We’ve taken enough golf trips to know that we all need a break. While the tour pros beg their ball to avoid the rough and find the beach, the kind amateurs need doesn’t come with a rake, or a high lip, or a low bottom. Nothing pairs better with golf than a relaxing day at the beach. Warm sun, soft sand, ocean or lake at the tip of your toes. Fortunately for all golfers, the best courses have a beach within a short drive’s distance (car, not Callaway!) Here’s a quick list of the Top 5 beach courses along the American West Coast, for your next solo, partner or buddy getaway.
Bullards Beach and Bandon Golf, Oregon
Bandon, Oregon, has been USA golf mecca for 2 decades, thanks to the efforts of Mike Keiser. His Bandon Dunes resort boasts 4 18-hole courses (all rated in the top 25 of USA public courses), a 5th on the way (bunkerless, to boot!), and a par-three gem. Just south of town sits Bandon Crossings, completely separate from the resort, but well worth your time. As you drive south from Portland, your journey takes you west just below Eugene. When you hit the coast, the magnitude of the Oregon dunes hits you in the face like Thor’s hammer. So much to do on the beaches, so make some time!
Food near Bandon Dunes: Lord Bennett’s
Food near Bullards beach: Tony’s Crab Shack
Airbnb in Bandon: Mid June 2020 for 4 Adults
Rons Rating: 10/10 stars. I’m completely biased when it comes to Bandon. I simply love everything about the vibe. I love that the entire doldrum economy was reinvented and reinvigorated by the resort. I love that Dan Hixson took a chance and built the Crossings for the locals. I love walking golf, 36 or 45 or 54 holes a day. I love seafood and cranberries. I love bump and run, putting from 60 yards out, and fescue greens. If Ron’s wife even remotely liked golf, he would move with her to this place. Once in your lifetime, visit Bandon.
Monterey/Carmel and Pebble Beach/Pacific Grove, Mid California
Two budgets visit the peninsula: the unlimited kind, and the one that scraped $$$ together for a once-in-3-lifetimes visit. For the unlimited ones, have a blast at Pebble, Spyglass, and 2 or 3 of the world-class privates in the area. For the scrapers, a round or 2 at Pacific Grover ($49 a pop) will be much easier on your wallet. When you average that $500 round in, $200 each for 3 rounds is a bit more palatable. If you belong to a club, ask your pro to help score a tee time at Cypress, Monterey Peninsula, or one of the other privates. You never know!
Food near Pacific Grove: Red House Cafe
Food near Asilomar state beach: Fishwife
Airbnb in Carmel: Mid June 2020 for 4 adults
Rons Rating: 9.5/10 stars. We’re getting close to that perfect 10! The only thing that keeps this region from the Nadia of golf ratings, is cost. Super expensive to play out here. Worth it, I’m certain, but doesn’t score the ten. The great golf writers sing the praises of Pacific Grove, the area muni whose back nine dances along the coast, a la Cypress and Pebble. To walk in the footsteps of US Open competitors, PGA Tour professionals, is a cool vibe, making a trip to Pebble and Spyglass a must for many chops and hacks. As a child, I dreamed of Pebble; as an adult, I balance reality with television!!
San Diego and Torrey Pines, Southern California
There is fun and challenging golf in San Diego proper, from Balboa Park to Coronado Muni. The city itself is loaded with spaces for enjoyment, from Coronado Island to the Gaslamp district, where the baseball park, convention center, and loads of restaurants are to be found. We’re going a bit north of the Gaslamp district, near LaJolla, to Torrey Pines, for our golf rex. Torrey has the South course, host of US Opens and PGA Tour events, and the vastly-underrated North course, recently restored by Tom Weiskopf and crew. Despite the spotlight on the South course, the North might be the one you remember more.
Food near Torrey Pines: Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Food near Torrey Pines Natural Reserve: Sbicca
Airbnb in La Jolla: Mid June 2020 for 4 adults
Rons Rating: 9.5/10 stars. Torrey Pines has two golf courses on property. The South (the better-known one) was a victim of the make it tough philosophy during a renovation, and I’m not a fan of that. No one returns from vacation and says #SoProud of all the golf balls I lost and the career-high round I shot! A course can be challenging for the professionals and welcoming for the amateurs. That said, you can do waaaay worse than spend a week at Torrey Pines. Play the proper tee decks (play short ones if you must) and drink in the views, and your stay will be uber-memorable.
Chambers Bay and Chambers Bay Beach Park, Washington
Food near Chambers Bay: Original House of Donuts
Food near Chambers Bay beach: Gyro Zone
Airbnb in University Place: Mid June 2020 for 4 adults
Rons Rating: 9/10 stars. Chambers Bay is spectacular, but it’s not for everyone. It is, bar none, the most demanding walk I’ve had in my 40+ years of golf. I loved it, but my calves were grapefruits after finishing 18. I equate Chambers Bay with a safe but turbulent sail on the water. Fly the ball in? Absolutely. Bounce it in? You bet. Blind shots? Check. Carries over hopeless abyss? Certainly. Chambers Bay is all about drama, and plays way better than the 2015 US Open showed it. One thing: Jason Day’s vertigo above the 9th green was REAL. Tred carefully as you descend from the rim to the cauldron.
Santa Cruz Beach and Pasatiempo, Northern California
Food near Pasatiempo: Chocolate The Restaurant
Food near Santa Cruz beach: Falafel Hut
Airbnb in Santa Cruz: Mid June 2020 for 4 adults
Rons Rating: 9.5/10 stars. Pasatiempo is the place where Alister MacKenzie chose to make his home, while he lovingly tended to his pride and joy. If you don’t know MacKenzie’s work, that’s understandable. Most of it is private or college-owned, at least here in the states. He left us Crystal Downs in Michigan, Cypress Point in California, Royal Melbourne in Australia, and little place in Augusta, Georgia, that sadly has been de-MacKenzied to the Nth degree. His work, especially his bunkers, is brilliant. Pasatiempo is one of a select number of his courses that is open to the public. Make a beeline to it when on the west coast. It’s not far from Silicon Valley. As with many great courses, the spectacular front nine serves as an appetizer for the astonishing home half. I suspect you’ll walk directly from the 18th green to the 1st tee, hold out your bowl, and say More, please.