11 California Golf Courses That Belong on Your Bucket List

11 California Golf Courses That Belong on Your Bucket List

By Rachael Medina August 02, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

The Golden State reigns supreme in many things. Not only is it famous for its unrivaled coastal lifestyle and prime surfing spots, but also for its premier golf destinations—and with 900-plus golf courses, California provides something for every golfer. 

Since the state boasts sunny weather nearly year-round, there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and experience a few of the best golf courses in the nation. From Palm Springs, to Lake Tahoe, to Coronado, to San Francisco, there is no shortage of places to perfect a hole-in-one. 

Follow in the steps of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, take a swing on the greens of U.S. Open courses, and check out the history of the famed Olympic Club and Riviera Country Club—all without leaving the comfort and sunshine of the Golden State. Whether you decide to pick up your very own golf equipment or rent some for the day, make sure to grab a bite of California cuisine at the on-site grills and to lounge in an Adirondack chair so you can experience the luxurious nature of a golf getaway. 

Can’t-Miss California Golf Courses

With so many options, it can be hard to narrow down your search and select just one or two golf courses to hit on any given trip, so we’ve taken the guesswork out of it. Check out our top 11 picks, and start planning your next visit.

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1. Pebble Beach Golf Links

Follow in the footsteps of legends at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Photo courtesy of Channing Benjamin Photography and Pebble Beach Resorts.

Location: Pebble Beach

Established in: 1919

Designed by: Douglas Grant and Jack Neville

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,040

Holes: 18

Located along the coastline of Monterey County, Pebble Beach Golf Links—the famed Pebble Beach golf course—provides sweeping vistas and undeniable luxury. It’s also the site of five U.S. Opens, including the legendary 100th tournament in which Tiger Woods won the trophy and tied the record for the lowest 72-hole score ever in the national championship. 

The course underwent a number of enhancements before the 2010 U.S. Open—which ended with Graeme McDowell, the first European winner since 1970, taking the title—in hopes of strengthening the appreciation of players, creating a more challenging experience, and exceeding guest expectations. Pebble Beach Golf Links has been successful at maintaining its reputation and continues to be an iconic destination for all avid golfers. 

See the area: Spend a Day (or Three) in Carmel-by-the-Sea

2. Torrey Pines Golf Course

Enjoy panoramic views of the sandy beaches and the swells of the ocean while golfing at Torrey Pines. Photo courtesy of Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Location: La Jolla 

Established in: 1988

Designed by: William F. Bell, then later redesigned by Rees Jones in 2008 and revamped by Tom Weiskopf in 2016

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 14,956 yards

Holes: 36

This expansive property is owned by the city of San Diego and is home to two 18-hole championship golf courses. Torrey Pines South Course—the setting of the 2008 U.S. Open—sits atop the coastal bluffs of La Jolla, providing panoramic views of the sandy beaches and the swells of the Pacific Ocean. The 7,698-yard course is also slightly larger than the North Course, which spans 7,258 yards.

Though the two courses differ in size, each is a par 72 and offers carts and clubs. There’s a driving range available to practice your swing prior to beginning the courses, too. Enjoy the poa annua grass throughout the South Course, or check out the blend of 007 and Tyee bentgrass along the North Course. 

After a long day on the green, relax at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, get a spa treatment, and dine at one of the indulgent restaurants to experience the ultimate golf resort vacation. 

See the area: The 10 Best Beaches in San Diego to Visit Now

3. TPC Harding Park 

See San Francisco from a different perspective during a day on the green at TPC Harding Park. Photo courtesy of TPC Harding Park.

Location: San Francisco

Established in: 1925

Designed by: Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, then renovated by Chris Gray in 2003

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,169 yards

Holes: 27

With an ideal location just six and a half miles southwest of downtown San Francisco, TPC Harding Park is an unusual course and a sight to see. Take a swing at the 27 holes across the two courses, and enjoy the views of the surrounding cypress trees and Lake Merced. 

See the area: Getaway Guide: San Francisco

4. Indian Wells Golf Resort

Practice your swing in gorgeous desert environs in Indian Wells. Photo courtesy of Channing Benjamin Photography and Indian Wells Golf Resort.

Location: Indian Wells

Established in: 1986

Designed by: Clive Clark and John Fought

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,050 yards

Holes: 36

Complete with a 53,000-square-foot clubhouse and two 18-hole golf courses, the luxurious Indian Wells Golf Resort is an ideal destination for weddings, quick getaways, and group events. The courses have hosted the PGA’s Skins Game as well as the Golf Channel’s Big Break, and they provide easy access to the Palm Springs International Airport. 

Equipped with a private practice area, a putting and chipping green, practice bunkers, and PGA professional lessons, Indian Wells Golf Resort is the perfect place to learn the sport and to enhance your skills. 

See the area: Getaway Guide: Palm Springs

5. Stadium Course at PGA West

When vacationing in the Coachella Valley, Stadium Course at PGA West is a must-see destination.

Location: La Quinta

Established in: 1987

Designed by: Alice and Pete Dye

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,300 yards

Holes: 18

As the best-known golf course in the Coachella Valley, the Stadium Course at PGA West was home to the Bob Hope Classic in 1987 and has remained a challenging wringer that delights golfers of all skill levels. 

Located in the PGA West club, the Stadium Course is one of six courses in the 109-hole, 2,000-acre golf community. Lee Trevino’s hole-in-one during the 1988 Skins Game, which is still considered to be one of the most famous shots in golf history, occurred on the greens of Stadium Course—as did David Duval’s eagle at the 1999 Bob Hope Classic, where he went on to win with a record-breaking 59. Experience the history and grandeur of the Stadium Course for yourself and golf where the greats have.

See the area: The Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

6. Rams Hill Golf Club

Enjoy the serene desert vistas from the course at Rams Hill Golf Club. Photo courtesy of Rams Hill Golf Club.

Location: Borrego Springs

Established in: 1983

Designed by: Tom Fazio

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,200 yards

Holes: 18

Though the Rams Hill Golf Club was originally designed as a 27-hole course by Ted Robinson, it was entirely redone by Tom Fazio in 2007 to create its current 18-hole layout. Boasting views of the Anza-Borrego Desert and the towering Santa Rosa Mountains, the course embraces its desert floor surroundings but also enjoys the sounds of trickling streams nearby, the majestic beauty of clear skies with brilliant stars, and the presence of local wildlife like red-tailed hawks and coyotes. Admire the breathtaking landscape in the fall and winter while trying your hand at the numerous holes dotting this resilient terrain.

See the area: California’s Underrated State Parks That are Worth Visiting

7. Pasatiempo Golf Club   

Relax in style on Pasatiempo Golf Club's semi-private grounds for a day you won't forget. Photo courtesy of Pasatiempo Golf Club.

Location: Santa Cruz

Established in: 1929

Designed by: Alister Mackenzie

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 6,500 yards 

Holes: 18

Situated along the elegant Central Coast, Pasatiempo Golf Club is semi-private but gives the public access to certain golfing tee times. Complete with a driving range and a practice facility as well as individualized golf instruction, the course packs in all of the amenities you would expect from a high-end resort. The green fees, cart rentals, and club rentals are all charged separately, so you’re able to customize your experience to be as à la carte or inclusive as you would like. Enjoy your time along these 18 holes and indulge your senses in the great outdoors—just make sure to keep up with the 4 hours and 15 minutes pace of play. 

See the area: Beach Day Itinerary: Santa Cruz

8. Classic Club 

Complete with elegant bridges and water features, the Classic Club course is unlike anywhere else in Palm Desert. Photo courtesy of the Classic Club.

Location: Palm Desert

Established in: 2006

Designed by: Arnold Palmer

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,322 yards

Holes: 18

The Classic Club in Palm Desert is a nationally recognized championship course as well as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary due to its high degree of environmental quality. The course hosted the Bob Hope Classic from 2006 to 2008 and is proud to redefine desert terrain with a rolling landscape, 14 bridges, 30 acres of water features, and a plethora of pine trees. 

See the area: The Best Things to do in The Deserts of California

9. Coyote Moon Golf Course

Nestled in North Lake Tahoe, the Coyote Moon Golf Course is as beautiful as it is fun. Photo courtesy of Coyote Moon Golf Course.

Location: Truckee

Established in: 2000

Designed by: Brad Bell

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,177 yards

Holes: 18

The Coyote Moon Golf Course resides in the impeccable Lake Tahoe area. The 250-acre course is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of giant pine trees, jagged granite protuberances, colorful wildflowers, and a rushing creek. With an amazing location and clean mountain air, Coyote Moon Golf Course is a must-visit for golf enthusiasts of all calibers. 

See the area: Getaway Guide: Truckee

10. Yocha Dehe Golf Club

Tucked northwest of Sacramento and Davis, the Yocha Dehe Golf Club offers an idyllic escape. Photo courtesy of Yocha Dehe Golf Club.

Location: Brooks

Established in: 2008

Designed by: Brad Bell

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 7,337 yards

Holes: 18

Located northwest of Sacramento, the Yocha Dehe Golf Club offers gorgeous scenery and 18 holes along pristinely manicured greens. Take advantage of the GPS-enabled golf carts (which are included in green fees), and admire the rolling hills and the spring water that gives this course its name. Extend your trip by spending a night at the resort and enjoying a meal or two while overlooking the golf course.

See the area: Go With The Flow in California’s Hottest Houseboat Destinations

11. Ojai Country Club

Ojai is known for its gorgeous scenery, but the Ojai Country Club will still take your breath away. Photo courtesy of the Ojai Valley Inn.

Location: Ojai

Established in: 1923

Designed by: Billy Bell and George C. Thomas, Jr.

Golf equipment rentals: Yes

Size: 6,292

Holes: 18

Designed by the incredible minds behind the famous Riviera, Bel-Air, and Los Angeles Country Clubs, Ojai Country Club was one of the first premier golf courses in SoCal. This spot is particularly notable for both focusing on the needs of the average golfer and creating a challenge for the more experienced golfer. 

Hollywood stars and professional golfers alike have set foot on the course, including legends like Jimmy Demaret, Doug Sanders, Bing Crosby, Kevin Costner, Will Smith, Michael Douglas, and Bob Hope. The par-70 course features a variety of holes—from par 4s over 400 yards to par 3s over 200 yards—and offers private instruction to boost your skills. 

See the area: Getaway Guide: Ojai

With so many notable California golf courses to choose from, there’s always somewhere new to practice your swing. Wherever you end up in the Golden State, you’re sure to find a beautiful course worth visiting.

WRITTEN BY
Rachael Medina

WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina

Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…

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