A Delightful Dozen: The 12 best golf destinations in California

Let me clear up a popular misconception about golf in California.

Not every great golf destination in the state is sunny all the time. Truckee, tucked in the High Sierra mountains near Lake Tahoe, turns white, not green, from November through March. That's when skiers, not golfers, flock to Tahoe in droves.

Other than Truckee and a few other mountainous outposts, tee times are taken 365 days a year everywhere else in the state. California dreamin' for a golf getaway? Courses populate the mountains, deserts, cities and lie on the coast. Where to spend your money is the toughest choice. Here's a look at another 'Deegan's Dozen', 12 of the state's best golf destinations:

1. Monterey Peninsula

Headline courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, Bayonet and Black Horse, Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pacific Grove Golf Links.
Comment: What more needs to be written about Northern California's most pleasant peninsula an hour south of the Silicon Valley/Bay Area. It's one of the greatest meetings of cliffs, beaches and waves in the world. Further inland, the Carmel Valley adds the Quail Lodge & Golf Club and the Carmel Valley Ranch into the mix.

The wind off of the ocean can whip across the par-3 16th green of The Links at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, Calif.

2. San Diego

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S1 E1: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

Headline courses: South and North courses at Torrey Pines, Maderas Golf Club, Barona Creek Golf Club, Champions Course at La Costa Resort & Spa, Rancho Bernardo Inn, The Grand Golf Club, Rams Hill Golf Club.
Comment: San Diego checks all the boxes -- weather, courses, scenery -- of an amazing golf vacation. Throw in the beaches, ocean cliffs, San Diego Zoo, theme parks (Legoland and SeaWorld) and more for a one-of-a-kind trip in Southern California.

3. Coachella Valley

Headline courses: SilverRock Resort, Stadium Course at PGA West, Mountain Course at La Quinta Resort & Club, Gary Player Signature Course at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, Celebrity Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort, The Classic Club, Mountain View course at Desert Willow Golf Resort.
Comment: We could list another half-dozen courses in Palm Springs, La Quinta, etc., and still not have hit all the strong possibilities in the desert two hours east of LA that Bob Hope made famous. The fall overseeding has the courses green and lush for the snowbirds all winter long.

4. Orange County

Headline courses: North and South courses at the Resort at Pelican Hill, Monarch Beach Golf Links.
Comment: Golfers will pay a premium to play on the Pacific Ocean at the three resort courses listed above. High-end daily fees like Tustin Ranch Golf Club, Oak Creek Golf Club and Strawberry Farms Golf Club run slightly less expensive. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, located less than an hour south of Los Angeles International Airport, are the coastal hotspots.

Tom Fazio's Pelican Hill is one of California's best courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

5. Santa Barbara

Headline courses: Sandpiper Golf Club, Rancho San Marcos Golf Club, Montecito Country Club.
Comment: All three courses are the playgrounds of Ty Warner, who owns Ty Inc., best known for creating Beanie Babies. Montecito, a country club only available to guests of the Four Seasons Resort: The Biltmore Santa Barbara, is scheduled to reopen in 2018 after a renovation to remove turf and upgrade the irrigation system in response to the ongoing drought. Tack on a stay at the beautiful Ojai Valley Inn & Spa a half-hour away for a great week.

6. Truckee

Headline courses: Coyote Moon Golf Course, Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club, Old Greenwood Golf Course, The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing.
Comment: The season is short but oh so sweet in this mountainous region along I-80 100 miles northeast of Sacramento (just 30 miles from Reno, Nevada). Another strong foursome -- The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch and The Dragon at Nakoma Resort in Clio, Plumas Pines Golf Resort in Graeagle and Grizzly Ranch Golf Club in Portola -- lies an hour north.

Schaffer's Mill Golf Course (Courtesy of Schaffer's Mill)

7. San Jose/Santa Cruz

Headline courses: Pasatiempo, CordeValle, Cinnabar Hills Golf Club, Coyote Creek Golf Club.
Comment: Silicon Valley isn't just for technology nerds. Golf geeks will be pleasantly surprised at the choices clustered along the southern rim of San Jose -- Cinnabar (27 holes), Coyote Creek (a former PGA Tour Champions venue with 36 holes) and CordeValle (a former U.S. Women's Open/PGA Tour host only available to resort guests). It's just a 45-minute ride through the Santa Cruz mountains to the famous Santa Cruz beach boardwalk and Pasatiempo, the legendary masterpiece of Alister MacKenzie.

There's a beautiful view of the seventh hole on the Mountain nine from the eighth tee box of the Canyon nine at Cinnabar Hills.

8. San Francisco

Headline courses: Ocean and Old course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links, TPC Harding Park, Presidio Golf Course.
Comment: I've found that the ball travels almost a full club less in the foggy, damp, cool conditions that tend to plague rounds near San Francisco. Lincoln Park (views of the Golden Gate Bridge) and Sharp Park, an original MacKenzie, are two city courses worth exploring. Harding Park, another muni, will hold the 2020 PGA Championship, its first major.

Harding Park Golf Course's classic course design features many narrow doglegs and raised greens.

9. Napa Valley

Headline courses: North and South courses at Silverado Resort, Chardonnay Golf Club, Sonoma Golf Club.
Comment: Drinking wine isn't the only fun in town. Golfers regularly tee it up among the vineyards. Johnny Miller's Silverado Resort is vying to make its Safeway Open the signature fall stop on the PGA Tour. The private Sonoma Golf Club is only accessible through a stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

10. Los Angeles

Headline courses: Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles, Angeles National Golf Club, Rustic Canyon Golf Course, Industry Hills Golf Club, Los Verdes Golf Course.
Comment: There's no shortage of golf near the City of Angels, even though several high-profile courses closed in 2016. The problem is getting from one course to the next through all that snarling traffic. Golfers love the ocean views from Los Verdes, but frequently complain about slow play in Golf Advisor reviews. Architecture snobs can compare the merits of Angeles National, the city's only Jack Nicklaus course, against Rustic Canyon, a modern minimalist classic by Gil Hanse/Geoff Shackelford. Meanwhile, the renamed Sand Canyon Country Club, formerly Robinson Ranch in Santa Clarita, has made a nice comeback from the drought and significant damage from the Salt fire. A new range and 27 holes (revived from the old 36) are generating positive reviews on Golf Advisor.

Rustic Canyon is well known as one of the Los Angeles area's better values.

11. Sacramento

Headline courses: Yocha Dehe Golf Club, DarkHorse Golf Club, Haggin Oaks, Teal Bend Golf Club.
Comment: Yocha Dehe, an Indian casino course, lies an hour west of downtown in an idyllic valley. DarkHorse is due east heading toward the mountains. Haggin Oaks has the history as a MacKenzie course, although I prefer playing the city's other munis, the Bing Maloney Golf Complex and the Bartley Cavanaugh Golf Course.

The surrounding landscapes add to the allure of playing Yocha Dehe Golf Club at Cache Creek.

12. Temecula

Headline courses: The Journey at Pechanga, Pala Mesa Golf Resort, Temecula Creek Inn.
Comment: Never heard of Temecula? It is a wine region located just outside Orange County halfway between LA and San Diego. You could easily stop by if you're traveling to either city for business or pleasure. The Journey at Pechanga is an amenity of a luxurious Indian casino resort, while Pala Mesa in Fallbrook and the Temecula Creek Inn are smaller, boutique properties. Other standalone courses are part of the Temecula Golf Trail.

Courses like the Journey at Pechanga in Temecula will have to pick up the slack for Inland Empire golfers.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
6 Comments
Commented on

Just golfed The Journey at Pechanga. It is an absolute gorgeous course. Very scenic course with some beautiful holes. If you are in the area, it is a must. Don't miss this gem

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trying to organize strip to the west coast for 8 guys we need top rated accommodations and our preference is the second week of July if possible

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Joe, Happy to try and assist. Please follow this link to provide some additional information... https://www.golfadvisor.com/troon-golf-vacations

Thanks!

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The Faldo course at the Marriott time shares on the corner of Monterey and Frank Sinatra is by far my favorite course in the Cochella Valley that is available to the public. It is always in great condition and is challenging without being impossible. You will never get tired of playing this course.

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Agreed, JW Marriott Palms and Valley is not bad either.

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Aviara in Carlsbad is one of the loveliest courses anywhere, full of flowers, beautiful, and challenging. It should be included on any list for the best of San Diego...

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A Delightful Dozen: The 12 best golf destinations in California