Sea Ranch Golf Links takes after the old style of Scottish links-style course design, from the slender fairways and sandy dunes to the swirling saltwater mist that blows over the course with each ocean breeze. The latter may not have much to do with the creative genius of architect Robert Muir Graves, but the site selection alone elevates the experience above most inland courses.
The 18-hole layout flanks Gualala Point, making rocky shorelines and revenge-seeking seagulls as much hazards as the long, amoebic fairway bunkers, grassy dunes, and small, hard-to-read greens. If this all sounds otherworldly, you're not alone: writers from Travel & Leisure and the San Francisco Examiner have also been taken by the balance of rugged oceanside terrain and sleekly-shorn emerald fairways.
Sequestered near the scenic environs of Annadel State Park, Oakmont Golf Club's east course provides condensed club-flailing fun across a par 63, executive layout that spans 4,293 yards from the farthest tees. A grassy monolith comprised of eight par 3s and 10 par 4s—three of which measure fewer than 300 yards from the back tees—the course has spent a lifetime making up for its short length with difficult multitiered greens and the endearing social graces of its sentient flagsticks. Throughout the course, the sprawling arms of massive heritage oak trees stand like ancient ball-swatting sentries, ever ready to impede the aerial passage of wayward spheroids. A coterie of 45 strategically-placed bunkers further frustrate duffers on their path to golf nirvana, assisted by the burbling abscesses of intervening ponds and creeks, which come into play on four holes. Divot-tearing duos traverse the emerald links astride an obedient golf cart, which assists in hunting down runaway balls and rogue ball washers throughout the round.
Washoe Creek Golf Course challenges golfers of all stripes with two distinct, scaled-down, nine-hole courses sculpted into the hillsides of southwest Cotati. Cleaved through brambly native grasses and cattail-lined waterways, the emerald links challenge clubbers with topsy-turvy fairways and smug flagsticks that were formerly Olympic javelins. Clubbers hoping to mold their short game or net their first hole-in-one can rip divots at the nine-hole, par 3 course, and those looking for a more multifaceted golf experience can loop the longer links of the executive course, which earned its name due to the naturally sprouting cubicles that line its fairways.
Carefully crafted by renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr., The Links at Bodega Harbor’s 6,290-yard course brings the coastal majesty of Scotland’s famous links to the seaside hills of Northern California. Stunning elevation changes test golfers’ ability to adjust their yardages for up- and down-hill targets, while hillcrests offer picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and dolphins using echolocation to chip in golf balls from tough lies in the ocean. Knee-high native grasses and cavernous pot bunkers threaten to ensnare errant shots, and fast, multi-tiered, bent-grass greens make golfers earn every two-putt. The 461-yard par-four 18th is rated the second-hardest hole on the course, ending the round with a dramatic flourish as golfers must launch their approach shot over a brambly ravine to reach a heavily-bunkered green stationed just steps from the sandy beachfront.
Those looking to enjoy bayside views without having to keep track of autonomous golf balls can retreat to The Bluewater Bistro & Bar. Glasses of Sonoma County wine let guests toast to the career of a sandwedge that decided to retire in the ocean as they lounge on couches next to a stone fireplace. The elegant diner serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus anchored by fresh fish and locally-sourced ingredients.
Course at a Glance:
18-hole, par 70 course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Length of 6,290 yards from the farthest tees
Course rating of 71.5 from the farthest tees
Slope rating of 129 from the farthest tees
Four tee options
The grounds of Napa Golf Course may not be used to grow wine grapes, but they do produce their own form of refreshment. The 18-hole, par 72 layout gives golfers a breath of fresh, scenic air as they drive, chip, and putt their way through rolling hills, mature oaks and pines, and waterways. The water hazards seldom come into play?except in the event of a big miss?but the trees are a fixture on nearly every hole. The towering arbors pinch the fairways throughout the round, but the most menacing of them all stands on the 10th hole, where a giant oak is planted right in the middle of the fairway.
A driving range hosts pre-round swing rehearsals?a worthy investment, as the first and third holes are two of the course's most difficult tracks. Golfers can also practice putting, chipping, and using flagsticks for semaphore at a 10,000 square-foot practice green.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,704 yards from the tips * Course rating of 72.7 from the tips * Slope rating of 131 from the tips * Four tee options * Scorecard
Mountain Valley Golf Center's demanding nine-hole golf course challenges club-wielders alongside an ample 75-tee driving range for practice. Verdant par 3 fairways range from 94 to 203 yards, allowing players to hone their short game and competitive-dashing skills across a pair of nine-hole jaunts. The first hole forces golfers to send dimpled projectiles over a horseshoe pond, leaving little room for error. Before finishing the round, duffers must conquer the imposing ninth hole, a long straightaway that rewards risky shots and sends errant projectiles swimming in the pond protecting the backside of the green.
Today’s Groupon also includes a jumbo bucket of range balls for pre- or postgame practice shots on Mountain Valley's capacious driving range, as well as a frosty beer or soda for irrigating parched palates and arid tee-growing plots. Guests can also sharpen orb-nudges on a chipping green or browse the center's pro shop for supplemental golfing gear.