Golfing in Wine Country
Winding through Napa's terraced vineyards and wooded hills are some of the most picturesque golf courses on the West Coast—a few private clubs, other public greens, all terrific layouts. Here, five reasons (beyond Merlot, Chardonnay, Cab, Pinot, and Syrah) to spend a weekend in California wine country.
The Chardonnay Golf Club, southeast of Napa, is a private retreat that welcomes guests to play its 27 holes. The wide fairways and big greens—the wind is a factor here—have hosted U.S. Open and PGA Tour qualifiers. The links weave through fields of grapes, which the club sells to area vineyards such as Robert Mondavi and Far Niente. Greens fees, $60–$80; 800-788-0136; chardonnaygolfclub.com.
Swing and Sip
Wente Vineyards in Livermore is the only winery I know with its own course. It's also one of the finest Greg Norman layouts I've played. All but a few holes offer vineyard views. And at the end of the round is a tasting room with a superb wine list. Greens fees, $85–$105; 925-456-2475; wentegolf.com.
Next door to the Chardonnay Club, Eagle Vines Golf Club is another members' course that allows guests. Designed by former U.S. Open winner Johnny Miller, who lives in the region, the layout is widely considered the area's best. Locals brag about the diversity of the holes, joking that it takes 16 clubs to play them. Fields of Chardonnay and Merlot provide the backdrop. Greens fees, $65–$95; 707-257-4470; eaglevinesgolfclub.com.
The Vintner's Golf Course in Yountville, a public track just down the road from French Laundry, opened in 1999 and is home to some of the speediest greens in the valley. You'll want to hone your flat-stick game—four or five putts are not uncommon. The Aetna Springs Golf Course, right outside the town of Saint Helena, is less challenging but just as quick. Built in the late 1800s, it's one of the oldest links west of the Mississippi. Vintner's greens fees, $25–$35; 707-944-1992; vintnersgolfclub.com. Aetna greens fees, $16–$22; 800-675-2115; aetnasprings.com.
The best-known golf-and-wine spot in Napa Valley is the Silverado Resort—for good reason. Both the PGA Tour and the PGA Champions Tour have held tournaments on its two Robert Trent Jones Jr. layouts, which recently underwent a $4 million renovation. Almost as big a draw is the resort's 16,000-square-foot spa, which offers a massage that hits all the body parts stressed out by your golf swing. Greens fees, $70–$155; 707-257-0200; silveradoresort.com.