The Best Golf Courses in California - The Ultimate Guide
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The Best Golf Courses in California

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Golf course you can play in the Golden State.

The Best Golf Courses in California Indian Canoyon Golf

 

California, The Golden State. Home of Hollywood, The Golden Gate Bridge, Santa Barbra wines, Long sandy beaches, The L.A lifestyle but more importantly some of the very best golf courses in the world!

Simply put every famous golf course architect has built on Californian soil. Dr Alistair Mackensie with Cypress Point and his American home Pasatiempo. Robert Trent Jones with Spyglass Hill and Rees Jones with Torrey Pines. The list is endless.

 

For many California offers the ultimate in bucket list golf and whilst some courses require lottery wins to pay for club memberships, There are just an incredible amount of golf courses that can be publicly played

 

If you are looking for inspiration for your next Californian Golf Holiday and want to play U.S Open and PGA Tour venues, you may well want to check out what we believe are the top 10 best golf courses in California that you can play on your next golf break.

 

Number 10

Best Golf Courses in California.

The Westin Mission Hills Pete Dye Course

The Pete Dye Course at Mission Hills is one of Pete Dye’s most interesting and enjoyable layouts. The Course opened for play in 1987 and has been a very popular golf course open for players of all abilities. The Golf course features everything you would come to expect with a Dye Design, Elevated tees, deep pot bunkers, and sneakily tough pin positions. Similar to Dye’s most iconic course TPC Sawgrass you can also expect to navigate over huge water features. 

The course holds a relatively short Par in modern-day standards and you certainly do not see many Par 70 golf courses anymore. The Course itself is still a tricky affair and those who are familiar with Dye Courses will know better than any the importance in accuracy and how each hole is designed in a way that makes you pick targets from the tee. 

Course Information: 

Course Design – Pete and Alice Dye

Opened for Play – 1987 

Par – 72 

Championship Tees – 6,706 Yards

Signature Hole

The 18th hole is a real cracker of a hole. Reminiscent of the 18th hole at Sawgrass a good drive to a narrow landing area on a fairway is required with water running the entire length of the left-hand side The hole requires accuracy as trouble looms to the right also.

Find the short grass from the tee and you will face a lovely second shot to an elevated green to set up a birdie. Land your drive to the left or the right of the fairway and you will be reaching in the bag for a new Pro V1 or getting the bucket and spade ready. 

Number 9

Poppy Hills Golf

Best Golf Courses in California.

Poppy Hills Golf Course

Poppy Hills has recently undergone a full renovation and has not just reopened as a better golf course but a much fairer test of golf than the original layout. The length has increased by just over 150 yards and the par lowered to a new Par of 71. The course is tucked inland in a forest location of Pebble Beach and previously hosted the AT&T Pro-Am event from 1991 until 2009.

The newly installed Bermuda grass fairways, bent grass greens have made the course much firmer and more like a course, you would play in bonnie old Scotland than Cali. You can get some really good rolls from drives and the greens hold the ball up well.

We often look at re-designs of golf courses in an odd way. We are fans of the purity and essence of golf, however, on this occasion it is hard to not agree that the redesign by Jones in 2014 has done nothing but improve this wonderful California delight. 

Course Information: 

Course Design – Robert Trent Jones Jnr

Opened for Play – 1986 / Redesign 2014 

Par – 71 

Championship Tees – 7,002 Yards

Signature Hole

The finishing hole at Poppy creates one hell of an exciting finish this amazing Par 5 gives a great risk and reward opportunity. The hole only measures 515 Yards and will be reachable for most adept golfers. Make sure you find the right-hand side of the fairway and you will set up a very makeable second shot to a green that is well protected. Take aim to the hill just right of the green and watch to natural contours feed the ball to the putting surface.  

Number 8

The Best Courses in California Indian Wells Golf

Best Golf Courses in California.

Indian Wells (Players) 

The Players Course at Indian Wells is a tremendous course that feels much more parkland than a desert. Palm Springs doesn’t have too many public courses but the 36 holes at Indian Wells certainly are two of the very best.

The Players course is pretty long and tight and gives you a wide range of lengths of hole and shapes. You will certainly get to use every club in your bag and will be tested in every aspect of your game. The course has clearly been designed with the PGA Tour in mind and would certainly suit the modern-day game expertly well. 

The course is a true players course, the path is clear for each shot, minimal blindness so that golfers can see exactly what is required from them and a premium on excursion rather than guesswork and creativity.  Indian Wells will suit a lot of players’ golf games. 

Course Information: 

Course Design – John Fought

Opened for Play – 2007

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 7,376 Yards

Signature Hole

The 17th hole at the Players Course is a par 3 three of real beauty. With the mountains in the background, trees lined with a scenic pond in front of the green  Just 146 yards are required. Get your shot on the green and you will have a great chance of birdie on the penultimate hole.

Number 7 

Mountain Golf at La Quinta

Best Golf Courses in California.

La Quinta Resort (Mountain Course)  

The La Quinta Resort needs very little in a way of introduction, In the golden era of cinema, you would have been rubbing shoulders with many a movie icon at La Quinta. The resort sits right in the heart of Palm Springs and has over 90 holes of championship golf on offer. The Mountain course makes our top 10 for many reasons. The course is simply just a stunning design with incredible backdrops on each hole.

The course designed by Pete Dye has all of the usual characteristics but on steroids. The huge elevation drops from the tee boxes, Deep pot bunkers and fairways running through various rock formations. This really is desert golf at its finest and certainly a resort to consider for your next golf holiday to the Golden State. The mountain course is regularly featured in the Top 100 of North America and it is easy to see just why. 

Course Information: 

Course Design – Pete Dye

Opened for Play – 1986

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 6,732 Yards

Signature Hole

The 16th hole at the Mountain course is a par 3 and so in keeping with what to expect when playing a Pete Dye golf course. This par 3 plays slightly downhill to a green shaped almost like a pear. At 167 yards from the championship tees, make sure to take one less club and play for the middle of the putting surface. A birdie is makeable…

Number 6 

The Best Courses in California Spanish Bay

Best Golf Courses in California.

The Links at Spanish Bay  

The Links at Spanish Bay is part of the world-renowned Pebble Beach Golf Resort and although often outshone by its siblings, The Links at Spanish Bay is constantly featured in North America’s top 100 golf courses. The course offers the very most pure links experience on Monterey Coast.

The golf course feels entirely different to Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay and more like playing golf on old traditional links in Scotland. Tom Watson once said that it’s so much like Scotland you can almost hear the bagpipes playing.

 The Fairways are ryegrass and the Poa annua grass on the greens do not run as fast as the traditional stuff on our side of the pond. Make no mistake The Links at Spanish Bay is a true test of links golf and the meeting of land and sea is incredible. Playing golf at this Monterey Resort should be on every serious golfer’s bucket list.

Course Information: 

Course Design – Robert Trent Jones, Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum

Opened for Play – 1987

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 6,821 Yards

Signature Hole

The 6th hole at the Spanish Bay (Sandy)  is a par 4 at bang on 400 yards.  Eight bunkers have been placed down the right-hand side of this great hole making sure that golfers are discouraged from attempting the shortcut. The sensible play is to take aim at the 150 markers and make sure that an uphill shot to this well-protected green.

Number 5 

The Best Golf Courses in California Torrey Pines

Best Golf Courses in California.

Torrey Pines (South)  

The South Course at Torrey Pines is just incredible. The host of the 2008 U.S Open which saw Tiger Woods claim his third U.S Open and 14th Major championship. With the 2021 Tournament scheduled to return to Torrey Pines this just simply has to be one to tick from the bucket list. 

The South course is extremely long and most of the par 4’s will require a driver for the average golfer. The Pacific Ocean views are out of this world and the South course is often considered to be one of the best golf courses in America.

The Original design was laid out by William F. Bell and had an update in 2001 by Rees Jones. The South course is currently used for the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour. This is a must-play golf course in California.

Course Information: 

Course Design – William F. Bell / Rees Jones 2001

Opened for Play – 1957

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 7,680 Yards

Signature Hole

The 3rd hole at the South course Torrey Pines is one of the most stunning Par 3’s in world golf. The 198 Yard hole plays at least two clubs shorter than the yardage and it will be a real challenge to gauge the correct distance. Make sure that if you are not feeling confident in the shot to take the bailout to the right of the green, Anything left, short or long will find trouble. 

Number 4 

The Stadium Course at PGA West, Palm Springs

Best Golf Courses in California.

PGA West Stadium Course (La Quinta)   

The PGA West Stadium course at La Quinta is a course that is always highly ranked in the golf digest top 100. The course has been previously used for the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Renowned for being a tough course with a plethora of water hazards and tight landing areas for tee shots.

The PGA West Stadium is set up as an outstanding match play course and has been used for many years for the PGA Skins competition. Those older enough to remember will perhaps remember the incredible ace made by Lee Trevino in 1987 on the Par 3 17th hole (‘Alcatraz’ ) claiming $175,000.

The Stadium course may be the toughest of the PGA West complex but one of the most desired and sought after golf courses in the whole of the country. We would say however this course is built for the more adept golfer and one that doesn’t mind losing a few golf balls on the way. 

Course Information: 

Course Design – Pete Dye

Opened for Play – 1986

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 7,300 Yards

Signature Hole

The 17th Hole at The PGA West (Alcatraz) is one of the worlds finest golf holes. From a raised tee position you have to land one in the heart of the green surrounded by rockery on one of the worlds finest Island holes. Selecting the right club that will travel around 160 yards is pivotal. Anything mis-hit is going to find a watery grave. 

Number 3 

Spyglass Hill Golf Course Monterey California

Best Golf Courses in California.

Spyglass Hill  

Spyglass is one of the most unique and incredible golf courses in the country. Considering the neighbours the course sits between, Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Spyglass offers an entirely different game of golf. It has often been commented that Spyglass Hill is the best golf course never to host a Major Championship. The first five holes are examples of incredible course design and start-up high in the woods working down to the Ocean.

The final 13 holes meander deep into the Del Monte Forest with challenging sharp doglegs and sloping fairways leading to water protected greens. Without any shadow of a doubt, Spyglass offers the most natural flowing terrain on the Monterey coastline. Spyglass Hill is absolute bucket list golf and we would love you to see how good the course is for yourself. 

Course Information: 

Course Design – Robert Trent Jones Snr

Opened for Play – 1966

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 6,938 Yards

Signature Hole

The 4th hole at Spyglass Hill (Blind Pew) is Robert Trent Jones favourite golf hole in his whole outstanding portfolio. The par 4 at only 380 yards and often regarded as one of the finest sub-400 yard par fours in the world. At its very most forgiving the green is only a mere 10 yards wide and 50 yards deep and finding the putting surface in two is a challenge.

A tee shot down the right is favoured and does not have to be super long, Most players perhaps would consider a more forgiving hybrid. This should leave a little flick with a wedge but with such a narrow target to fire at, this shot will take your full concentration. 

Number 2 

The Best Golf Courses in California Pasatiempo Golf Course

Best Golf Courses in California.

Pasatiempo Golf Course  

Maybe not as well known as the course deserves to be, Pasatiempo Golf course does hold a somewhat cult status between true golfing aficionados. Pasatiempo is quite possibly the very best public golf course in the world and designed by the very great Dr. Alistair Mackenzie who made a home on the 6th Fairway where he resided until his passing in 1934. Of course, most would know Mackenzie for the design of Augusta National, Cypress Point and Royal Melbourne.

Rumour has it that Pasatiempo was Mackenzie’s favourite ever design. The course is the finest example to come from the ‘Golden Age’ of course design. The Challenge sits at just 6,500 yards and with a Par of 70 from the back tees which in itself is very rare. Mackenzie did what he was very best at though with Pasatiempo and keeps players interested from the very first tee shot to the very last putt. 

The back nine holes are simply inspiring the way the course has been designed around the barrancas and you will not find a better designed, masterful and fair golf course design anywhere on the globe. What Mackenzie perhaps is best known for is his use of camouflage. He had a way of playing with bunkers so that on approach to greens you would clearly see all of the bunkers in play.

However once passed the bunkers and on the green, if you look back they will have disappeared. He mastered his trade of camouflage during the war where he was considered to be an expert. You will find amazing examples of camouflage and plays with the deception of distance on all Mackenzie designed tracks. 

Pasatiempo ranks in our top 10 golf courses worldwide and one true fan’s of course architecture must play in their lifetime.

Course Information: 

Course Design – Alistair Mackenzie / Tom Doak 2007 (maintained) 

Opened for Play – 1929 – First Round ever played by Bobby Jones – Score 75.

Par – 70

Championship Tees – 6,500 Yards

Signature Hole

The 18th Hole is a rare treat, A closing hole of Par 3. Few courses finish with a par three, Pasatiempo’s final one-shotter is a great 169-yard hole. The green is surrounded with expertly manicured bunkering and has a false front where anything short will roll back towards the barrancas. Take aim at the middle of the green and finish the round putting on a surface as close as you will get to Augusta national anywhere on earth. 

Number 1

Pebble Beach

Best Golf Courses in California.

Pebble Beach  

No huge surprise that Pebble beach is in at our number one. Jack Nicklaus has this to say about Pebble: “ If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.” 

We concur, Yes this is the very best course in the world. 

No other golf course in the world offers more time on the coastline than at Pebble Beach and not many can offer as much in rich tournament history either. Six U.S Open’s and one PGA Championship have been played on the rugged coastline of the cliff-edge masterpiece of Pebble Beach since its opening in 1919. The course was designed by Douglas Grant and Jack Neville who was a Californian State Champion.

Although the duo had very little experience in golf course design, they created the greatest meeting of land and sea. The course we play today, however, is slightly different in 1928 H. Chandler Egan, Alistair Mackenzie and Robert Hunter were all pivotal in a revision that transformed what was already a stunning golf course into what we see today. Every hole at Pebble presents a different challenge and no two holes are the same.

There are so many great holes at Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach

18 Unique Golf Holes

 The first is a great opener, a short Par 4 with a slight dogleg right that can be cut to shorten the whole further but to no real advantage. The second is a Par 5 for us mere mortal golfers and reachable with two good strokes, however, play as a Par 4 on the US Open which makes for a very different golf hole.

The third hole doglegs nearly 90 degrees to the left and hitting over the trees sets up a lovely second shot to a minuscule green. Then we get to the fourth hole and a further 9 holes that play alongside this breathtaking coastline. 6 and 7 and 8 are very special, the 6th being a Par 5 again just reachable in two but the second shot is blind and over the cliff edge to a green on a peninsular with no room left, right or long.

The 7th needs no introduction; it is one of the finest Par 3’s in the land. Only 109 yards but club selection can be from a pitching wedge to a 5 iron depending on the wind. A downhill blow to another green on a peninsular where the Pacific Ocean will blow.

Number 8 has arguably the best second shot in golf. A decent drive getting as close to the end of the fairway is ideal but do not go long. The second shot is over a monstrous chasm requiring around 180 yards to green the size of a double bed. 

The final hole on the outbound loop again is played all along with the rugged coastline a long Par 4 with a fairway kicking to the right and the Pacific. Par is a good score on the 9th Hole. 

The Back 9 

The 10th hole is the last hole directly on the beach until the 17th and is very similar to the 9th, do not go right!

The 11th – 16th are all great golf holes played inland with some fine birdie making opportunities. 11 and 13 are both short Par 4’s under 400 yards and very scorable 12 is a long 200 yard Par 3 where par is a good score. 15 and 16 again both around the 400-yard mark are scoring Par 4’s but watch out there are plentiful amounts of bunkers to throw you off from scoring well. 

The 17th heads back out to the Pacific and is a super long Par 3 just under 220 yards with a very shallow green heavily guarded by clever bunkering. 

Signature Hole

At Pebble Beach, it will be a much easier task to find a non-signature hole than to pick one. However, it is impossible to pass on the most famous finishing hole on earth.  The 18th is a Par 5 with the Atlantic Ocean on the whole left stretch of the hole. The target line is the lone tree in the middle of the fairway driving over the cliff edge.

The second shot has caught many a golf ball in the 100 yards bunker running left of the fairway. Most will lay up to around 100 yards, But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to go for the green. What do you do? 

Course Information: 

Course Design – Jack Neville and Douglas Grant 

Opened for Play – 1919

Par – 72

Championship Tees – 6,737 Yards

Where Would You like to play Next?…

So there you have it, Our Top 10 Best Golf Courses in California, The Golden State that offers so much to so many of our customers. 

We would love to help you organise your next trip to California and our team are on hand to offer the very best expert advice.

Check out our latest Californian Deals Here…..

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