There are some things that just go together.
Peanut Butter and Jelly. Abbott and Costello. Lemonade and iced tea.
Golf and wine? Absolutely.
Golf’s oldest trophy is called the “Claret Jug,” after all…
Am I suggesting that you stuff a decanter in your golf bag the next time you tee it up?
Not exactly (although that would look hilarious—please send us a picture if you try this), but if you like and/or want to learn more about wine, should you plan a golf trip that features some wine tastings?
The only question is: where?
Here are our favorites in the U.S.:
Napa/Sonoma Counties, California
This is the obvious choice. Napa and Sonoma are home to more than 800 wineries, so if you visited one a day, you’d need more than two years to see them all.
As for golf, the choices are not as broad, but they’re plenty juicy. In Napa County, we like Chardonnay Golf Club and Eagle Vines Golf Club, both located in the southern-Napa town of American Canyon. Both courses have holes that play over and around active rows of wine grapes. Silverado Resort & Spa, host of this week’s Frys.com Open, is also an excellent choice.
If you want a bit of adventure, we direct you farther north in the county, to Pope Valley’s Aetna Springs Golf Course. It’s a nine-holer that claims to be the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi. Tom Doak restored much of the course’s rustic charm a few years ago, and it’s such fun that we would gladly play 27 holes in a day there.
In Sonoma County, don’t let Sonoma Golf Club’s technically “private” status deter you; stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and you can arrange to play this classic and favorite of the late Sam Snead. For a more low-key public golf experience that is a true bargain, hit up Windsor Golf Club near the hip small city of Santa Rosa.
Winery suggestions: Napa: Beaulieu Vineyard, Domaine Chandon, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars; Sonoma: Hanzell Vineyards, Lancaster Estate, Seghesio Family Vineyard
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Understandably overshadowed by its neighbor to the south, nevertheless the Beaver State produces its share of great wines, many emanating from the Willamette Valley, which extends from Portland in the north to Eugene in the south.
Towards the top of the Valley, the half-private, half-public Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is one of the state’s best facilities, having hosted the last of Tiger Woods’ three U.S. Amateur triumphs. Its Ghost Creek Course, open to the public, is ranked seventh in the state by Golf Digest.
Consider also a round at Langdon Farms Golf Club in the Portland suburb of Aurora is a top area public course, designed by Bob Cupp and John Fought. Moving south (but still in the Portland area), the golf course owned and operated by the Oregon Golf Association hosted the Oregon Amateur Championship in 2014, a testament to both its design and conditioning. Green fees top out below $60, with cart.
Winery suggestions: Archery Summit (Dayton), Domaine Drouhin (Dayton), Domaine Serene (Dayton),Willamette Valley Vineyards (Turner)
Just south of Washington DC is an up-and coming region that is producing a number of well-regarded wines, such that if you live on the east coast and a trip to California or Oregon is beyond your schedule and/or budget, you may be pleased to make the rounds at a number of terrific golf courses and a few of more than 80 wineries in “NoVa.” Many of these are located along I-66, which runs east-west across the region.
If you want a bona-fide golf resort to serve as your base of operations in Virginia, we suggest Lansdowne in Leesburg. It has highly-ranked courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., including the nine-hole, Norman-designed “Sharkbite” executive course, perfect for families or a quick, late-afternoon bit of golf.
Other attractive public golf options in the area include the Fred Couples-designed Westfields Golf Club in Clifton, 1757 Golf Club in Dulles and 2013 U.S. Public Links Championship host Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton.
Winery suggestions: Crushed Cellars (Purcellville), Three Fox Vineyards (Delaplane), Zephaniah Farm Vineyard (Leesburg)
We wouldn’t blame you for thinking more of apples than grapes when it comes to the Empire State, but nevertheless there are some solid wines being made in two parts of the state in particular, and both areas are ripe for a golf trip.
In the Finger Lakes region of the state, between Syracuse, Elmira and Rochester, you’ll find the four-course Finger Lakes Golf Trail. Located in Canandaigua, Bristol Harbour Resort’s golf course is a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. layout that opened in 1972. Closer to Rochester are Greystone Golf Club, in Walworth, Mill Creek Golf Club, in Churchville, and Ravenwood Golf Club, in Victor, which Golfweek ranks as the eighth-best public course in the entire state. For a bit of Ivy League collegiate atmosphere, check out the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Cornell University in Ithaca.
Winery suggestions: Anthony Road Wine Company (Penn Yan), Bloomer Creek Vineyards (Hector), Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard (Dundee),
As far as possible from the Finger Lakes but still in New York, Long Island’s North Fork region is home to dozens of wineries as well. The golf possibilities increase if you have private club “juice”—Friar’s Head in Baiting Hollow is one of America’s greatest courses and the Hamptons, with the likes of Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America, are not far away either. Even Long Island National Golf Club in Riverhead, which used to be public, is now members-only.
All is not lost, though. Legendary muni Montauk Downs is a bit of a drive, but is revered as one of America’s best affordable public courses for good reason. A little closer to the North fork’s concentration of wineries, Island’s End Country Club is a scenic, pleasant place for a round. If you want a quirky, throwback adventure, the 2,500-yard, nine-hole Shelter Island Country Club, nicknamed “Goat Hill” is a hoot.
Winery suggestions: Bedell Cellars (Cutchogue), Martha Clara Vineyards (Riverhead), Raphael (Peconic)
As for the authenticity and taste of New York wine, we are a little skeptical, but we’ll rely on the adage in vino veritas--"In wine, there is truth"--and invite you to taste for yourself.
Do you have any other golf/wine vacation pairings or winery suggestions in the regions we mentioned? Be sure to let us know in the comments!