El Rancho Verde Golf Club has spent half a century basking in the majesty of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, testing golfers on a challenging course without disrupting their inner peace. The par 72 course boasts holes to make both advanced stick-swivelers and novice wedge-wielders feel at home. From the longest tees, balls can race down 6,844 yards of fairway, along pools that reflect the towering peaks and lush greenery where native owls wait eagerly to adopt lost golf balls and hatch them as their own.
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.
Cottonwood Golf Center's nine-hole executive course sharpens straight shots with one par 4 and eight par 3 holes. Duffer duets amble through the meandering fairways, launch dimpled orbs through 2,466 yards of emerald alleys, and defeat lesser opponents in pull-cart street races. The scenic course overlooks rugged hills and scraggly pines, thwarting off-kilter shots with a petite water hazard filled with foghorn-wielding ducks. Players can supply their own clubs, rent one of the facility's sets ($5), or thwack golf balls with the neighbor's flamingo lawn ornaments.
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.
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:
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: