Golf in Napa
You could spend your entire trip to Napa Valley doing nothing but eating and drinking. It's a good plan. The food is tasty here and the wine delicious and copious. And we make it easy for you to do nothing but eat and drink. So have at it.
However, there really is more here than food and wine. You could go golfing between sips and bites. For those inclined to spoil a good walk, the Napa area provides some pretty interesting choices. And many don't require you to mortgage your home. Here are some excellent choices.
Eagle Vines Golf Club
Located about 15 minutes east of the town of Napa in American Canyon, Eagle Vines is a challenging but fair Johnny Miller-designed track that will give you the opportunity to swing away and practice your target golf. It's a pretty course, surrounded on many holes by vines and water coming into play on eight holes. It's nicely groomed and the greens tend to be quite true and of moderate to quick speeds. The two putting greens leave something to be desired. And be careful, in my experience, the putting greens tend to be slower than the course greens. You can find green fees ranging from $39 to $80. My favorite hole is #11, a par five with water to to the left off the tee and a second shot that requires first a carry over a stream then a carry over a lake to reach in two; or a precision shot between water and bunkers to set up a pitch to the green.
Chardonnay Golf Club
Located direct adjacent to Eagle Vines is Chardonnay Golf Club. It, like Eagle Vines, is incorporated into a vineyard landscape with vines coming into play on a number of holes. The views from many of the elevated tees are spectacular. Uniquely, Chardonnay presents six par 3s, six par 4s and six par 5s. Beware that the par fives are difficult holes. Many of them are long and demand a careful carry over ravines and washes. The practice facilities here are quite good with a large putting green and a grass range. There are numerous elevated tees here, some of them monumentally elevated. And like its neighbor, Eagle Vines, wind can be a serious factor later in the afternoon. My favorite hole is the elevated par 3 8th that hits to a undulating narrow and wide green. Given the wind factor, I've hit everything from a 52 degree wedge to a 7 iron on this hole.
Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park
This is Napa's local municipal course, and it's a good one with lots of challenges. Like most municipal courses it's not in absolutely pristine shape (some sand traps remain "rock traps"). However, water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes and in many cases, this isn't just incidental water. It's you-better-hit-your-tee-shot-straight kind of water. As you would imagine, prices as Kennedy are lower. You can easily get on for $35 or less. There is a driving range with mats as well as a fine putting green. My favorite hole is #8, a medium length par 5 with water on both sides and lake about 100 yards out that must be traversed. You can get to the green in two with two good shots, but you'd better not be errant.
Vintners Golf Club
This is the Valley's local 9-hole track located smack dab in the middle of the Valley in the culinary haven of Yountville. They keep this little nine holer in very good shape and it is mightily popular with locals not only for the quick round it provides but also for the driving range that allows for hitting off mats as well as grass. Water comes into play on three holes but only on number 4 is it of any consequence. The folks that run this place are fantastic and the local pro, Jeff Dennis, is outstanding. Rates range from about $20 up to $40 for a round of 18.
Hiddenbrook Golf Club
This one is located about a 25 minute drive from the town of Napa and it might be the best course around that you can easily get on. It's an Arnold Palmer-designed course that has hosted LPGA events and it is a challenge, well-groomed and well worth an afternoon.The course features some huge elevation changes, a number of holes with wide open fairways and holes that require you traverse water to reach the green. In my mind, it is the most challenging of the easy-to-get-on-courses in the area. From the blue tees you have a 71.1 rating and 133 slope. This course comes highly recommended. Rates for a round range from $40 to $100 depending on when you play. Hiddenbrook also provides a driving range, an undulating putting green and a chipping green.
Mare Island Golf Club
Located about a half hour from Napa in the town of Vallejo on a former army base located on an island of sorts, Mare Island Golf Club is unique. Opened in 1892 as a nine hole track it claims to be the oldest golf course still operating west of the Mississippi River. In 2000 an additional 9 holes were added providing for two very different golfing experiences between the original nine and the new nine holes. The front nine is a traditional layout with tree-lined fairways and greens like postage stamps. The new back nine opens up, and provides a more links-like experience Much of Mare Island is target golf, made even more difficult by the frequent afternoon winds that can turn a 9 iron into a 5 iron. The green fees are great values ranging from $15 to $45 depending on day and time of play. A small putting green is provided with an irons only driving range.
There are other courses in the area, most of which require membership or a stay at the connected resort. All of the courses described above require no more than a tee time. I tend to rotate around these course and find something to like about all of them. For golfers coming to Napa, a few hours away from the food and wine will be rewarding. And the wine will always be here.