As founder of Four Star Farm, Natalie Rooney Pitts instills proper horsemanship techniques in each rider, whether they’re saddling up for simple enjoyment or dreaming of one day prancing onto the Olympic podium. Natalie and her team of trainers introduce new equestrians to the sport via lessons that allow students of all ages and experience levels to take the reins without having to own their own enchanted rocking horse. Atop one of the farm’s fully trained mounts, pupils learn the techniques of English-style riding—including eventing, dressage, and show jumping—while building self-confidence and a mutual respect among man, animal, and belt buckle. The ranch also offers boarding and training services, and youngsters can take part in camps and club events offered throughout the year.
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:
From its serene country roads to its grassy hilltops, the Sonoma Valley’s wine country is a terrain best traversed by bike. The staff at Wine Country Cyclery facilitates these two-wheeled treks by renting, selling, and servicing cycles from Giant and Cannondale. Their rides cater to different types of excursions; the Giant Roam is ideal for leisurely jaunts, while the lightweight Cannondale SuperSix Evo lends itself to fast-paced sprints down tree-lined trails or away from the dryads that guard each vineyard. When riders need help navigating the countryside, seasoned guides hop on bikes and lead them on 12- to 18-mile adventures, stopping at local sites such as Roche Winery & Vineyards along the way.
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:
From the age of 10, Jenny Alphin has spent her life around horses. After gathering grand-champion trophies as a junior competitor, she went on to earn a degree in therapeutic recreation, combining her expert horsemanship with her talent for working with children. As head instructor at Hoofbeats Riding School, she imbues each of her one-on-one lessons with this lifetime of expertise, tailoring her directives to the student’s particular needs and interests.
To build confident, well-rounded riders, she starts youngsters out with the basics, rather than jumping right to galloping through mountain creeks in full John Wayne costume. Riders must first learn how to handle, lead, and care for their horse before getting into the saddle, which helps facilitate a healthy relationship between horse and rider. They also start off riding bareback so they can use their body language to communicate with the horse directly, without the aid of saddles, reins, or bridle-mounted walkie-talkies.