Top 100 courses trip planner: 5 incredible West Coast golf trips

Pacific Dunes is a west coast masterpiece.

Evan Schiller

Golf can be seriously private, but GOLF’s list of Top 100 Courses You Can Play is not. This year, our expert group of course raters sat down with a simple goal: to build a list of the greatest courses you (yes, you) can tee it up at in a moment’s notice. The end result is list as varied as the courses it encompasses, from Bandon Dunes to Bethpage Black.

But why keep the memories to just one of our 100 greatest tracks? Whether it’s by way of a classic point-A-to-B-to-C road trip, a stay at an iconic resort (with or without side trips) or a stopover in the concrete jungle, knocking three or more Top 100 Courses You Can Play off your wish list is doable in one fell swing. Start packing.


Derik Hobbs

Best West Coast golf trips

Road Trip to Washington State

Gamble Sands (#14; Brewster, WA), Chambers Bay (#37; University Place, WA), Wine Valley (#61; Walla Walla, WA)

Drive: It’s about 4:45 from Chambers Bay to Wine Valley, another 3:30 north to Gamble Sands, and then 2:30 to Spokane International Airport. A bit of a haul — but a gorgeous one.

Dine: You’re in apple country; in the Walla Walla Valley, enjoy the fresh- pressed hard stuff at Blue Mountain Cider, where you can bring your own grub if the cidery isn’t hosting a local food truck.

Diversion: Tacoma’s delightful Museum of Glass highlights the work of, among others, world- famous local Dale Chihuly, also found at the nearby (pedestrian-only) Chihuly Bridge of Glass.

Detour: The Home Course, just down the road from Chambers Bay, cohosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur. And QuickSands, the new David McLay Kidd short course at Gamble Sands, is perfect as warm-up or warm-down.

The magnificent layout at Gamble Sands. Brian Oar

Road Trip to Southern California

PGA West (Stadium, #67; La Quinta, CA), La Quinta Resort (Mountain, #91; La Quinta, CA), Torrey Pines (South, #72; La Jolla, CA)

Drive: La Quinta and PGA West are siblings at Palm Springs’ La Quinta Resort & Club; Torrey Pines, the gem of San Diego’s rich golf scene, is about 2:45 to the southwest.

Dine: You can’t not stop at an In-N-Out Burger; for the full experience, order something off the (not so) Secret Menu, like the “Protein Style,” in which your burger is wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun — quintessential SoCal!

Diversion: The world-famous San Diego Zoo features even more variety than our Top 100 Courses You Can Play list.

Detour: Short on length at 6,000 yards but super-long on fun, Mt. Woodson in northeast San Diego County makes an excellent counterpoint to daunting Torrey Pines.

Resort trip to Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes
Bandon, Ore.

Pacific Dunes (#3), Bandon Trails (#8), Bandon Dunes (#9), Old Macdonald (#15), Sheep Ranch (#20)

Sheep Ranch, the newest course in the famed Bandon catalogue, at dusk. Christian Hafer

Drive: Bandon is 4.5 hours from Portland International Airport… unless you can manage a connecting flight (or private or corporate jet) into Southwest Oregon Regional Airport, about a half hour from the resort.

Dine: You can’t eat Bandon’s Grandma’s Meatloaf every meal; head into town and enjoy seafood on the water’s edge at Edgewaters.

Diversion: Sleep. You’ll need it after 36 per day at the resort. Also, the glorious 13-hole par-3 Bandon Preserve and the 100,000-square- foot Punchbowl putting course. You’re here to play golf, golf, golf!

Detour: If you want to practice with a purpose, head over to Shorty’s, the complimentary David McLay Kidd–designed nine-hole practice course… and put a few bucks in the honor box to support Bandon’s Junior Golf Program and the Evans Caddie Program.

Southwest Road Trip

Shadow Creek (#21; Las Vegas, NV), We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro, #52; Fort McDowell, AZ), Talking Stick (O’odham North, #82; Scottsdale, AZ)

Drive: Talking Stick to We-Ko-Pa is about a half-hour journey; Shadow Creek’s about a five-hour trek… but it’s Vegas, baby! (And Shadow Creek!)

We-Ko-Pa is desert golf in all its sand-swept glory. Patrick Koenig

Dine: The Pan-Latin fusion Toro Restaurant & Rum Bar, from celebrity chef Richard Sandoval, overlooks the 18th hole at TPC Scottsdale and serves up more than 150 rums as well as a “suviche” bar that mixes and matches sushi and ceviche.

Diversion: Fort McDowell Adventures lets you enjoy the majestic Sonoran Desert and the Verde River via horseback, kayak, ATV, Segway — you name it.

Detour: Off-the-beaten-track track Rancho Manana, a popular locals’ joint with big deciduous trees and mule deer and javelina aplenty, offers a totally different vibe to high-end Scottsdale courses.

Resort Trip to Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach
Pebble Beach, Calif.

Pebble Beach (#1), Spyglass Hill (#30), Pasatiempo (#13; Santa Cruz, CA)

There may be no better golf property on earth than Pebble Beach. Channing Benjamin

Drive: Plant your peg (and your luggage) at Pebble, then make the side trip to Pasatiempo, just an hour north on Highway 1.

Dine: The chef-owned steak and seafood house Grasing’s has been a Carmel institution for more than two decades; The Market at Pebble Beach is the least expensive way to dine at PB, with made-to-order sandwiches, lattes, cookies and wine (consumed in whatever order you prefer).

Diversion: It’s obvious, but 17-Mile Drive is selfie heaven; if you prefer solitude, a walk in Point Lobos State Park is like Cypress Point without the golf holes, or you can check out the wonders of the life aquatic at renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Detour: “The Poor Man’s Pebble Beach,” Pacific Grove Municipal, isn’t a substitute for the rich man’s version but does its darnedest, while the recent renovation of Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s Poppy Hills makes it a worthy addition to the itinerary too.

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A former executive editor of GOLF Maga­zine, Rothman is now a remote contract freelancer. His primary role centers around custom publishing, which en­tails writing, editing and procuring client approval on travel advertorial sections. Since 2016, he has also written, pseudonymously, the popular “Rules Guy” monthly column, and often pens the recurring “How It Works” page. Rothman’s freelance work for both GOLF and runs the gamut from equipment, instruc­tion, travel and feature-writing, to editing major-championship previews and service packages.