Twenty-seven acres of vineyards stripe the rolling hills that surround Eagle Vines Vineyards and Golf Club's 18-hole layout, a 7,297-yard path designed by World Golf Hall of Fame member Johnny Miller. Home to cherry trees, oaks, and multiple ponds and swathed by the Napa Valley countryside, the links-style layout rewards golfers who can command their drivers or titanium-plated curtain rods. The course's most difficult challenge—the par 4 14th hole—requires an arrow-straight drive to avoid out-of-bounds territory on the right and the hedgerows of sauvignon blanc vineyards on the left, after which players cross a replica of St. Andrews Links' Swilcan Bridge to reach the green tucked behind a creek. A staff of veteran instructors roams the course's viticultural hillsides, eager to assist players with tips or uncork the holes' tin cups.
Views of the scenic landscape abound at The Grill Restaurant, where servers pair a menu of grilled chicken and seared tuna with an exclusive selection of Eagle Vines' own vintages. Guests can unwind in the elegant, mahogany-accented dining room or head to the outdoor patio to guess the total number of grapes that grow on the 173-acre estate. (Hint: it's not 1,833,214.)
Course at a Glance:
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:
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.
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.
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 three practice bays outfitted with K-Vest motion analysis—a system that uses wireless sensors to assess movement patterns—and Flight Scope 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.