On the outward journey, I breezed through the San Francisco Bay Area. On the return trip, I had a chance to do some further investigation. That investigation started the moment I broke into Northern California at Morro Bay Golf Course. After my round at Morro Bay, I was getting ready to head north, when I saw the sun break through the clouds for the first time that day. I quickly threw up “Robert Trent Drones” and captured one of my favorite drone shots of the year.
People often ask me for advice on courses to pair up with a trip down to Monterey. My response is either Pasatiempo or Cordevalle. Cordevalle is pictured below and you will want to keep scrolling for some of the views from Pasatiempo.
Up next on the tour’s agenda was an engagement that I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I was scheduled to meet up with local news legend Vern Glenn and play some golf at The Presidio. While living in San Francisco, The Presidio was one of my “go to” golf courses. I was very excited to return on the RGV Tour.
The news piece with Vern was really fun to film and they actually mic’ed me up for that front nine. As many of you are aware, I have had zero hole in ones on the RGV Tour and zero hole in ones in my entire life. There was a moment on the par 3 4th hole that I thought I might end that ace-less streak for the KPIX cameras. As much as I tried to talk to my golfball, it would not listen and end up several feet short of the hole. The good news is that I did manage a bogey free 33 on that front nine under the intense KPIX-TV pressure.
Although I brought my A game, the real spotlight should have been on Vern that day. On the 6th hole he put his camera down and started golfing. He proceeded to put on a serious putting clinic. After rolling in 30 foot putts on holes 6 and 7, he canned a 50 footer on #9. Vern wasn’t able to hang around for the back nine… probably because that putter had burned a hole in his hands.
After the round, I had the pleasure of sharing a presentation with the members of the Presidio Golf & Concordia Club. This was the first time that I had attempted to compile some of my greatest hits from the past year. It was a true pleasure to share these stories with the Presidio and it’s members. I can’t say enough about the enthusiasm and generosity extended to The RGV Tour on its visit. Out of over 400 stops, this was easily one of my favorite visits.
The Meadow Club is located north of San Francisco in Fairfax, CA and is Alister Mackenzie’s first course designed in America. For those not aware, Mackenzie would go on to design courses like Augusta National and Cypress Point. Somehow, the course manages to fly under the radar but it is a must play for any golf architecture enthusiast. The design reminds me of this quote from Mr. Mackenzie.
My favorite course in the Bay Area is California Golf Club or Cal Club. Willie Locke and A. Vernon Macan designed the original routing which opened on May 26th, 1926. Later, Alister MacKenzie would redesign the bunkering and at least two of the greens. 82 years later, Kyle Phillips would restore the golf course to its "golden age" design. Cal Club is one of the few courses in America that successfully utilizes fine fescue grass and almost always delivers firm and fast playing conditions. The course is so good that The RGV Tour played it twice.
Since the DNA of San Francisco coyotes matches those of the coyotes to the north of the city, It has been theorized that these coyotes came into the city by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge back in the 1990’s. It’s not quite the Planet of The Apes story that Hollywood created but these coyotes are here to stay.
The Mackenzie tour of Northern California continued at Pasatiempo Golf Club. Located in Santa Cruz, the course is one of the finest public options for golfers in the United States. Mackenzie claimed that this was his best layout and even had his American home along the 6th fairway.
It was early when I arrived in Livermore, CA for the tour stop at Poppy Ridge, early enough to catch that first light as it crested the nearby hills. The photograph below is my favorite drone shot from the entire RGV Tour.
There are 3 nine hole courses at Poppy Ridge golf course and it is home to the Northern California Golf Association. The course is an often forgotten about option for public golf in the San Francisco area but it is worth the drive.
Next up was a date with Lake Merced in Daly City, CA. The course has recently played host to the LPGA’s Swinging Skirts Classic and openly welcomed The RGV Tour. Lake Merced earned the distinct honor as being one of the coziest parking lots that the Recreational Golf Vehicle has spent the night in.
The Alister Mackenzie hits kept on coming the next day with a tee time at Green Hills Country Club. Terms like “hidden gem” and “under the radar” come to mind when playing Green Hills. Located in Milbrae, CA Green Hills gives golfers all of the greens and all of the hills that they can handle.
Sleeper Pick alert: Orinda Country Club
One of the most common questions that I receive on The RGV Tour is “What are some of the golf courses that surprised you the most?” The list is a short one but Orinda Country Club is on it. Todd Eckenrode renovated the 1924 William Watson design in 2015 and left us with a tremendous variety of golf. Holes like “Mousetrap” and “Meteor” are not only unique but a lot of fun to play. I had the pleasure of playing with Brett Hochstein of Hochstein Design, who was one of the shapers on the renovation project. Insight into the revisioning of the golf holes and comments like “I am glad I moved that bunker” provided a unique point of view while playing the golf course.
San Jose Country Club was up next with Tommy Dodge. Not only has Mr Dodge started his own golf design company but he is also one heck of a golfer. I managed to hang with Tommy until the 18th hole when my par putt missed wide left. I blamed the missed putt on the distracting nature of the tree behind the 18th hole. The old oak beyond the green earned honors as a top 5 tree on tour.
There is no better way to finish up a San Francisco golf trip than with a visit to the Lake Course at The Olympic Club. Not only is The Olympic Club the oldest athletic club in the United States, but it has hosted the US Open 5 times. Perhaps more notably, it has hosted the RGV Tour twice. Even more notably, the RGV Tour has one of the most notorious halfway house foods of all time, the Burger Dog.
The preliminary list of my top 6 RGV Tour foods can be found below:
Burger Dog - Olympic Club, CA (pictured)
Scallop Roll - Seminole, FL
Lobster BLT - Belgrade Lakes, ME
Pulled Pork Tacos - Streamsong, FL
Cheese Dog - Sunnehanna, PA
Clam Chowder - Eastward Ho!, MA
As I left San Francisco, the realization came over me that my time on The RGV Tour was quickly coming to an end. The tour finale at Bandon Dunes was on the horizon and I only had one round left in California. That round was at The Links of Bodega Harbor and I was going to enjoy the journey while it lasted.
The LInks at Bodega Harbor is open to the public and is one of the most affordable golf courses on the Pacific coast. I walked the Robert Trent Jones design for a $30 twilight fee. The course has views of the ocean from every hole and there are 3 holes that play directly down by the coast.
The segment with Vern on KPIX had aired the night before and I ran into 5 different groups of people that recognized me from the news. Those little blips of golfers excited to greet the RGV Tour will always hold a special place in my heart.
After the round, the tour made it’s final journey up the coast and into Bandon Dunes.