At Monarch Dunes Golf Club, the links-style golf of coastal Britannia stretches out in the hills of California wine country. Amid windswept dunes and eucalyptus trees sweep coastal views speckled with amber hillsides and big blue skies. And this is just how architects Damian Pascuzzo and PGA Tour Pro Steve Pate wanted it. But they also wanted something beyond beautiful vistas. They wanted a unique 30-hole arena that tested the mettle of golfers.
On the 6,810-yard, par-71 Old Course, players unleash the full potential of their swings on the open expanses of the longer front nine before dialing back for close control on the back nine—a shorter tract made formidable by water hazards on all but two holes. Though the two halves have their own distinct flavors, both begin with mid-length par-4s. These are the course's two most difficult holes, so savvy golfers should spend extra time before the round and at the turn to give their driver an encouraging massage.
While the Old Course is a grassy homage to golf's most sacred traditions, Monarch Dunes' Challenge Course charts a much more unorthodox path—and not just in its unconventional 12-hole layout. While some par-3 courses are known as "pitch-and-putts" for their short holes, The Challenge—named among the Top 10 Par-3 Courses by Golf.com—will have some reaching for a driver or three-wood on holes 5 and 12, which measure 242 and 202 yards respectively. Golfers can expect to finish the round in two hours or less, freeing up plenty of time to relax at the Butterfly Grille or shop for flame decals to glue onto their golf bag.
Course at a Glance: The Old Course
Course at a Glance: The Challenge
When Brian McInerney reflects on the humble beginnings of Wheel Fun Rentals, he points to his childhood passion for bikes. "As far back as I can remember, I had a real love affair with bicycles," he recalls. During a trip to Italy in 1987, Brian's affinity for cycling blossomed into a full-fledged obsession when he spotted locals' transporter of choice, the surrey. Inspired, he began importing the Italian four-wheelers to a rental business in the U.S. that eventually expanded into Wheel Fun Rentals, now a nationwide web of shops that also loans out bikes, electric cars and mopeds, and man-powered watercraft. Adventuresome athletes can also compete in activities such as surrey scavenger hunts and blindfold obstacle courses navigated via shouted instructions from a seeing teammate or exceptionally long rounds of trial and error.
When he’s not collaborating with Debbie Allan or with director Marty Thomas on music videos, Tamarr Paul stars as one-sixth of Rhythm Dance & Fitness Studios’ decorated staff. Mirrored walls reflect the studio’s honey-colored floors and the funky moves that emerge in dance classes. Beginning Hip-Hop pairs prancers with a new song and full choreography in each session, and Cardio Hip-Hop promises to elicit sweat droplets from the most advanced dancers. Urban Burlesque sends students sauntering through jazz moves. If the full schedule of drop-in dance classes isn't enough, experienced hot-footers can enlist in the Rhythm Dance Company, whose performers use their energetic shimmies to power the county's schools.
Twin Lakes Golf Course is much more than the sum of its parts. With a 9-hole, par 28 executive golf course and practice facilities that include a driving range, 8,500-square-foot putting green, and chipping area, it gives players countless ways to better their game. Visiting players can hone short, half-swing approaches and full, walloping drives on holes ranging from as close as 70 yards to as far as 360, much as they would on a full-length course. The driving range also expedites the learning curve with full-flight Pinnacle range balls primed and ready to be pummeled from real grass or synthetic tees. In the short-game area, Titleist Pro V1 golf balls simplify the act of chipping onto the green or into target nets, even as players line up shots from nearby bunkers, slopes, and grasses akin to the rough and fairway. And when players are left with nothing else to do but admire themselves in the reflection of the nearest water hazard, Twin Lakes’ resident instructors—Don Parsons, Buff Platt, and PGA head professional Jim Ley—are there to take the reins and help clients shave off a few more strokes.