A 200-foot downhill tee shot opens Champions Club at the Retreat, rendering the 485-yard, par 5 first hole reachable in two strokes. Such elevational considerations color play throughout the 18-hole course, cradled as it is within the Temescal Valley's undulating canyons adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest. Bermuda grass fairways slink through the rocky outcroppings and low-lying brush, corralling foursomes onto smooth greens of bent grass. Yet despite its imposing appearance, a major renovation in 2011 tempered the course's difficulty a tad, eliminating some of the more punishing aspects of the course such as 16 bunkers.
Anchoring every round is the 25,000-square-foot clubhouse. Done up in a Tuscan theme and accessorized with trickling fountains and golden sunshine, the structure immerses visitors in creature comforts before they tee up. Players can stop for post-round drinks or fuel up for a round with pub-style eats on the grand patio, which overlooks the 9th and 18th greens.
Course at a Glance:
The beautifully manicured golf course at Hidden Valley carefully incorporates the existing flora, streambeds, and outcropped rocks into its 6,860 yards of dimpled ball habitat, making players of every skill level feel as if they're teeing off in an unspoiled national park. A GPS-enabled cart will keep you from accidentally driving onto the Autobahn as you journey through a pleasantly challenging round of recreational golf (up to a $67 value, cart included). To warm up wrists before the game, guests can flick through a large bucket of balls on the practice green ($10), and once the 18th green has been conquered and purged of its mini-dragon guardians, it's off to the Villa Amalfi Ristorante to refuel. Sip on coffee, tea, or soda, and choose one food item from the breakfast or lunch menu, which includes tasty breakfast burritos ($6.95), mushroom-swiss burgers ($7.95), fried-chicken salad ($10.95), and more (up to $17.95 value). Customers also get their choice of either a hat ($20) or a golf shirt ($65), giving them a change of clothes when their astronaut suit is being dry-cleaned.
For more than 30 years, Southern California Golf Schools' professional golfers and teachers have been passing their club-swinging tutelage on to golfers of all ages. The director of the golf school's operations, Steve Bean, started his teaching career in the early 80s and went on to teach alongside such golf luminaries as Derek Hardy and Hank Haney, who was Tiger Woods' swing coach and shadow-puppet partner. Bean has been a golf pro for several country clubs, has worked as a custom fitter for Titleist, and has owned multiple golf schools in San Diego and Las Vegas since 2011. In 2010, he was named the teacher of the year by the Professional Golf Teachers & Coaches Association of America.
El Prado Golf Course is actually a pair of 18-hole golf courses, Chino Creek and Butterfield Stage. Though remarkably similar in the way they balance wide open fairways and forested stretches, they differ slightly in length and age—just like their architects, father-and-son team Harry and David Rainville. Rather than place fruit baskets around their course as their first names would imply, the Rainville design team drew up layouts that let newer golfers enjoy the game while their more skilled counterparts lean on touch and control to avoid frequent sand and water hazards. Located just east of Chino Hills National Park, the courses also frequently host visitors such as coyotes, Red Tail Hawks, and Canadian geese that wander onto the property.
Chino Creek Course at a Glance:
Butterfield Stage Course at a Glance:
Nestled just south of Mount Baldy and national forests sits the 18-hole championship course at Upland Hills Country Club, designed by David A. Rainville. Players putt and drive around water hazards and palm trees that have been providing coconut golf balls at the course for nearly 30 years. The course’s 6th and 13th holes sprawl over 539 and 475 yards, respectively, earning them each a par 5. After swinging through the course, golfers can drop in at the restaurant and bar for refreshments, schedule a lesson, or visit the pro shop to replace the golf glove they ruined by bedazzling it for a Michael Jackson impersonation. Course at a Glance:
Fountains whisper to themselves amid low emerald hillocks. Groups of golfers confer over tees at the ninth hole, where the fairway drops off to the left, into the cool mirror of a small lake. Architect Ted Robinson, who has designed more than 170 courses, draws heavily on the many uses of water in his creations. With mountains spearing the horizon in the distance, golfers cut beneath swaying palm trees. The scents of grilling burgers drift down from the clubhouse, and during Sunday-morning brunches, champagne glasses clink occasionally like a shy xylophonist.