Diverse geography tees up a bounty of options for fairways and greens
GOLF ACROSS THE STATE
California is one of the world’s top golf destinations, and no matter which region you choose, you’ll find a course to suit your game, whether it’s in the mountains at Sierra Star GC at Mammoth Lakes, above, in the Gold Country at Greenhorn Creek GC at Angels Camp, or Desert Willow (Firecliff GC) in Palm Desert. With California’s diverse landscapes including mountains, valleys, forests, coastline and desert, Mother Nature has provided a canvas for fairways and greens to position the Golden State as one of the most attractive golf destinations on the planet.
Taking advantage of these geological assets includes a who’s-who of golf course architects, from old-school designers like Alister Mackenzie and A.W. Tillinghast to modern-day shapers such as Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and Tom Fazio who have crafted challenges to suit every golfer’s taste and budget.
Today, there are more than 600 public courses scattered throughout California ranging from iconic masterpieces like Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Pacific coast to hidden gems such as Greenhorn Creek in the Gold Country. Depending upon skill level and preferred environment, here are some notable nuggets that will help unlock a golf experience of a lifetime.
OCEAN COURSES Pebble Beach Golf Links
Located along the storied Monterey Peninsula, there are few golf thrills like teeing-up for the first time on Pebble Beach Golf Links, ranked No. 1 on Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” (2013/14). At the Jack Neville/ Douglas Grant design (1919), golfers can feel the presence of the game’s biggest legends that have competed in the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am and five U.S. Open Championships. Jack Nicklaus said, “If I only had one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach.” pebblebeach.com
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Taking a page from Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel, Treasure Island, Spyglass has hole names such as “Black Dog” and “Billy Bones,” hints for the unwary at this demanding 6,960-yard layout. Designed (1966) by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., holes 6, 8 and 16 are listed among the toughest on the PGA Tour. Spyglass features two distinctly different kinds of terrain that influence how the fairways look and play: the first five holes roll through sandy seaside dunes while the remaining 13 holes cut through majestic pines with elevated greens and strategically placed bunkers and lakes to grab errant shots. pebblebeach.com
MOUNTAIN COURSES Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club
Carved from the natural terrain of the Mohawk Valley, approximately one hour north of Lake Tahoe in the Plumas National Forest, the fairways are framed with native grasses and a profusion of wildflowers. Seven meandering streams through tall pines, cedars, firs and quaking aspens contribute to the challenge and beauty of the 6,955-yard, Dick Baileydesigned course. golfwhitehawk.com
Coyote Moon Golf Course
Nestled in a serene setting at 6,800 feet above sea level in Truckee (Lake Tahoe) among towering pines and enormous granite outcroppings, the 7,177-yard Brad Bell design serves up one of the best mountain golf experiences in the country. With generous fairways and not a single home to spoil the dramatic views, this upscale daily-fee course provides dramatic elements of risk, including the 13th, a 200-yard par 3 that drops 80 feet from tee to green. coyotemoongolf.com
DESERT COURSES PGA WEST—TPC Stadium Course
Since opening in 1986, the TPC Stadium Course in La Quinta has been rated one of the “Top 100 Courses in the World” by GOLF Magazine. This 7,300-yard challenge designed by Pete Dye hosts PGA Tour “Qschool” Finals every other year with players having to navigate cavernous bunkers, an island green (known as “Alcatraz”) at hole #17 as well as the menacing water-lined 18th. Named “Stadium” due to Dye’s ingenious plan to sculpt spectator seating into the natural terrain, one of the most memorable events includes Lee Trevino’s hole-in-one on #17 earning him $175,000 from a carry-over skin in the 1987 “Skins Game.” pgawest.com
Indian Wells Golf Resort
Only 20 minutes from Palm Springs International Airport, golfers have the opportunity to play the newly transformed Players Course (John Fought, 2007) and Celebrity Course (Clive Clark, 2006) at a property with the distinction of being the only 36-hole public golf facility with both courses on Golfweek’s “Best Courses You Can Play” in California. Combined with a lighted, 9-hole, natural grass putting course and a brand new 53,000-square-foot clubhouse, this “muni” golf experience in the desert is unparalleled. indianwellsgolfresort.com
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Celebrity GC at Indian Wells Resort, Desert Willow (Firecliff GC), Greenhorn Creek GC, Spyglass Hill GC.