Sea Ranch Golf Links takes after the old style of Scottish links-style course design, from the slender fairways and sandy dunes to the swirling saltwater mist that blows over the course with each ocean breeze. The latter may not have much to do with the creative genius of architect Robert Muir Graves, but the site selection alone elevates the experience above most inland courses.
The 18-hole layout flanks Gualala Point, making rocky shorelines and revenge-seeking seagulls as much hazards as the long, amoebic fairway bunkers, grassy dunes, and small, hard-to-read greens. If this all sounds otherworldly, you're not alone: writers from Travel & Leisure and the San Francisco Examiner have also been taken by the balance of rugged oceanside terrain and sleekly-shorn emerald fairways.
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.