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Business booming at River Oaks
• COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t impacted golf industry
Kathy Hall at River Oaks
Employee Kathy Hall stands near a plexiglass partition inside the pro shop at River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center. River Oaks has a number of COVID-19 protective measures in place to keep customers safe. - photo by Dale Butler

The parking lot at River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center was packed on Monday.

“People have been calling all morning for tee times,” said Kathy Hall, an employee at the pro shop. “It’s probably because the weather is so nice.”

Golf has experienced a spike in popularity during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

It’s an activity people can do outside while practicing social distancing.

“Our numbers have gone up,” River Oaks co-owner Pam Thornberry said. “We average 130-200 people a day. We’re excited about that. We’ve been blessed by the loyalty of our clientele.” 

River Oaks and other businesses in Stanislaus County were forced to shut down for six weeks during the height of the pandemic.

“We’re doing everything we can to protect the public and have a safe outlet,” Thornberry said. “We sanitize everything.”

“When we reopened, people were excited. They finally had something to do. It’s been fun to see golf grow and become popular again.”
Gloria Hall

“When we reopened, people were excited,” said Gloria Hall, co-owner. “They finally had something to do. It’s been fun to see golf grow and become popular again.”

“It’s like being able to go outside and play when you’re a kid,” said Mike Nelson, 71, of Modesto.

Nelson worked on his shot at the driving range, along with more than a dozen other people just before noon on Oct. 12.

He’s been a regular customer at River Oaks since it opened in 1979.

He practices three times a week.

“People are coming back to golf,” Nelson said. “It’s something you can do (during the COVID-19 pandemic). It’s inexpensive. The scenery is pretty. It’s a park-like setting on the course. I’m not very good. I just enjoy the game.”

River Oaks has been a staple in the Ceres community for over 40 years.

Located at 3441 Golf Links Road off Hatch Road, the par-58, 18-hole golf course changed ownership when it was purchased by the Thornberry and Hall families in August 2015.

River Oaks has survived flooding, recession and a change of ownership during its existence.

The par-27 front-nine course sits atop the river bluff. One landscaping change that was made involved transforming an old tree stump into a gnome house. It’s located just off the second tee.

The par-31 back-nine course is located along the banks of Tuolumne River.

Customers can take advantage of reduced rates.

Two players can play for the price of one on Tuesdays.

Seniors (65-and-older) and active and retired military members pay half price on Thursdays.

Seniors (90-and-older) can play for free seven days a week.

“Weekends are the busiest days,” Kathy Hall said. 

River Oaks’ practice facility features a driving range with lights, and a large putting green along with a practice area for chipping and pitching.

The driving range is over 150 yards wide and 300 yards long.

River Oaks is open, sunup to sundown, Monday through Sunday.

“I started coming here 40 years ago,” Nelson said. “The new owners are doing a fantastic job. They’ve renovated and expanded.”

“Everyone works hard out here,” Gloria Hall added. “We get a ton of compliments.”

For more information about River Oaks, call 537-4653.