Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 17
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 17
Water runs along the entire left side of the 17th hole at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 1
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 1
The par-5 first hole of Stevinson Ranch Golf Club doglegs left. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch golf course - 2nd
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Stevinson Ranch golf course - 2nd
A wetland hazard guards the second green at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 4
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 4
Even with a pond drained of water during the California drought, the fourth hole at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club is still an intimidating one. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch GC - 6th
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Stevinson Ranch GC - 6th
Big bunkers collect approach shots to the par-5 sixth hole at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 7
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 7
When the pin is cut back left, the seventh hole at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club is one tough par 3. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 8
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 8
The eighth hole called "Drive It" is one of three interesting short par 4s at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 12
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 12
The 159-yard 12th hole is the shortest par 3 at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 14
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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club - hole 14
The 14th hole at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club, a short par 4 called the "Alps," hides the green and pin behind a large mound. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor
Stevinson Ranch golf course - 16th
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Stevinson Ranch golf course - 16th
Water catches misses to the right of the par-3 16th green at Stevinson Ranch Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfAdvisor

Stevinson Ranch Golf Club: A fun escape in California's central Valley

STEVINSON, Calif. -- An interesting routing with links characteristics and a great mix of demanding and forgiving, strategic holes is what makes Stevinson Ranch Golf Club such a favorite in California's lush San Joaquin Valley.

GolfAdvisor.com users rated Stevinson Ranch no. 19 among the top 25 golf courses in California in 2014.

Owner/operator George Kelley teamed with architect John Harbottle III to co-design the 7,180-yard course on his family's 10,000-acre ranch in 1995. Wetlands and ponds that have been preserved give the flat site natural character.

Even high handicaps can score on the drivable par 4s at holes no. 8 and 14. The 14th green is completely hidden by a mound, shaped to mimic the famous "Alps" hole at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. Risk-reward par 5s at nos. 11 and 18 twist around wetland hazards that gobble up second shots attempting to reach the green.

Kelley, a recent president of the California Golf Course Owner's Association, has nicknamed the final three holes "the gauntlet." Water can change the outcome of any match on the par-3 16th, the par-4 17th or the par-5 18th.

Although the Stevinson Ranch clubhouse burned down in 2013, the temporary trailer that houses the Grove Bar & Grill is still comfortable, thanks to a friendly staff and good food. The 22 cabins on site offer stay and plays since Stevinson Ranch is a little off the beaten path 90 miles east of San Jose.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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Stevinson Ranch Golf Club: A fun escape in California's central Valley
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