LOS ANGELES -- Somewhere in between exploring downtown Los Angeles, catching a Dodgers baseball game and attending a private concert at the famous Viper Room in West Hollywood, we played golf. Three rounds of it, to be exact at three entirely different golf courses in the L.A. area.
This wasn't serious golf – even though it was a tournament – but rather business and social golf, which meant plenty of food and drink, fun contests, but also plenty of information exchange. The event also raised more than $10,000 for the for Inner City Arts, a safe environment where kids of all backgrounds can come together learn about a variety of art forms, benefitting the greater good of the community.
Which brings us to this: No sport fosters business and goodwill like golf. It's the ultimate environment for deal making and establishing relationships. I found that out firsthand this year as I took part in my first Cal Cup, an event that brings in travel professionals from all over the world to meet with each other and the tourism officials from California.
The Cal Cup has been ongoing for seven years now and its location changes each year. In 2016, it was conducted in Monterey, Calif., a tough act to follow, to be sure. But while the L.A. area doesn't have anything that really rivals Pebble Beach, it can certainly hold its own and then some in the "things to do" department. In fact, the possibilities are basically endless, from beaches to great restaurants, nightclubs, theme parks and of course, people watching (especially in West Hollywood).
Great variety of golf in the area
As for the golf, the three courses we played couldn't have been more different and I like the fact that one of the rounds was at a par 3 course. In fact, Golf Advisor readers have The Links at Terranea ranked as the sixth best par-3 course in America, and it would certainly be in my top 10 as well.
The course is actually part of the overall Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. But unlike most golf resorts, nine par 3 holes is all you get here, but they are wonderful, with most tees affording views of the Pacific Ocean and conditioning exceptional. The longest hole is just 172 yards or so, and it's anything but easy, but with multiple tee selections, it's playable by most every level of golfer. As a twist, we could only use a putter on the sixth from tee to green. And we played the course twice. I think I double bogeyed the hole both times, the second time after attempting to hit a putter left-handed out of a greenside bunker.
Our next golf course was Angeles National Golf Club , a strong championship test in Sunland, Calif. It's actually the only Jack Nicklaus design in Los Angeles County, and it's anything but easy. Located at the base of the Angeles National Forest, the course presents plenty of doglegs, some elevated tees and tight fairways at times, making club selection off the tee critical. It's sort of a desert course with nice mountain views and bentgrass greens. In the summer months, it certainly runs fast.
And finally, the third course on the agenda was the Babe Zaharias Course at Pacific Palms Resort in Industry Hills, Calif. Named for the great Babe Zaharias, it's actually one of two golf courses at this very busy public facility (the other being the Ike, named after former President Dwight D. Eisenhower).
William F. Bell & Casey O'Callaghan designed the par-71 Babe to be intentionally narrow and long, maximizing the expansive acreage of the hilltop resort. In other words, hit it long and straight here. It may be only 6,800 yards from the tips, but it's a long 6,800 yards, especially on the uphill holes. It also has its share of scenic holes, like the par-3 pairings of nos. 13 and 17.
These three courses, of course, are just a sampling of hundreds of golf courses in the Los Angeles area, which run the gamut from affordable courses at municipal Griffith Park to the high-end resort experiences at Pelican Hill.
A different kind of vibe
Los Angeles is a busy place, especially downtown where we spent the first couple days of this trip. We lodged at the historic downtown Millenium Biltmore Hotel on Grand Avenue, right across the street from Pershing Square. This is the same hotel that hosted the Academy Awards back in the 1930s and 40s, and it was good starting point for our activities, which included an opening dinner at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill on top of L.A. Live near the Staples Center.
From there you could see there was plenty of new construction, perhaps signaling a rebirth of the downtown area, where there are so many great restaurants and entertainment options, including Los Angeles' Fashion District, the Grammy Museum, Little Tokyo, Chinatown and the Los Angeles Theater. Of course, outside of downtown there are many more attractions like the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, Venice Boardwalk, the Griffith Observatory and Universal Studios, just to name a few. The highlight of this portion of the trip, however, was a trip to Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine, to watch the San Francisco Giants take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Getting to experience a Dodger Dog with a cold one in the cool night air of L.A. is something every baseball fan should check out sometime.
Our second base was West Hollywood's Ramada Plaza, which isn't your typical Ramada Inn at all. In fact, many of the rooms are studios with upstairs lofts, adorned with portraits from the old Hollywood, Also known as WeHo, this is an eclectic location with a local population about as diverse as you'll find anywhere and a restaurant and bar scene along Sunset Boulevard and other famous streets to match. From sushi at Yoshi's to the famous hot dogs at Pink's or the V Wine Room (which once served as Charlie Chaplan's acting studio), everything is covered here.
Another highlight, though, had to be the group's final dinner on the rooftop of the famous London Hotel, where we enjoyed a variety of seafood, steaks, vegetables and desserts, overlooking the city of West Hollywood. Afterwards, we walked a block to the Viper Room to see one of best cover bands ever – the high-energy Spazmatics, a group of entertaining nerds who really nail a variety of 1980s songs. This was West Hollywood at its best.