Serenity now at Yocha Dehe Golf Club at Cache Creek resort in the hills west of Sacramento, California

BROOKS, Calif. -- One of the greatest indicators of a good golf course is the "worth the effort" test. Is where you just played not only worth the four hours you just invested, but the time it took to drive there and back?

This is where Yocha Dehe Golf Club at the Cache Creek Casino Resort excels.

It's not near anything in the remote Capay Valley, 90 miles northeast of San Francisco, 120 miles north of San Jose and 30 miles west of Sacramento. Every golfer is making significant effort to get there. They come for the idyllic setting without a residence in sight, a fun routing by Brad Bell kept in prime condition, and the top service provided by a friendly staff from Troon Golf.

This isolation often keeps Yocha Dehe from making top 100 lists and being sought out by golf travelers flocking to the Monterey Peninsula, San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. But it's time to put this place on the map. Golf Advisor users ranked Yocha Dehe the no. 1 course in the country for 2015. The Golf Advisor staff ranked it no. 17 among the top 21 casino courses in the U.S.

The first impression is an attention-getting view from an elevated tee high above Yocha Dehe's first fairway. Bell used rolling elevation changes to perfection throughout the day. Interesting holes come one after another on the back nine.

The 10th green, the climax to a reachable par 5, is perched well above a fairway that doglegs left. Vineyards frame the bunker-less, par-4 12th and par-3 13th holes. Water adds drama to the final five holes. The risk-reward par 5 at no. 17 and the brutal, par-4 finishing hole are swing holes that help determine who wins the U.S. Open qualifier held regularly at Yocha Dehe. Worth the effort, indeed.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 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 Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Serenity now at Yocha Dehe Golf Club at Cache Creek resort in the hills west of Sacramento, California