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Business as usual
• River Oaks keeps customers safe during pandemic
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

A surge in COVID-19 cases in California forced River Oaks Golf Course & Event Center to make a slight change to how the business operates.

“The only change is we’re back to one person per golf cart unless they live in the same household,” said Pam Thornberry, co-owner. “That’s a county order.”

River Oaks has a number of COVID-19 protective measures in place to keep customers safe. Businesses in California had to shut down for six weeks during the height of the pandemic.

“We’re doing what we’ve done before, which is disinfecting everything,” Thornberry said. “We haven’t had any problems as far as having any outbreaks. We’ve been really blessed. You have to put a lot of trust in each other.”

Golf has experienced a spike in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic because it’s an activity people can do outside while practicing social distancing.

“Fortunately, it hasn’t affected golf like it has other businesses,” Thornberry said. “We’re happy to have the customers we do. We’ve gotten quite a few new players. They’ve been loyal to us.”

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 extended its driving-range hours to boost participation during the wintertime.

Buckets of range balls are sold until 6:30 p.m.

“It’s become really popular,” Thornberry said. We started it two months ago. The range lights stay on until 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. It’s a neat thing for people that want to come out after work and hit a bucket of balls. I was out there Friday evening and every stall was filled. It was really awesome to see.”

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.

“We got little projects we’re trying to finish,” Thornberry said.

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.

River Oaks is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“We’re thankful we have something outdoors people can do,” Thornberry said. 

For more information, call 537-4653 or visit