Surf and Turf Golf in California
“Let’s go to the Desert!” is the cry of California residents in metro areas who want to escape the rat race. It is also a prime retirement and vacation destination for golfers around the globe. “The Desert”, in this case, refers to the Palm Springs area. However, when you approach Rancho Las Palmas Resort, on Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, it appears not the least bit parched. Loaded with colorful, fragrant blooms and 27 bright green holes, it has a golfer friendly layout amidst 1500 palms, but don’t be fooled, as hole number 3, a 645 yard par 5 can be a dog that bites. Wear your shorts and short sleeves, while admiring the majestic snow capped mountain views from every fairway (well, maybe not in the summer). After golf, year round, Splashtopia is fun for kids, young and old, with a lazy river for tubing and water slides for a rush. The tranquility pool provides a full service adult option and a floral fantasy that will melt all stress away.
Rancho Las Palmas is a host hotel for the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Country Club, on Dinah Shore Drive, which was abuzz with preparations. The greens at Mission Hills were scoring 12 on the stimpmeter and the fairways were very lush. Hammers pounded nails, assembling bleachers along the 18th hole, famous for winners’ leaps into the cool water.
The first USA stop this year for the LPGA was the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, a sister to Rancho Las Palmas and luxurious in every way. The best of North and South course holes are combined for a tournament 18 where fairway shots are critical, considering the thickness and depth of the rough. Each hole has its own character, with gorgeous flowers, topiary designs and unique water features. Most tee boxes are appointed with an historical tournament memory etched in the sign. Not as fast, these greens were actually spongy and take extra time to get the correct read. La Costa is a resort where you can spend days just wandering the pathways, thickly lined by bird of paradise plants. Modern renovation, fun activities, multiple water options, Deepak Chopra training and much more make this a special spot.
Restaurants in both resorts offer great food and excellent service along with their beautiful spa facilities. We loved our introduction to the mild Barramundi fish. La Costa is just a few miles from Pacific Coast highway, a short drive to the ocean. Up the coast or down, there are lots of fine eateries where you can watch the waves and surfers, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We spotted a sign “Locally World Famous” at the Encinitas Ale House and discovered the best burgers we ever ate. Three exits north on the 5 are The Flower Fields of Carlsbad. Imagine 53 acres of ranunculus blooms on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Southern California has plenty of airports from Palm Springs to LAX and many choices for play and stay in a temperate climate. Don’t think twice. Go west young man and woman. If you want to feel far away from civilization, take the long and winding S22 from Temecula and head east to Borrego Springs. It is located on the back side of the mountains that surround Palm Springs. Star light, star bright, this is rated number 2 in dark night destinations. Star gazing parties are its claim to fame. It does look and feel like desert; a retreat with reasonable prices and great food. The 27 holes of golf and upcoming spa are a bonus. Lots of bunkers and long par 3’s into the wind provide a challenge on this desert course.
We’ll be returning for the astral experience there but remembered a different type of star sighting that abounds in California-movie stars. It is, after all where many of the rich and famous live and play. At breakfast, we were able to thank actor Ralph Waite for all his years of entertainment, especially as our TV surrogate dad on “The Waltons.” At age 82, he is still acting on “Bones” and “Days of Our Lives”. Very quick witted, when asked if he played golf, he shook his head. ”I never had time – raising all those kids!” Good night Mary Ellen. Good night John Boy.