PPASO ROBLES, Calif. -- Good golf, much like good wine, all begins with quality soil.
Located amid the bosom of California's Central Coast, the burgeoning destination of Paso Robles presents an open-armed serving of rolling vineyards, craft dining and a buzzing wine scene that gains national clout on a yearly basis.
And the golf terra firma proves equally delectable.
Paso Robles Golf Club
At one time a private facility, Paso Robles Golf Club has enjoyed some renovation love in recent years and exists in modern day as a readily enjoyable (not to mention affordable) play for both locals and visitors. Classic, early-1960s routing and design defines the par-70 layout, which brings enough water into play to keep shot-making demands consistent throughout.
An ever-intriguing front side highlights the peaceful, albeit residentially lined grounds, where a dial-down in club selection brings par continually into play.
The 489-yard, par-5 opener features a dogleg left and O.B. lurking on the far right. With ample bunkering guarding the green and sneaky water deep left, laying up to wedge distance for the approach is well advised.
Holes 4-6 weave deeper into the property and offer an excellent mesh of privacy and tree-laden routing. Following the uphill, 169-yard fourth with a tee shot over streaming water, the dramatically doglegged, 322-yard fifth asks for a studied fade around a massive oak adjacent to water on the right. The meaty, 225-yard sixth ensues with lake water deep left while taunting the aggressive to play for the pin.
Rounding back to the Paso Robles clubhouse, the 349-yard ninth features a water hazard in the deep fairway, asking long ballers to play a 3-wood before wedging to a dramatically uphill putting surface.
Hunter Ranch Golf Course
Having celebrated its 20th vintage, nicely priced Hunter Ranch Golf Course ages like a fine varietal.
Set amid verdant, rolling hills, abutting vineyards and mature Blue Oaks, the tranquility of these grounds pair perfectly with the mellow milieu of Paso. Free of homes or parallel fairways, the setting truly lends itself to escape.
But don't be subdued by the mood -- there's some teeth (and quirk) here to be sure, and first-timers will likely struggle with the continual roll of subtle elevation changes mixed with some blind shots and well manicured, albeit testy bentgrass greens.
Bagging the driver proves key on several of Hunter Ranch Golf Course's short par 4s and doglegged par 5s, with said study of club selection proving well evident on Nos. 9-13.
Hunter Ranch is the type of golf course that bears playing more than once to obtain the feel, and newbies will be well served to navigate toward the 150 poles while keeping approaches below holes to avoid short game bungles.
Off course: Paso Robles wine country
Recognized by Wine Enthusiast as "Wine Region of the Year," the better than 200 wineries (producing more than 40 varietals) that spread across Paso are a measure of idyllic terrain meeting oftentimes bold and creative flavors.
Take a stop at Halter Ranch Vineyard, where homages to the property's past are as rich as the winery's modern-day design. The 2011 Cotes de Paso counts among the favorites here, and the traditional style of the 2013 Cotes de Paso Blanc is an excellent mirror of tradition meeting the future.
For a truly bucolic experience, drive out to Villa-San Juliette in neighboring San Miguel, where Tuscan-inspired design pairs in total harmony with the 168-acre estate. Lively flavors are in play here, with a glass experienced with an outdoor table and artisanal pizza on the Small Plates menu.
A pastoral tasting at Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery proves worthy for historians alone; ensure a ride through the property in the vintage Jeep before getting the story of "The Crash."
Downtown Paso Robles
Stroll the storybook square before delving into a host of choice dining options that impress with distinct communal touches and locally sourced platings.
Ensure a dinner at the excellent Il Cortile, where an ever-evolving, seasonal Italian menu pleases from Antipasta to entree. Smart environs and a thorough, locally dotted wine list complement the fresh stylings.
At Thomas Hill Organics, start with a drink in the Wine Lounge before tabling-up to an abundance of regional offerings, which range from meats and fish to fruits, vegetables and breads from in-town bakeries.
The Paso Robles Inn is your traditional steakhouse of choice, where a welcome hearth and bold cabernet makes for a perfect way to wind down after a day of golf and touring.