On the Waterfront

The Resort at Pelican Hill
Photo: Courtesy Pelican Hill Resort

California’s coastal resorts have it all – luxurious accommodations, soothing spa treatments, fine dining and more

A drive up the coast of California provides countless “wow” moments, including the spectacular cliffs of La Jolla, the alluring beaches of Orange County, the famed 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula, and the towering redwood forests of Mendocino.

And, at multiple points along the Pacific between the Mexico and Oregon borders, you’ll encounter scenic golf courses and elegant resorts on (or overlooking) the ocean. Many of the resorts feature their own acclaimed golf courses, which add to the lists of amenities that attract vacationers from around the world.

What many guests at these waterfront resorts discover is that while the golf course is certainly one reason to check in, it’s far from the only reason. Let’s take a trip starting in San Diego County and going north, and take a look at some of the many reasons you’ll want to visit a resort on the California coast.

We begin at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, a beachfront resort more than 80 years old. The La Jolla Beach &Tennis Club has its own private beach, providing guests an uncrowded, ultra-relaxing front row seat on the sand. If you need more reasons than a private beach to visit, Spindrift Golf Course on the grounds is a fun par-3 course with no hole longer than 85 yards, making it perfect for all skill levels. The club proclaims tennis is “the game that gave us our name,” and there are 14 courts to test your racquet skills. The hotel rooms each feature full kitchens or kitchenettes, and the Marine Room restaurant is a long time area favorite.

Torrey Pines in La Jolla

Just a few minutes north are The Lodge at Torrey Pines and Torrey Pines Hilton, which each border the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course. As you’d guess, The Lodge at Torrey Pines and the Torrey Pines Hilton each offer special golf packages with preferred tee times for guests to play Torrey Pines, home of the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open each year on the North and South Courses. The South Course, designed by Rees Jones, also hosted the 2008 U.S. Open, won by Tiger Woods. But there’s more than golf at The Lodge and Hilton – guests at each resort can utilize The Spa at Torrey Pines, a destination spa with treatments inspired by elements from the adjacent Torrey Pines State Reserve, a popular hiking and photography area.

Wave at trains traveling on the nearby tracks as you continue up the coast and into Orange County, where you’ll soon reach The St. Regis Monarch Beach, a AAA Five Diamond resort in beautiful Dana Point. The St. Regis Monarch Beach describes itself as “the premier coastal destination for guests with active lifestyles,” and it’s hard to argue. The St. Regis has “Surf Butlers” to tend to your needs while you relax on the resort’s private beach … yes, a private beach in Orange County. The Forbes Five-Star Rated Spa Gaucin at The St. Regis offers tranquility and multiple desirable treatments that begin with the tossing of a coin into the flowing wishing well. The Monarch Beach Golf Links, a championship links-style course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., features numerous ocean views and beachside holes.

Further up Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County is The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, a spectacular Tuscan seaside village developed in the coastal foothills between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. Also a AAA Five Diamond resort, The Resort at Pelican Hill is a place where even the most avid golfer ready to take on either of the acclaimed Tom Fazio-designed courses at Pelican Hill Golf Club will push back his or her tee time because of the relaxed luxury encountered throughout the resort. The Villas, a private enclave within the resort, have up to four bedrooms and feature service from their own staff, as well a private clubhouse. The Coliseum Pool, perfectly round, offers luxuriously furnished cabanas to relax in after a specialty treatment at the globally renowned The Spa at Pelican Hill. Multiple dining options are highlighted by Andrea Ristorante, which offers the flavors of Northern Italy in an ocean view setting.

Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes

Head north into Los Angeles County and go west to Rancho Palos Verdes to find Terranea Resort, “L.A.’s oceanfront resort.” A popular location for TV and film shoots because of its picturesque setting, Terranea gives guests the choice of residential bungalows, casitas and villas. There are four ocean view pools to take in the scenery, which can also be done by playing the The Links at Terranea. The Links is a 9-hole, par-3 course featuring challenging holes integrated with each other and the spectacular natural surroundings. More ocean views are available at The Spa at Terranea, where 25 treatment rooms are ready to pamper you.

As Southern California fades into the rearview mirror, head for The Avila Beach Golf Resor  on the Central Coast. Located between Pismo Beach to the south and San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach Golf Resort’s par 71, 6500-yard course has distinctive terrain on the front nine and back nine. The front nine is hilly, while the back nine winds through a tidal estuary. The course is a good starting point to explore the town of Avila Beach, filled with quaint restaurants, Front St. shops and boutiques, and a summer-months Farmers Market.

Continue the trip to Los Osos, where Sea Pines Golf Course and lodge sit at the southern end of Morro Bay. Sea Pines Golf Course is a 9-hole executive course, with views of the bay, rare coastal dues and Morro Rock, and a good spot to warm up for courses on the Central Coast Golf Trail – just a few minutes away from your room at the Sea Pines lodge.

Although the par-3 golf course at  San Simeon Pines Seaside Resort  in Cambria is closed (a victim of the ongoing drought), the resort provides panoramic coastal views and landscaped gardens winding through Monterey pines. In addition, the resort offers stay and play deals with Central Coast Golf Trail courses Morro Bay and Dairy Creek.

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Photo: Evan Schiller

Now it’s time to head to the Monterey Peninsula and one of the world’s most renowned golf courses – Pebble Beach Golf Links. Pebble Beach is a “bucket list” course for many players, and for good reason, as the stunning scenery and championship design combine for an unforgettable golf experience. But there’s much more at Pebble Beach Resorts than just fairways and greens. Stay at the award-winning Lodge at Pebble Beach, Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero, which are situated on 5,300 acres of Monterey Peninsula between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. The Spa at Pebble Beach is a highly acclaimed facility, and a trip to Pebble Beach is also a perfect family getaway. Pebble Beach Resorts offers hiking trails, kayaking, horseback riding, cycling and dining options for every appetite.

The spectacular California coastline continue to deliver as you go north to the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, home to two 18-hole courses, including the Ocean Course, which features an ocean view from every hole. The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay is easily accessible from the Bay Area, and after checking in, relax on the Ocean Lawn, where guests roast marshmallows at the communal firepits while watching another incredible Half Moon Bay sunset.

Bodega Harbour

Situated on a waterfront bluff, The Bodega Bay Lodge  provides panoramic views of the Pacific and the Sonoma Coast. An hour’s drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge, rooms at The Bodega Bay Lodge have wood-burning fireplaces and private balconies to take in the scenery. Guests have access to tee times at the Links at Bodega Harbour  next door to the Lodge. The Links at Bodega Harbour is another Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design that takes full advantage of the California coast setting.

Another resort on the Sonoma Coast offering the chance to really get away from it all is Sea Ranch Lodge, a smaller, secluded place highlighting Mother Nature. There are miles of hiking trails along the coastal bluffs. Ocean vistas abound with the wildlife. When you’re ready to tee it up, Sea Ranch Golf Links is a Robert Muir Graves design which blends Scottish links-style golf with the rolling terrain along the Sonoma coast.

One more trek north brings you to the Little River Inn on the Mendocino Coast. Little River’s golf course is the only one on the Mendocino Coast, and deer are known to wander across the greens after emerging from the redwoods that surround this Audobon-certified wildlife sanctuary. The course is also unique in that it has nine holes, but plays as 18 because of multiple pin placements on the greens. The Little River Inn is a family owned and operated facility, where each room offers an ocean view and a place for your four-legged friends – the Inn is pet-friendly, and you can watch Fido chase the ball around after chasing yours around on the golf course.

Whether your waterfront resort vacation takes you to San Diego or the Sonoma Coast, or somewhere in between, your relaxation options are endless. And, by all means, bring your clubs … you might even use them.

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