As the sun rises over the emerald greens and fairways of Grayson Woods Golf Course, the shadows cast by Mount Diablo in the east recede and players tee up to test their mettle against the challenging par-27 course. Each of the course’s nine holes is nestled between trees and water hazards, raising the stakes and level of difficulty for junior, adult, and senior players alike. Alongside the main course, players develop their orb-rolling stroke on an 18-hole putting course that sits atop an ultra-modern surface free of divots, dirt clods, and rigs drilling for untapped sources of iced-tea-lemonade. The staff, which includes a PGA professional and an LPGA professional, offers private lessons to give improving players an edge at regularly scheduled tournaments such as the Junior-Senior Open and Ladies’ Day.
Helmed by founder Tom Rezendes, NorCal Golf Academy’s LPGA and PGA professional instructors believe that there are infinite ways to swing a golf club. In this spirit, they help each student find his or her own best approach, taking into account physical limitations to craft goals that are as lofty as the berries on a berry bush. The indoor facility’s wealth of technology helps the teachers create such individualized road maps with K-Vest motion analysis—a system that uses wireless sensors to assess movement patterns—and Flight Scope and Trackman radar launch monitors, which depict ball flight on flat-screen HDTVs.
The LPGA and PGA professionals take all this information into account while offering recommendations. Operating on the premise that there is no such thing as a quick fix and that overall fitness is key to a good game, they also focus on adding new drills over time, and encourage students to participate in the facility’s golf fitness classes. The specially designed workouts can help golfers build a solid swing and generate the muscle needed to fight off water-hazard gators.
A self-described "cattleman," Jack Roddy made the shrewd business decision to turn his 2,000-acre cattle ranch into Roddy Ranch, which opened its pristine greens in 2000. The outcome was a resounding success, as the club's 18-hole, 7,024-yard course garnered praise from its early guests, including a San Francisco Chronicle writer who lauded the "home-free surroundings" as "the finest golf course that's opened in the greater Bay Area in years." With mounded terrain, relatively scarce tree lines, a multitude of bunkers, and ball washers that speak Gaelic, the course brings the links-style characteristics of golf's Emerald Isle forebears into the rustic hills of northern California. As golfers traverse the grassy labyrinth, elevated greens and tee boxes give way to scenic views of the brown- and green-toned landscape as rising foothills graze the distant clouds.
The expansive club also encompasses a 400-yard, three-tiered driving range, as well as a pro shop featuring golf apparel and accessories from Titleist, FootJoy, Antigua, and other top industry brands. After trolling the fairways or burying disloyal 9 irons in the deepest bunker, players can retreat to The Corral, where a full repertoire of sandwiches, salads, soups, soft drinks, beer, and liquor foster post-round rejuvenation and revelry.
Course at a Glance:
Mare Island Golf Club, whose 1892 founding makes it one of the oldest courses in the country, attracts golfers with breathtaking island scenery. Built near old Marine barracks, the course—which wasn't expanded into an 18-hole layout until 2000—originally sported sand greens, dry fairways, and a cast of unusual inhabitants including a Marine lieutenant's horse, who was drawn to the grounds by career aspirations of becoming a golf cart.
Today, the par-70 course begins with nine traditional, tree-lined holes before opening up on the back nine with a links-style layout designed by renowned Pacific Rim architect Robin Nelson. As golfers swing toward distant greens, views of San Pablo Bay and—on a clear day—the Golden Gate Bridge appear from certain vantages and sand-trap oases.
To perfect a backswing or spell out a marriage proposal with golf balls, players head to the 225-yard driving range with a bucket of balls. Patrons should arrive at least 20 minutes before tee times and can grab a bite in the restaurant or look for one of the 10 ammunition bunkers scattered throughout the course, which serve as a reminder of its connection to the military during World War I and II.
Set amid a stretch of hilly terrain, Canyon Lakes Golf Course's 18-hole course offers a player-friendly layout with scenic views of Mount Diablo and the San Ramon Valley. Throughout the course, towering pine trees and treacherous sand traps constrict the fairways, eager to ensnare errant golf balls or 7-iron medal detectors looking for buried treasure. When not taking on the challenges of the undulating course, golfers can head to Canyon Lakes' adobe-style clubhouse, which serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day and breakfast from 6:45 a.m. to noon on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Golf legend Arnold Palmer, known in the cleated world as the King and winner of the PGA Tour's Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, designed the undulating ryegrass fairways at Hiddenbrooke Golf Club. Ranked as one of Golf Digest’s Readers’ Choice Top 50 Public Courses in 2009, the course unfolds scenic views of rolling hills as players give their balls detailed directions, hand them compasses and trail mix, and send them hiking toward the pin. The 12th hole’s pin challenges orbs with one of the toughest locations on the course, and eight sand bunkers guard three sides of the 18th hole’s green. After working up a sweat, swingers can remove their gloves and Kevlar vests and celebrate or commiserate their score at The Grille, where diners gaze out over the greens while munching sandwiches and quaffing beer.
Course at a Glance: