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Cruise the California Coast for Fantastic Golf and Picturesque Ocean Views

Jul. 28th, 2020

While the current market conditions have raised various challenges for travel, the general consensus is that outdoor activities present limited risk of spreading the virus—which is good news for golfers. In California, many golf courses have reopened while adhering to numerous safety provisions. Given the state’s 650-plus miles of coastline peppered with world-class courses, ocean views abound for a top-down road-trip tour of the golfer’s paradise that is California. From San Diego to north of San Francisco, these golf courses provide a good excuse to cruise in a convertible for a scenic drive between legendary links. Throw your clubs in the trunk and hit the road.


San Diego’s Torrey Pines Golf Course, located cliffside along the Pacific Ocean about 30 minutes north of the Mexican border, features a pair of PGA championship 18-hole courses. Scheduled to host the 2021 U.S. Open, Torrey Pines offers renowned holes that have recently undergone renovation to prepare for the tournament. Panoramic views of the ocean to the west and mountains to the north make the views a feast for the eyes, but with plenty of tricky doglegs, big bunkers, and steep cliffs, they will challenge even veteran golfers.


About an hour’s drive north of Torrey Pines is the Pelican Hill Golf Club, part of the resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach. During the new norm, the course is only open to club members and resort guests; the resort (a spectacular luxury destination unto itself) is open with safety limitations, so if you’re road-tripping up the California coast, this should definitely be one of your overnight stays. The resort offers two Tom Fazio­–designed 18-hole courses, both situated cliffside with uninterrupted ocean views. The north course works more cliffs, plateaus, and elevation changes into the holes, while the south course challenges with greens surrounded by bunkers and other hazards.


Another hour’s drive north brings you to Trump National Golf ClubLos Angeles, perched on the bluffs of the Palos Verdes Peninsula (about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles). The Pete Dye–designed course was completed in 2006 and cost more than $250 million, making it the world’s most expensive course. Its undulating elevation changes, sprawling water hazards, and wall-like bunkers make it a difficult course, though continual ocean vistas make the long game play highly enjoyable.


This coastal road trip continues about 2.5 hours north at Santa Barbara’s Sandpiper Golf Club, which has hosted various PGA and LPGA tournaments. The 18-hole course offers gorgeous views of both the Santa Barbara Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the West.


A 4-hour drive north (or a little longer if you make the good decision to take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway) is the Pebble Beach Golf Links, the course on this tour that requires the least introduction. Largely considered the best public golf course in America, Pebble Beach has hosted myriad professional events. Several architects had a hand in the course’s design, among them Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. The course is legendary and your golf game will need to be the same: Its scores of traps and bunkers (not to mention the oceanic water hazard) will keep you second-guessing every shot.


If you still have the energy to continue your drive north, 2 more hours on the road will put you about 30 miles south of San Francisco at the Half Moon Bay Golf Links. It features two 18-hole courses—the Arnold Palmer–designed Old Course and the Arthur Hills–designed Ocean course—both of which offer sweeping views of the Pacific and big drops to the beach below. The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (located right on the Old Course) is an easy choice for the night’s stay.

Finish your top-down California golfing road trip another 100 miles north (and a 3-plus-hour drive taking the scenic route) at the Links at Bodega Harbour. Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the 18-hole course with classic Scottish links in mind, so expect long rolling fairways, undulating greens, and rough coastal grasses. Whereas the Southern California courses on this list are beachy, this north coast course is craggy (and foggy much of the year) but nonetheless scenic and a fun challenge. After finishing your round here, unwind with some of Bodega Bay’s famous fresh oysters—a relaxing conclusion to an epic road trip

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