When it comes to golf destinations, California offers an abundance of options. From San Diego to Napa, golf courses highlight the state’s natural beauty and provide opportunities for relaxation, camaraderie, and exercise.
You don’t have to be a golfer to appreciate California’s many golf courses. While the focus might be on the game, most also offer amenities for everyone to enjoy, including restaurants, pools, tennis courts, spas, and picturesque surroundings. Here are 14 of the best California golf courses and clubs.
Southern California Golf Courses
Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla
Located in La Jolla on coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific, Torrey Pines offers two 18-hole championship golf courses. The South Course hosts the annual PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, and two U.S. Open Championships were played at Torrey Pines. Both courses are open to the public, and a stay at The Lodge makes a perfect golf vacation.
Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad
Designed by Arnold Palmer, the beautifully landscaped course overlooks Batiquitos Lagoon and includes rolling fairways, native wildflowers, challenging bunkers, and water hazards. Open to the public and guests of the Park Hyatt Aviara, the course hosts an annual LPGA tournament and features a Chef Richard Blais steakhouse, ember & rye, overlooking the 18th green.
Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Beach
Two Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole courses set near the Pacific feature stunning landscapes and challenging golf. The Ocean North Course offers views of the sea from every hole, with canyons and elevated plateaus. The Ocean South Course boasts scenic terrain, wide fairways, and large greens. The courses are open to the public as well as guests at the elegant Resort at Pelican Hill.
PGA West, La Quinta
Set against the Santa Rosa Mountains, PGA West is home to five resort courses and four private courses, each with its own style of desert golf. The famed Pete Dye Stadium Course, one of the country’s most difficult, features an island green and water hazards. The Nicklaus Tournament Course also challenges players with two island greens. The Pete Dye Mountain Course includes pot bunkers, rock formations, and elevated tee boxes.
Indian Wells Golf Resort, Indian Wells
A magnificent clubhouse and two 18-hole municipal courses make Indian Wells a popular destination for desert golf fans. The Celebrity Course features mountain views, streams, lakes, waterfalls, and rolling fairways. The Players Course offers stunning views of several mountain ranges, and its mature trees and sculpted bunkers add both beauty and challenge.
Desert Willow Golf Resort, Palm Desert
Two championship golf courses, Firecliff and Mountain View, offer distinct golf experiences. The challenging Firecliff Course includes more than a hundred bunkers and numerous water hazards. Considered just as beautiful but a bit less rigorous, the Mountain View Course features rolling fairways, eight tee options, and natural desert landscaping.
Central Coast Golf Courses
Sandpiper Golf Club, Santa Barbara
With ocean and beach views from most of its holes, this public golf course is set on a cliff directly over the Pacific. The well-maintained course features rolling fairways and challenging greens. Several PGA and LPGA tournament events have been played at the picturesque links-style course.
La Purisima Golf Course, Lompoc
This walkable public golf course is set among mature oak trees and gently rolling hills. There’s no housing or commercial development around the course, so players can enjoy the views in every direction. Located near the historic Spanish mission and amid Central Coast wineries, La Purisima is a beautiful addition to the destination.
Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach
Possibly the most famous golf course in the world and considered the best public course in the country, Pebble Beach is both challenging and scenic. Many of the holes border the rugged Pacific coastline, and on the final hole, players must deal with a large tree in the middle of the fairway and the ocean on the left. A stay at The Lodge at Pebble Beach is a true luxury.
Bayonet & Black Horse, Seaside
These two 18-hole courses are among the most picturesque and challenging on Monterey Bay. Bayonet is considered the more difficult, with graceful greens, abundant trees, and plenty of white-sand bunkers. Located on the site of the former Fort Ord, the course is named in honor of the 7th Infantry Light Fighter Division, nicknamed “Bayonet Division.” Black Horse features views of Monterey Bay and an open, flowing landscape.
Quail Lodge & Golf Club, Carmel
The 6,500-yard walkable course features manicured greens, lush landscaping, and tree-lined fairways. Originally designed by Robert Muir Graves in 1964, the course was updated in 2015. The Quail Lodge offers a variety of accommodations and restaurants.
Northern California Golf Courses
Pasatiempo, Santa Cruz
Designed by renowned golf architect Alister MacKenzie who also created Augusta National and Cypress Point, the semi-private course opened in 1929. Set on the Santa Cruz foothills, the layout features tree-lined fairways, ravines, well-placed bunkers, and views of Monterey Bay.
CordeValle, San Martin
Set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the course was designed by famed architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. The layout includes oak trees, sycamores, creeks, and canyons, as well as dramatic views and long, challenging par threes. The plush resort includes an estate winery, spa, and pool.
Silverado Resort, Napa Valley
The resort’s two walkable courses located in the heart of wine country were redesigned by PGA Hall of Famer Johnny Miller. Oak-lined fairways, water features, rolling hills, and mountain views make both the North and South Courses beautiful and challenging. The resort offers a variety of guest rooms, tennis, and a spa.