In Santa Cruz, Pasatiempo is the best Alister Mackenzie course that is open to the public in the U.S. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor) Ocean views and great courses like Spyglass Hill make the Monterey Peninsula the top golf destination in California. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor) Luxurious CordeValle is set among vineyards and the mountains of San Martin just south of San Jose.  (Courtesy of CordeValle Resort) The view from the 10th tee is just one of many reasons why Pebble Beach is a must-play.  (Matt Ginella/Golf Advisor) Truckee is one of California's greatest golf destinations. Pictured is the 13th hole at the Coyote Moon Golf Course. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) Silverado's two 18-hole courses play on fertile Napa Valley land in the heart of Wine Country. (Courtesy of Silverado) Tom Fazio's Pelican Hill is one of California's best courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean. (Jason Scott Deegan/Golf Advisor)

A Delightful Dozen: The 12 best golf destinations in California



Let me clear up a popular misconception about golf in California.

Not every great golf destination in the state is sunny all the time. Truckee, tucked in the High Sierra mountains near Lake Tahoe, turns white, not green, from November through March. That's when skiers, not golfers, flock to Tahoe in droves.

Other than Truckee and a few other mountainous outposts, tee times are taken 365 days a year everywhere else in the state. California dreamin' for a golf getaway? Courses populate the mountains, deserts, cities and lie on the coast. Where to spend your money is the toughest choice. Here's a look at another 'Deegan's Dozen', 12 of the state's best golf destinations:

1. Monterey Peninsula

Headline courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, Bayonet and Black Horse, Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pacific Grove Golf Links.

Comment: What more needs to be written about Northern California's most pleasant peninsula an hour south of the Silicon Valley/Bay Area. It's one of the greatest meetings of cliffs, beaches and waves in the world. Further inland, the Carmel Valley adds the Quail Lodge & Golf Club and the Carmel Valley Ranch into the mix.

Links at Spanish BayThe Links at Spanish Bay


2. San Diego

Headline courses: South and North courses at Torrey Pines, Maderas Golf Club, Barona Creek Golf Club, Champions Course at La Costa Resort & Spa, Rancho Bernardo Inn, The Grand Golf Club.

Comment: San Diego checks all the boxes -- weather, courses, scenery -- of an amazing golf vacation. Throw in the beaches, ocean cliffs, San Diego Zoo, theme parks (Legoland and SeaWorld) and more for a one-of-a-kind trip in Southern California.

Rams HillRams Hill Golf Club is off the beaten path near San Diego


3. Coachella Valley

Headline courses: SilverRock Resort, Stadium Course at PGA West, Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Club, Gary Player Signature Course at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, Celebrity Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort, The Classic Club, Mountain View course at Desert Willow Golf Resort.

Comment: We could list another half-dozen courses in Palm Springs, La Quinta, etc., and still not have hit all the strong possibilities in the desert two hours east of LA that Bob Hope made famous. The fall overseeding has the courses green and lush for the snowbirds all winter long.

Dye Resort Course at Weston Mission HillsThe Dye Resort Course at Weston Mission Hills


4. Orange County

Headline courses: North and South courses at the Resort at Pelican Hill, Monarch Beach Golf Links.

Comment: Golfers will pay a premium to play on the Pacific Ocean at the three resort courses listed above. High-end daily fees like Tustin Ranch Golf Club, Oak Creek Golf Club and Strawberry Farms Golf Club run slightly less expensive. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, located less than an hour south of Los Angeles International Airport, are the coastal hotspots.

Pelican HillPelican Hill


5. Santa Barbara

Headline courses: Sandpiper Golf Club, Rancho San Marcos Golf Club, Montecito Country Club.

Comment: All three courses are the playgrounds of Ty Warner, who owns Ty Inc., best known for creating Beanie Babies. Montecito, a country club only available to guests of the Four Seasons Resort: The Biltmore Santa Barbara, is scheduled to reopen in 2018 after a renovation to remove turf and upgrade the irrigation system in response to the ongoing drought. Tack on a stay at the beautiful Ojai Valley Inn & Spa a half-hour away for a great week.

Sandpiper Golf ClubSandpiper Golf Club


6. Truckee

Headline courses: Coyote Moon Golf Course, Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club, Old Greenwood Golf Course, The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing.

Comment: The season is short but oh so sweet in this mountainous region along I-80 100 miles northeast of Sacramento (just 30 miles from Reno, Nevada). Another strong foursome -- The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch and The Dragon at Nakoma Resort in Clio, Plumas Pines Golf Resort in Graeagle and Grizzly Ranch Golf Club in Portola -- lies an hour north.

Schaffer's Mill Golf CourseSchaffer's Mill Golf Course


7. San Jose/Santa Cruz

Headline courses: Pasatiempo, CordeValle, Cinnabar Hills Golf Club, Coyote Creek Golf Club.

Comment: Silicon Valley isn't just for technology nerds. Golf geeks will be pleasantly surprised at the choices clustered along the southern rim of San Jose -- Cinnabar (27 holes), Coyote Creek (a former PGA Tour Champions venue with 36 holes) and CordeValle (a former U.S. Women's Open/PGA Tour host only available to resort guests). It's just a 45-minute ride through the Santa Cruz mountains to the famous Santa Cruz beach boardwalk and Pasatiempo, the legendary masterpiece of Alister MacKenzie.

Cinnabar Hills Golf ClubCinnabar Hills Golf Club has 27 holes and a museum inside the clubhouse


8. San Francisco

Headline courses: Ocean and Old course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, TPC Harding Park, Presidio Golf Course.

Comment: I've found that the ball travels almost a full club less in the foggy, damp, cool conditions that tend to plague rounds near San Francisco. Lincoln Park (views of the Golden Gate Bridge) and Sharp Park, an original MacKenzie, are two city courses worth exploring. Harding Park, another muni, will hold the 2020 PGA Championship, its first major.

TPC Harding ParkTPC Harding Park


9. Napa Valley

Headline courses: North and South courses at Silverado Resort, Chardonnay Golf Club, Sonoma Golf Club.

Comment: Drinking wine isn't the only fun in town. Golfers regularly tee it up among the vineyards. Johnny Miller's Silverado Resort is vying to make its Safeway Open the signature fall stop on the PGA Tour. The private Sonoma Golf Club is only accessible through a stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

Chardonnay Golf ClubChardonnay Golf Club


10. Los Angeles

Headline courses: Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles, Angeles National Golf Club, Rustic Canyon Golf Course, Industry Hills Golf Club, Los Verdes Golf Course.

Comment: There's no shortage of golf near the City of Angels, even though several high-profile courses closed in 2016. The problem is getting from one course to the next through all that snarling traffic. Golfers love the ocean views from Los Verdes, but frequently complain about slow play in Golf Advisor reviews. Architecture snobs can compare the merits of Angeles National, the city's only Jack Nicklaus course, against Rustic Canyon, a modern minimalist classic by Gil Hanse/Geoff Shackelford. Meanwhile, Robinson Ranch in Santa Clarita hopes to reopen a completely renovated Valley Course this year following significant damage from the Salt fire.

Rustic CanyonRustic Canyon is an early Gil Hanse design


11. Sacramento

Headline courses: Yocha Dehe Golf Club, DarkHorse Golf Club, Haggin Oaks, Teal Bend Golf Club.

Comment: Yocha Dehe, an Indian casino course, lies an hour west of downtown in an idyllic valley. DarkHorse is due east heading toward the mountains. Haggin Oaks has the history as a MacKenzie course, although I prefer playing the city's other munis, the Bing Maloney Golf Complex and the Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course.

Yocha DeheYocha Dehe


12. Temecula

Headline courses: The Journey at Pechanga, Pala Mesa Golf Resort, Temecula Creek Inn.

Comment: Never heard of Temecula? It is a wine region located just outside Orange County halfway between LA and San Diego. You could easily stop by if you're traveling to either city for business or pleasure. The Journey at Pechanga is an amenity of a luxurious Indian casino resort, while Pala Mesa in Fallbrook and the Temecula Creek Inn are smaller, boutique properties. Other standalone courses are part of the Temecula Golf Trail.

The Journey at PechangaThe Journey at Pechanga


Jan 12, 2017



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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.