California is a mecca for outdoor sports and adventure for a reason. With splendid weather nearly all year long, and a diversity of natural beauty up and down more than 800 miles of coastline, this western state has the will and the way to provide travelers and locals with impeccable golfing experiences. If you’re an avid golfer looking for your next great challenge, or a newbie player looking for the scoop on the best spots to play, we’ve compiled a list for you of the five best places in California to tee-off and perfect your stroke.
1. Pebble Beach
Let’s just get this one out of the way, shall we? It will be no surprise that the celebrated Pebble Beach community in central California’s Monterey Bay area makes the top of the list. Its courses are legendary around the world for their mix of shocking coastal beauty and meticulously manicured greens. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Cypress Point Club make up three of the most stunning resort courses of this small but sophisticated golfing community, although there a total of eight public and private courses. The smell of the salty ocean and the shade of a grove of eucalyptus trees are among the natural wonders that keep bringing tourists and golfers here in droves.
Directly across the bay from Pebble Beach — about an hour’s drive north along the coast of California’s beautiful Highway 1 — sits our number two pick for California’s top places to golf. This semi-private club is generally open only to members and their guests, but in the interest of inclusivity, makes certain tee times open to the public every day. Famous golf course architect, Alister McKenzie, has said that Pasatiempo was his favorite of his own designs, beating out Augusta National and Cypress Point courses. Foggy mornings and sunny afternoons are a mainstay on these relaxed, yet elegant greens. But perhaps best of all, the white caps of the Monterey Bay can be seen in the distance from several of this course’s scenic holes.
3. Riviera Country Club
Next, we take a trip down the coast to the lovely Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. Here, the exclusive Riviera Country Club offers some of the region’s best gameplay, mixed with one of the area’s best “19th holes.” Club members come for the golf and stay for the luxurious lifestyle, food and amenities. The iconic 18 holes are host to high-level championships, from the U.S. Open to the U.S. Amateur Championship, scheduled for 2017. Since opening in 1926 during the golden age of Hollywood, this course has been frequented by movie legends like Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin and Howard Hughes, as well as contemporary giants of golf, like Phil Mickelson.
4. Bel-Air Country Club
If you love the star power and palm tree-speckled landscape of the Pacific Palisades, then you’ll also find yourself enamored by the famous Southern California beauty found at the famous Bel-Air Country Club. Admittedly, not everyone will get to play these stunning greens, as this club is famous for its exclusivity. Its reputation as a major social club of LA’s very rich population, combined with its exorbitant membership fees and long, opaque waitlist, make this top golf destination an unreachable luxury for most of us. But the sheer creativity, strategy and diversity of shots required to play this elite course means this private club earns its spot on the list of top California golf spots, regardless of its approachability.
5. Torrey Pines
Nearly as far south down the coast as one can go without happening on the Mexican border, the majestic Torrey Pines Golf Course can be found peeking out of the La Jolla cliffs in San Diego county. Frequently called the nation’s premier municipal course, this gorgeous golf mecca boasts two championship-level courses that are both open to the public. The South Course is perhaps most recognizable, as this beast of a course is on the annual PGA Tour. With its jagged cliffs and ocean views, this challenging course is the longest in the tour, making it a popular place to practice your long drive.
— Cammy Pedroja