California is atop our country's most trafficked states for tourism. But even so, it has plenty of off-the-beaten-path places to visit. There may be no more unsung region than Central California, which lacks the population bases of Los Angeles or San Francisco, but has plenty to discover both inland and on the coasts.
And for locals, the region is even better, because you're within an easy drive of virtually all of the state's must-play courses (if, for example, a last-minute invite to Cypress Point comes calling).
We asked our Local Golf Advisor from Central California, Tate Alt, about what it's like to be a golfer here. You can talk golf with Tate, a single-digit-handicapper on Twitter at @CenCalHack and browse his reviews on his Golf Advisor profile page, which to date features 75 reviews.
What's to like about being a golfer in central/inland California compared to the state's other, more famous golf regions?
There are many good aspects of being a golfer in Central California. Low-cost golf is plentiful and rarely do we pay the $100-plus weekend fees that are prevalent in metro areas. The smaller population base and fewer golfers means tee times are almost always available. Fewer golfers give us faster rounds compared to the five-hour-plus marathons that plague the L.A. and S.F. areas on weekends. We are also within day trip distance of both Los Angeles and San Francisco when we want to play any courses in those regions.
What are some great courses in your area that might not be household names nationally?
In the Central Valley, Ridge Creek Dinuba Golf Club and Dragonfly Golf Club are two courses that I recommend for play, both courses offer strong challenges and secluded locales. Visitors going to Yosemite or Kings Canyon-Sequoias National Parks can access both easily.
Our summer escape from the heat takes us west to the coast. There are a number of fine courses in the area. Morro Bay has exceptional views and low fees. Cypress Ridge and Monarch Dunes (make sure to play the par-3 Challenge course) are strong designs with good conditioning. Hunter Ranch in the Paso Robles wine country is a fantastic course that is my favorite in the area. It has a great design that requires a wide variety of shots and is typically in top condition. The clubhouse is beautiful and offers views on par with the delicious food. The wine tasting and tours available around Paso Robles makes for a great golf/couples weekend.
La Purisima might be the true hidden gem. It is a bit farther south, but it is worth the drive. A SoCal and CenCal favorite, it is extremely challenging when the wind blows which is virtually always in the afternoon.
I would add Stevinson Ranch as my favorite in the valley but, RIP.
There are plenty of splurges in California. What high-end courses in your opinion are worth every penny? Do any fall short?
Pebble Beach comes to mind when considering must play "splurges" in California. Is it worth it? Absolutely. In my opinion, the chance to play where there is so much history combined with views and a great course makes it a must play. Other high-end, must-play destinations in California have never given me the same sense of satisfaction. I won’t mention names because taste and value are relative. Cypress Point of course could charge any price they wished and I would go back as often as possible, unfortunately the one time will have to suffice…for now.
Any favorite restaurants or bars we should check out in any favorite cities/destinations near you?
A few restaurants are worth recommending. In Fresno, Westwood’s BBQ is my favorite in an area where good cue is scarce.
Locals love a good bowl of Pho and there are many mom and pop places that offer tasty versions. The more adventurous might want to try a taco truck, pick one with a crowd and order a variety of tacos to sample.
On the coast, a sourdough bowl of chowder at Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach is both a local and tourist favorite.