Friday, July 27, 2007

California Golf


From the Monterey Peninsula to San Diego, discover golf in the Golden State

California Opener Within the nation’s most populated state lies some of the best golf resorts in the United States. The terrain varies greatly from one tip of this long region to the other, as does the weather—from craggy, seaside links to rolling, inland meadows; from 80 degrees and sunny to dense fog and biting wind. But one thing is certain wherever you choose to visit: It doesn’t get much better than the Pacific Coast when it comes to top-quality golf resorts.

The California coast below San Francisco presents a golfer a range of excellent choices. Just 30 minutes south of San Francisco is Half Moon Bay, where a Ritz-Carlton and two affiliated oceanfront golf courses add a splash of elegance to a charming farming and fishing town. On scenic Monterey Bay golfers find the Holy Grail of U.S. golf resorts, Pebble Beach. With several “it-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-this” courses in the Del Monte Forest—Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass and The Links at Spanish Bay among them—it’s easy to overlook the Monterey Peninsula’s other fine designs. But out in Carmel Valley, Quail Lodge and Carmel Valley Ranch have been pleasing guests for years with their sunnier weather and serene layouts.

Once you hit Southern California, look to Orange County and San Diego County to provide the best resorts offerings. The courses in this southern part of the Pacific region are less tree-lined than those found in northern California and Oregon. Instead, gently rolling hills and panoramic views are the norm. Golfers find themselves shooting over arroyos and playing through golden canyons. The weather is typically warmer too.

Along the Newport coast, the two Tom Fazio designs at Pelican Hill fit this description. They are among the most desirable upscale public layouts on the West Coast. Nearby in Dana Point are Monarch Beach and the affiliated St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel. The Dana Point and Laguna Beach area is a favorite with nongolfers, too, as shopping, art galleries, spas and divine cuisine are in abundance.

Further south still, golfers can play to their heart’s delight at Four Seasons Aviara, La Costa and Torrey Pines—three of the top resorts in the United States, all located within 20 minutes of each other.

With such a wide and diverse selection of courses and resorts, it can be hard to choose. Clearly, multiple visits to the Pacific Region are required to make a dent in your “must-play” list.

When To Go

California doesn’t experience a true cold season, as temperatures remain comfortable all year long. That being said, The Sunshine State does endure its fair share of rainfall, typically December through March. Winter temperatures average in the low to upper 60s (degrees F), with summer months nearing the mid-90s in some regions. All in all, it’s never a bad time to plan a visit.

Getting There
Considering that the freeway systems of California are among the nation’s most complex, it’s just as important to know not only where you’re going, but how to get there.

Northern California
As for the Golden State, if you’re visiting the Monterey coast, expect just over an hour’s drive from the San Francisco Airport or 45 minutes from the San Jose Airport. Also, the coastline drive is fabulous, so don’t be shy to rent a comfortable rental car and enjoy the spectacular views from Highway 101.

Southern California
When heading to Southern California, we advise you find ways to minimize drive time. Traffic can be a bear. Luckily, there are at least five major airports (and many more) that are in close proximity to a host of golf-friendly areas. If you’re heading to L.A. County, the obvious choices are LAX and Burbank Airport. But if you’re heading southward to places like the Newport coast, then the John Wayne Airport is a much smarter and closer choice. Ontario is a solid choice for an inland flight, and Long Beach is one of the favorite airports among Southern Californians for its fewer crowds and easy access.

Check with each golf course and/or hotel that you plan to visit, and make sure they give you not only street directions, but freeway instructions, as well.

Where To Play
Northern California
The Lodge At Pebble Beach
The Inn At Spanish Bay
Pebble Beach
The Lodge at Pebble Beach Far and away the most revered golf resort in the United States, Pebble Beach boasts three outstanding hotels, an unbeatable location on the Monterey Bay, and legendary golf courses rich with history and lore. Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill typically top everybody’s lifetime “must-play” lists. But don’t forget Spanish Bay: Both the course and the accommodations on the Pacific Grove end of 17 Mile Drive are superb. The Pebble Beach Golf Academy, located at Spyglass Hill, is a recommended stop, where all the latest teaching tools and excellent instruction by Laird Small and team will keep you on the course—critical on any of these classic designs. Rates at The Lodge at Pebble Beach range from $555 to $2,635; The Inn at Spanish Bay from $475 to $2,555; and at Casa Palmero from $685 to $2,250. Golf packages available.

(800) 654-9300

San Martin
Cordevalle This quiet resort 30 minutes south of San Jose and 45 minutes north of Monterey offers the best of everything: a big, sweeping Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course, a luxury lodge and a country club atmosphere. You feel as though you’re a member of a special private club here. The course ranges through a distractingly pretty, oak-studded valley where hawks fly and red tail fox are common. Jones Jr.’s design pays homage to the classics, yet is every bit part of its landscape, feeling as if it had been there for a hundred years. Accommodations at Cordevalle consist of 45 bungalows, villas and fairway homes, all very private. A full-service spa is available for guest use. The 45,000-square-foot clubhouse serves as golf and social center, and also offers excellent dining. Rates range from $525 to $2,300. Golf packages available.

(877) 695-4500
St. Regis Monarch Beach
Dana Point
St. Regis Monarch Beach The combination of the St. Regis Monarch Beach hotel and the Monarch Beach Golf Links presents an alluring destination. From many holes on the golf course, wide ocean views can be seen, and a couple holes run alongside it. The course was built to conform nicely to the terrain. Several carries off the tee can jump up and bite, but most everyone enjoys their experience on this friendly Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. The St. Regis, meanwhile, is situated above the golf course and has even better coastal views. It exudes luxury from the moment you walk into the lobby. Dark woods and cool marble decorate the 400 snazzy guestrooms and suites. Several award-winning restaurants and a popular spa round out the offerings. Rates range from $490-$5,500 (in season) to $450-$5,500 (nonpeak). Golf packages available.

(800) 722-1543
Barona Valley Ranch
Barona Valley Ranch At Barona Valley Ranch, 30 minutes inland from San Diego, the concept of play takes on added dimension, as a bustling Indian casino adds to the lure of this resort property. If you’ve lost the skins game to your golf mates, you always have a chance to win it back at the blackjack tables. Golf course designer Gary Roger Baird had a serene, inland valley setting on which to work his design magic, with massive boulders strewn across the landscape. There is plenty of sunshine and a tranquil feeling out here in what feels like rural California, yet it is only 30 miles from San Diego. There are 364 guestrooms and an additional 32 luxury suites. Several restaurants service the needs of guests, with the Barona Oaks Steakhouse being a standout. Rates range from $89 to $650 per night. Golf packages available with some rooms.

(888) 7-BARONA
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
La Jolla
Torrey Pines Along the sunny La Jolla coast, just a few miles north of San Diego, two of the best public layouts in the country await at Torrey Pines Golf Course, home of the PGA Tour Buick Invitational, and site of the 2008 U.S. Open Championship. Majestic Pacific views distinguish both tracks. Opened in 1957 they are revered for their combination of beauty and beast since. Prior to the 2002 Buick tournament, architect Rees Jones made some significant improvements to the South Course, bringing this popular design to its best shape in years. Recently, with the opening of The Lodge at Torrey Pines, golfers have a 175-room luxury retreat at which to hang their spikes, dine and relax after golf. Best of all is the fact that the lodge has guaranteed tee-time privileges at the two world-class golf courses. Rates range from $450 to $4,200. Golf packages available.

(858) 453-4420
California Must-Plays
Santa Cruz
Pasatiempo This course on the north side of Monterey Bay opened in 1929 and still ranks as one of the best daily-fee tracks in the nation. The par-four 16th was course architect Alister Mackenzie's favorite hole in golf. Mackenzie spent the last years of his life living in a home on Pasatiempo and tinkering with the design.
Par 70, 6439 yards (72.5/136)
(Alister Mackenzie)

(831) 459-9155
Bayonet/Black Horse
Bayonet/Black Horse Both of these are excellent choices and should be on your play list when in the Monterey Bay area. They will both challenge even the top professional from the back tees, and have done so in various tournaments over the years. The Bayonet Course is long and difficult. The Black Horse Course is shorter and somewhat more forgiving. Both have great ocean views.
Bayonet—Par 72, 7117 yards (75.6/136) (Gen. Robert McClure)
Black Horse—Par 72, 7009 yards (75.2/134) (Gen. Edwin Carns)

(831) 899-7271

Oak Creek
Oak Creek Oak Creek is a picturesque course where good shots are rewarded and bad shots are penalized. Landing zones are generally wide open and driver-friendly. If you miss fairways, though, bring plenty of golf balls, because they get lost easily in the deep rough. The course is particularly women-friendly, with the silver tees measuring under 5000 yards.
Par 71, 6729 yards (72.7/132)
(Tom Fazio)

(949) 653-7300
Arroyo Trabuco
Mission Viejo
Arroyo Trabuco Set amidst Trabuco Creek and Ladera Open Space Reserve, Arroyo Trabuco provides a “high-end golfing experience at a competitive price.” The 240-acre site occupies an old gravel pit (whose operations were shut down in December 2000), and several holes play around the old facility. The layout encounters quite a bit of rolling topography, making for some fun and memorable holes.
Par 72, 6974 yards (73.7/134)
(Tom Lehman & Casey O’Callaghan)

(949) 364-1881

Rancho Bernardo Inn
Rancho Bernardo Inn An 18-hole course first built in 1962, this design is set in a small, scenic valley and surrounded by homes. A meandering creek, two lakes, natural vegetation areas and fast greens add to the pleasant experience. A local’s favorite.
Par 72, 6631 yards (72.3/133)
(William Bell)

(858) 675-8470
The Auld Course
Chula Vista
The Auld Course Resting in the foothills of Mt. Miguel, this traditional course includes 18 distinctive holes. It features panoramic ocean and mountain views, acres of natural wetlands, and no homes or roads. The hillsides influence most tee shots, so placement off the tee is important. It is a big course with no trees, which is significant because it tends to get windy in the afternoons.
Par 72, 6855 yards (73.4/132)
(Cary Bickler & John Cook)

(619) 482-4666
Where To Learn

Pelican Hill Golf Club,
Newport Coast
Lead by director of instruction Glenn Deck, Pelican Hill Golf Academy focuses on developing sound fundamentals and getting the club on path for more consistent shotmaking. Learning programs are available in a variety of forms, including those for individuals, groups or juniors. Two-day VIP clinics, which include video analysis, short-game and full-swing fundamentals as well as an 18-hole playing lesson also are available.

(949) 760-0707

Four Seasons Resort Aviara,
In operation since 1991, the Aviara Golf Academy, which is run by noted instructor Kip Puterbaugh, has a curriculum that gives players of all ability levels an opportunity to learn about the golf swing. The Aviara Golf Academy operates year-round and specializes in two- and three-day golf schools and short-game schools.

(800) 433-7468

Pebble Beach Resort,
Headed by 2003 PGA Teacher of the Year, Laird Small, the Pebble Beach Golf Academy covers all areas of the game, including putting, short game, long game, mental and physical training, and on-course practice. Video analysis also is available, as is a Callaway professional clubfitting system. Various programs are designed to satisfy groups of different size, skill level and schedule. Each member of the school staff is hand-picked and trained to make an experience at Pebble Beach Golf Academy as enjoyable as possible.

(831) 622-8650

Local Knowledge

With the task of breaking down local attractions in an area as large as California almost impossible, heed our advice and plan a vacation that includes experiencing some top designs from one of course architecture’s all-time greats: Alister Mackenzie

The name Alister Mackenzie (1870-1934) evokes instant images of top-tier golf designs. If you have ever had the pleasure of playing one of this transplanted Scotsman’s better U.S. creations—Cypress Point Club, Augusta National or Valley Club of Montecito—the experience no doubt will stick with you forever. The problem is, all of those mentioned above, and many of his other memorable designs are guardedly private.

There are, however, several public Mackenzie courses that one can and should play in California. The best of them is Pasatiempo (1929) in Santa Cruz, on the northern rim of the Monterey Bay. Mackenzie lived in a home on one of the fairways at Pasatiempo and continued to refine this design until he passed away. Tree-lined fairways and panoramic ocean views combine with strategic arroyo crossings and Mackenzie’s signature bunkering patterns to create a wonderful, fulfilling experience here.

A bit north, just below San Francisco in the small coastal town of Pacifica, golfers will discover an 18-hole Mackenzie layout called Sharp This design is flatter than Pasatiempo and has fewer ocean peeks, but Mackenzie enthusiasts will enjoy its strategic shot requirements and demanding greens.

North of San Francisco is Northwood Golf Course (1928), a nine-hole Mackenzie course on the Russian River. Huge redwood and fir trees grace play on this unassuming design. And in Sacramento is the newly renovated Haggin Oaks (1932), a popular municipal course that boasts very distinct Mackenzie design features. Pittsburg’s Delta View Golf Course features nine holes of Mackenzie design.

Golfers who enjoy the history and traditions of the game are likely to find an Alister Mackenzie pilgrimage nothing short of sacred. If you count yourself in this category, northern California is the place to do it.

1 comment:

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