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.
Carefully crafted by renowned course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr., The Links at Bodega Harbor’s 6,290-yard course brings the coastal majesty of Scotland’s famous links to the seaside hills of Northern California. Stunning elevation changes test golfers’ ability to adjust their yardages for up- and down-hill targets, while hillcrests offer picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and dolphins using echolocation to chip in golf balls from tough lies in the ocean. Knee-high native grasses and cavernous pot bunkers threaten to ensnare errant shots, and fast, multi-tiered, bent-grass greens make golfers earn every two-putt. The 461-yard par-four 18th is rated the second-hardest hole on the course, ending the round with a dramatic flourish as golfers must launch their approach shot over a brambly ravine to reach a heavily-bunkered green stationed just steps from the sandy beachfront.
Those looking to enjoy bayside views without having to keep track of autonomous golf balls can retreat to The Bluewater Bistro & Bar. Glasses of Sonoma County wine let guests toast to the career of a sandwedge that decided to retire in the ocean as they lounge on couches next to a stone fireplace. The elegant diner serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus anchored by fresh fish and locally-sourced ingredients.
Course at a Glance:
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.