After a great week at the Major League All-Star festivities (I wonder how far Giancarlo Stanton could hit a driver), there was just one last thing to do before heading back to the dry desert. That would be getting an early-morning round in at Southern California’s top golf resort, Aviara Golf Club, home of the LPGA Kia Classic. This course must look amazing during the TV coverage, with pristine lakes and scenic waterfall features throughout. I’ll make sure to catch it next spring.
In the foothills of the mighty Mount Diablo is where I grew up golfing, in the sunny warmth of the East Bay summer. It’s always beautiful there, even in its current drought-stricken conditions. The hills aren’t dead and brown, they’re vibrant and golden. Gorgeous oak trees provide cool shade, as well as a nice home for stray golf balls that will never see the ground again. This is the first time I’ve ever had to pay for golf in the greater Danville area, and it was well worth it. In high school, I was lucky enough to have three golf courses to play anytime I wanted to, with the Lakes and Falls courses at Blackhawk and while I worked at Round Hill in Alamo.
Set in the shadow of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s Presidio Golf Course is a beautiful gem in a city full of them. Just don’t look too closely at the city or you’ll see all the flaws too, like a porn star in HD. Anyways… I would’ve played anywhere today given the circumstances. I got to get a round in with two good college friends I hadn’t seen in a long time (and it would’ve been a third if not for some random conference). And just like the old days, I made a couple dollars and beat Jordan by a couple dozen (actually 80 to 96). Somehow it’s already been over ten years since I spent a year sharing an 11-foot by 13-foot room with another human being, and a shower with about 40 others. Continue reading Presidio Golf Course→
Based on the pictures alone, Half Moon Bay’s Ocean Course is a must play. I’ve heard stories of five and six hour rounds, which is always a mood killer and stayed away. But since I had some time to kill before Stanford’s 7:30PM Thursday-night dismantling of UCLA, what better way than to spend a few hours next to the ocean just a few miles from Palo Alto? I was taking a gamble with a 2:20 starting time, given that sunset right now is just after 6:30. Surprisingly, there were only a few waits and we managed to get all my 87 strokes in before the stars came out. While slow play is the worst thing in golf, there are worse places to be trapped than on this relatively new links layout on the Northern California coast. And at a fraction of the cost of some other cliffside courses a few miles down the road, any Bay Area resident or guest should head out here once. Continue reading Half Moon Bay (Ocean Course)→
Best I recall, there are two spots on the California coast for golf that everyone agrees are the best. Obviously the trio at Pebble Beach and then the south course at Torrey Pines in San Diego. In between, in Santa Barbara, is a coastal course that is worthy of the same praise the others get. Sandpiper Golf Course, just north of Santa Barbara on the 101, features six holes that take you right up to the cliffs or beach of the Pacific Ocean, and another with an approach that fills the viewfinder with pristine blue ocean. Well, once they clean up the oil… Continue reading Sandpiper Golf Course→
So I got to go home to the Bay Area for Memorial Day weekend. It just so happened that CJ would be visiting from Utah, so we decided to golf at the prime destination that is Pebble Beach, California. So all week I got to say I was golfing in Pebble Beach, though not atPebble Beach. All they must have heard was “Pebble Beach”. I actually didn’t realize there were so many golf courses just on 17-Mile Drive: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills and private clubs like Monterey Peninsula and Cypress Point. Not to mention places like Bayonet Black Horse and Pacific Grove just around the corner. This little slice of California is to golf what the Vatican is to religion. With such high demand, though, comes raised prices, especially at the Pebble Beach trio. Luckily, we were able to take advantage of an NCGA member rate at Poppy Hills and walk a freshly redesigned golf course. And I do mean fresh, as after a year-long renovation by original architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the place reopened just this past April 4th. Poppy Hills made for the second newly reopened course I’d played in less than a week (the other being Camelback’s Ambiente Course in Scottsdale, which reopened in November 2013). Just walking the course, being secluded among the majestic Monterey Pines that define the central coast of California, is an experience to cherish. The entire layout is as gorgeous as it gets, unfolding around each bend and over every hill with perfect green grass and a photo-worthy look from any angle. Continue reading Poppy Hills Golf Course→
Last year, my USGA index skyrocketed to embarrassing heights and I scrambled for excuses in this year end post of 2012. And then I played the same type of schedule in 2013 and dropped down to my pre-season goal of a handicap in the 8’s, finishing at an 8.8. So I guess all my logic from last year didn’t hold water. Out of about 35 rounds, at least 20 were on courses new to me and I shaved 4 strokes off anyway. Only five rounds crept into the 90’s, and two of those were in February when I only had one working wrist. But only two rounds snuck into the 70’s, one of which won me $200. So now I’ve settled into a low 80’s threat in the midst of what are supposedly my prime physical years (though at the moment I look more like the “before” pic). So then what changed?
Stanford University sits on 8,180 acres of the San Francisco Peninsula, making it the sixth largest campus in the country (Cal Poly is 9th at 6,000 acres, so that’s yet another “Top 10” list you can find the Mustangs on). It has 46 miles of roads, over 700 buildings and its own power plant, according to the University fact sheet. There’s also over 14,000 trees, including one rather infamous mascot. But the highlight of the campus has to be the jewel of a golf course opened in 1930 by renowned architect George C. Thomas, Jr. His resume reads like a list of California’s best classic courses, including the country clubs of Bel-Air, Los Angeles and Riviera. Stanford University Golf Course has all the same features that make those legendary tracks in Southern California great, allowing the natural landscape of the Golden State to dictate the shape of the course. What results is a tough test of golf from any tees. Lots of elevated greens, sloped fairways and remember those 14,000 trees? Well it seems like half of those have their roots on the golf course, especially those Titleist-swallowing coastal live oaks. Continue reading Stanford University Golf Course→
Well it only took 8 years of legal battles, but The Crossings at Carlsbad in Carlsbad, California finally opened in 2007. Thanks to fights with environmentalist groups, the designers had to route 5 miles of cart path up, under, down and over the acres of nature preserve that line the golf course. The drive between holes 11 and 12 alone is nearly a mile on its own. The place is named the “Crossings” after the 5 bridges that are scattered about the area, doing their best to avoid disturbing the wetlands, brush and bird habitats that make up the immediate scenery. Even after all the concessions given to the hippies (who probably still aren’t satisfied with the deal, God forbid if just one field mouse gets uprooted…), the city of Carlsbad still put together one fun golf course. All you have to do is drive one street past Legoland for a roller coaster ride crazier than any attraction at the Land of 10,000,000 Blocks. The decision is worth it. Especially because instead of the obese families littering Burger King wrappers, screaming children covered in melted chocolate ice cream and lines for Fun Town, you get a calm atmosphere, views of the Pacific Ocean on the horizon, an ornate clubhouse and a brisk pace of play. Continue reading The Crossings at Carlsbad→
The TPC Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, California is a constant member on lists of both the finest and the toughest courses, and deserving of those rankings as well. Spectacular mountain views, pristine lakes and bunkers with sand as perfect and soft as a Park City powder day are present on all 18 holes. Punishing mounds, long carries over water and teeny-tiny greens also characterize every hole at PGA West. It’s a perfect marriage of the two most important aspects to making an excellent golf course: possessing breathtaking scenery while simultaneously providing a challenge of a golfer’s skills with all his clubs. Pete Dye set this track up in a way that tries to hide most of the dangerous spots on the course. Obviously the water is hard to miss, but the undulation of the earth from tee to green plays tricks on you. It masks the bad spots, crosses up your eyes into incorrectly judging distances (which is no fun when you could have sworn that fairway bunker was at least twenty yards shorter than it ended up), and stubbornly refuses to kick rolling golf balls anywhere but off the fairway. I get the feeling that in the days before GPS carts this course really was a bitch. The starter even warned me to pay special attention to the little flatscreen in the cart, as many hidden traps were revealed. Mix in some greens that were half the size of a reasonable putting surface, surround that with bunkers deeper than the Mariana Trench and narrow fringes and now the course has put strain on your iron and short game play. Continue reading TPC Stadium Course at PGA West→
I set a goal in 2011 of playing at least one round of golf in all 50 states by 2021. This is a quest to play some of America’s finest courses in every state, even the flyover ones…