The Florida State Seminoles and Oregon Ducks clash in the Rose Bowl Game Jan. 1, 2015 to decide which team advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship. Bring your clubs, as there are plenty of worthwhile golf courses in the Pasadena area to play before or after the game.
The only downside to the incomparable Rose Bowl ritual is that floral parades and football games tend to interrupt a good golf day at adjacent Brookside Golf Club, which closes down on game day for a higher cause: overflow parking. That's a crying shame if you got no dog in the fight and prefer more genteel uses of turfgrass. Golf is brutal, but rarely does it require treatment for a concussion -- depression, maybe.
But hey, you're in sunny California in January and it's 75 degrees -- what's exactly wrong with this snapshot?
So saddle up those weapons of grass destruction and come to wild and wooly El Lay for an extended itinerary of golf, world-class comestibles and whatever manner of immature nonsense one indulges in when grouped with other like-minded miscreants -- and yes, we do mean football fans.
As Brookside Golf Club's 36 holes are literally in the shadow of the fabled stadium itself, I'd suggest coming in a few days early and doing some post-flight loosening up on the "Koiner" (AKA Brookside's No. 1 Course) -- which is the longer of the two William Bell layouts and has bigger greens to aim at. The No. 2 Course (the so- called "Nay") checks in at a mere 6,000 yards but demands a degree of course management its big sister doesn't. Long and wrong is okay at the Koiner, not recommended on the Nay.
Truth be told, the courses play faster and firmer come football season: UCLA games at the Bowl mean mucho weekend parking on the fairways themselves. Brookside also allows fivesomes, so bring a volume of short stories along with those illegal lagers in your bag to pass the time while some guy four-putts from five-feet, carding a cool 11 on a short par 3.
But, hey, you rented that monster SUV for you and the crew, so put it to use on what southern California is most famous for: freeways!
A 45-minute drive to the west will bring you to the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains, locale for some very good golf and much-needed respite from the urban congestion of L.A. proper.
Rustic Canyon Golf Course
At the top of the heap is Rustic Canyon Golf Course in Moorpark, a links-like Gil Hanse design that is as unique as it is playable, and has never been in better shape since it opened in 2002.
Set in a former wash on a canyon floor, Rustic is a creative golfer's paradise, offering as it does so many different options both off the tee (its undulating fairways can be 50-70 yards wide) and when approaching the good-sized greens. There is not much altitude change hole to hole, but the shaved-down bentgrass turf (same as the greens) makes a chipped 5-iron as viable as a hard-struck, 100-foot putt on many holes. And when afternoon winds gust up, hooded 5-irons look pretty good on the uphill 15th, a 147-yard look that is as hard to gauge as any shot on the course.
Moorpark Country Club
While you're in the neighborhood, they do a fine job just up the road at Moorpark Country Club. Here you'll find 27 holes of inspired, Peter Jacobsen-designed (with Jim Hardy) golf that has matured nicely for a 12-year-old course -- a very good year for the golf harvest in these climes! Some major homes surround a fairway here and there, but most are perched well above the course, which otherwise runs through remote canyons and citrus groves.
The greens at Moorpark are built for speed and favor feathery high approaches and goodly gobs of spin if you can manage producing some. The Ridgeline Course and Canyon Crest Course are easier on the eye than the Creekside Course, a few of whose looks are indecipherable upon first inspection. Creekside's near impossible par-4 fourth hole is dead uphill and features two forced carries, but is followed by a very drivable, sub-300-yard par 4, so at least you get some salve for your recently suffered wounds.
Angeles National Golf Club
Another estimable track in the area is Angeles National Golf Club, a wonderful Gary Nicklaus design much nearer to the Rose Bowl and a favorite track of Hollywood types like Don Cheadle and Will Ferrell, who juice the joint on the course's Web site. Like Rustic, Angeles National meanders through a canyon wash but is more of a desert-style game -- there's very little rough but lots of spiny bushes and hardpan bordering its narrower fairways. There are only 50 bunkers or so, but there's plenty lots of trouble if you miss left or right. A great facility in a serene setting.
Life after golf: Lodging and dining
To answer a metaphysical question, yes, there is life after golf, it just doesn't have as many hazards. So when in Rome (or Hollywood -- same thing, really!), make sure to wine, dine and party like tomorrow is just a vicious rumor. That means gourmet pizza pies at Mario Batali's Mozza; fiery Thai food at Jitlada, where a few bucks more buys you some truly edgy flavors; have a justly celebrated Umami Burger at one of their many locations, and make sure to try the hand-sliced pastrami at Langer's Delicatessen, recently voted by deli-scholars to be the nation's no. 1 smoked meat, and yes that includes Katz's in New York City.
The 13-story Ace Hotel downtown is that mini-chain's latest hip hostelry if you want to rub shoulder-pads with some Kardashian knockoffs at the rooftop bar and pool. The Millennium Biltmore is L.A.'s oldest and most elegant downtown hotel, and is at least worth a stroll-through to admire the architectural details. And if you have the shekels to burn, Shutters on the Beach is right on the Pacific and a few minutes walk to Venice, where people-watching could become an obsession. And down the coast a piece in Newport Beach is the incomparable Resort at Pelican Hill -- beyond opulent digs and 36 holes of gorgeous, sea-adjacent Tom Fazio golf. Kill two birds with a single Pro V1 and stay and play at Pelican.