoy this area. American River Resort offers a prime location on Hwy. 49 between Auburn and Placerville in the small town of Coloma. This is more than a pretty setting. If you’re on a tour of Gold Country, you can’t pass up this area. The California Gold Rush began at this location when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. This historic site, and Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, is a five-minute walk from American River Resort, which offers 35 RV sites with full hookups including power, water, and dump station.
Another RV park to consider is Coloma Resort. With 96 sites, pull-through sites, and full hook-up facilities, Coloma Resort is a great family get-away. Lots of activities are available, including rope courses, gold panning, nature scavenger hunts, and whitewater rafting.
The city of Placerville offers a welcome mat of things to see and do. RVers could easily spend a few days exploring Main Street. For example, Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light, was from Placerville, and the original Kinkade Gallery was located right on Main Street. While strolling Main Street, step inside the historic Carey House Hotel, which has been operational since 1857. Famous guests have included Mark Twain and Elvis Presley.
Do not miss breakfast at the Original Mel’s Diner. You’ll think you walked onto the set of a 1970s movie. The initial diner of the same name in San Francisco was the location of the 1973 movie “American Graffiti.” The atmosphere and food are phenomenal.
In September, the town will celebrate another gold rush: The weeklong World Gold Panning Championships will take place at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville.
Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer who lives in Olympia, Washington. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, “The 19th Hole,” which is published every Saturday at rvlife.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.