By Matt McKay
All right people, it’s the time of the season for love – the love of college basketball.
A wide swath of sports fans, of which golfers are a subset, all set aside their own favorites in March and give college basketball top priority. They’ll still follow their favorite sport, and begin to pine for The Masters, but it’s college basketball we’ve tuned in to see.
Whether your college team has made it into the championship field, or you never went to college at all, you’ll be affected by the tournament. Your employees don’t show up for work. Your partner doesn’t show up for his tee time. The frequency of pizza commercials triple.
Some fans decided to not come into the office because their personal, on-site team support is critical. And if they must follow their team to some far-off destination, it’s best to bring the golf clubs along just in case the host city happens to have a couple of must-play courses.
If you’re one of those supporters, and your team is selected (or plays through) to a western post-season venue, here are a few recommendations:
Destination: San Jose
Dates: March 21, 23
Stage: Second and third rounds
Venue: HP Pavillion
CordeValle Resort and Spa, San Martin
Well, well, aren’t you lucky? Your team’s been sent to San Jose, and you get your chance to experience what all the tour pros are talking about when they rave about CordeValle in San Martin, just south of San Jose proper. The Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course has been lauded by PGA TOUR professionals and top amateurs, and is just one amenity offered by a resort that’s won major awards from Andrew Haper’s Hideaway, Conde Nast and Forbes magazines. A par 72 course, CordeValle plays to 7,169 when the PGA TOUR comes to town, and despite the course’s rave reviews, players often find themselves thinking of the post-round rewards of the resort and all its’ pampering delights.
It’s just a 35-minute ride to the HP Pavillion, but if you decide you’d like to be closer to the basketball venue, Fairmont, Sheraton, Hilton, Ramada offer nearby hotels. The venerable Sainte Claire and Hotel De Anza are also conveniently located.
Coyote Creek Golf Club, San Jose
Coyote Creek is a Jack Nicklaus-designed course tracking through the foothills just south of San Jose and off the 101. Top players can take advantage of its back tees at 7,027 yards (par 72), and the typical Nicklaus features are in play, such as gaping bunkers fronting shallow greens and the requisite number of sharp edges. The green fees are also set at a more California-ish rate; it’s $92 to play on weekends and holidays.
Cinnabar Hills Golf Club, San Jose
Up in the hills above the Coyote Valley, Cinnabar Hills offers 27-seemingly remote golf holes, when really one is only 30 minutes away from the HP Center. Designed by John Harbottle, the course boasts six different configurations, and if your junior golfer/co-college team supporter is along with, he or she plays free when an accompanying adult pays twilight fee. Otherwise, the maximum one can pay to play is $105.
Santa Teresa & Shorty, San Jose
San Jose’s top classic muni option has not only a 6,742-yard par 71 course; it also has the 9-hole “Shorty” course, featuring nine par-3 holes ranging in yardage from 74 to 124 yards. It’s consistently one of San Jose’s most-played courses, and with a maximum green fee of $60 for the 18-hole course and $15 for the Shorty, it’s easy to see why.
Dates: March 22, 24
Stage: Second and third round
Venue: Erwin Center
Barton Creek Resort and Spa, Austin
Congratulations! Your team is off to Austin. So expect to have a great time carousing 6th Street, where live music pours from every third storefront, and expect to find many of the country-hippie touches that make Austin a special place. Consider that, for decades, Austin’s two primary industries were government and higher education. So switched-on deep thinkers have always been a part of the culture. You’ll fit right in.
As you know, Texans like to think things are bigger and better there. So when Texans tell you Barton Creek Resort is the best golf resort the state has to offer – never mind Austin – it’s hard to argue. Located on Barton Creek Boulevard about 30 minutes from the Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport and 25 minutes to the Erwin Center, Barton Creek’s tower and bungalows are situated in the Texas Hill Country west of downtown Austin, country that might make Californians feel they’re back golden, brushy, Oak-strewn hills of the Southland.
It is possible to stay and play exclusively at Barton Creek and “commute” into Austin for games. The resort features four courses, three on-campus designed by the namesake architects, Tom Fazio and Ben Crenshaw; Fazio Foothills, Fazio Canyons and Crenshaw Cliffside, the resort’s original course. Just a short 25-mile drive west of the resort lays the Palmer Lakeside course, a facility the resort absorbed more than 20 years ago to add to the facility’s architectural variety. The two Fazio courses are consistently rated among the top courses in the state, traversing hills and canyons that surely required the expertise of a Fazio, and the results are locally and nationally-acclaimed.
Austin Municipals, Austin
If you like the idea of doing it old-school style in Austin, their municipal facilities are legendary in the state. The Morris Williams (named for the former Texas golf coach), Jimmy Clay and Roy Kizer Golf Courses host thousands of rounds a year as well as the Texas high school championships. Unfortunately, Morris Williams is currently closed for renovations, but venerable old Lions Municipal, opened by the Lions Club in 1928, is fully operating just west of downtown and the university. Working in a quick 18 holes on the 6,001-yard course, then heading over to the Erwin Center just 10 minutes away, is a sound plan of action.
Destination: Los Angeles
Dates: March 28, 30
Stage: West Regional
Venue: Staples Center
Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes
Lucky you! Your team has made it through to the local Los Angeles regional! There’s so much to do that has nothing to do with golf or basketball, so you’ll have to remain focused. If basketball is the priority, and golf something to be considered while waiting for your team's second game in Los Angeles, perhaps the Terranea Resort is exactly what you're seeking. This oceanfront resort features guest rooms, casitas, villas and spa club bungalows with a Mediterranean feel and accents. It's just a short burst up the 110 to downtown Los Angeles, and when golf is the order of the day, it doesn't necessarily have to take all day. The resort’s course, The Links at Terranea, consists of nine par-3 holes ranging in length from 104 to 173 yards. Each hole was designed by Todd Eckenrode to hold its’ own on any championship 18-hole course, but because its' 1,239 yards can be walked in less than two hours, it's possible watch an early game, get in nine (or even 18) and return for the evening session.
The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast
If you insist on 18 on-campus championship holes, your best bet is the 36 Tom Fazio-designed holes at Pelican Hill Resort on the Newport Coast, recently named the World’s Top Golf Resort by Conde Nast Traveler. The Ocean North and the Ocean South courses are like siblings you love for different reasons, and are the perfect compliment to the facilities and accommodations. Bungalows and villas highlight your accommodation options, the outdoor/pool areas spectacular and The Pelican Grill is perfect for taking in games from other venues with two nine-foot television screens and game-day menus. And just in time for the tournament, the resort is offering special stay-and-play packages and golf schools under the direction of Glenn Deck, recently named Teacher of the Year for the Southern California PGA.
Of course, there are plenty of hotels in Los Angeles proper, including downtown near the Staples Center in what is known as the Nokia Plaza or “L.A. Live.” Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice and even Orange County hotels are close enough to the Staples Center for their accommodation selections to also be under legitimate consideration. Among our favorites are the legendary Chateau Marmont on Sunset, the Erwin Hotel on Venice Beach, the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, The Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire just off Rodeo Drive and of course, the Beverly Hills Hotel in, well, Beverly Hills. However, there are shockingly-few public facilities north of the 105, so you’ll either drive to play golf and drive to the Staples Center.
Golf South of The 10, Long Beach/Orange County
The Navy Golf Course, or the “Destroyer,” in Cypress is not only a classic William Bell-designed Southern California classic, it also has the distinction of being one of Tiger and Earl Woods’ favorite haunts when Woods was honing his considerable skills in his hometown. Irvine’s Oak Creek GC, a partner with Pelican Hill, is a straight shot down the 5 through Orange and Santa Ana, and about 25 minutes from Pelican Hill. It, too, is a Fazio design that unfolds gently through a classic California interior landscape. Closer to the heart of L.A., but still well south of the 10 lies Trump National, designed by its’ namesake and perched on the ocean side of Palos Verdes Drive on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Some armchair architects gleefully pan the course, but don’t take their word for it if you’ve got the chance to apply your own evaluative techniques.
Destination: Arlington, Texas
Dates: March 29, 31
Stage: South Regional
Venue: Cowboys Stadium
Four Seasons Resort and Club /w TPC Las Colinas, Irving
If your team has played its’ way through to the regional phase in Arlington, home of the Dallas Cowboys and the heart of the D/FW Metroplex, you’re in for a treat. It means you could make the Four Seasons Resort and Club, the home of the PGA TOUR’s HP Byron Nelson Championship, your home-away-from-home while in the Metroplex. It’s just a 15-minute shuttle from DFW International Airport, and depending on traffic, only 25 minutes to Cowboys Stadium. The stately Spanish Colonial-style nine-story hotel towers over the ritzy pool area and the TPC Las Colinas with its’ on-campus pro shop. You’ll have the chance to play the 7,166-yard (back tees) par 70 course that has challenged all of the game’s modern-day greats. There are also larger villas and bungalows on the golf course, a good way for a group to tackle the Four Seasons’ rates. Otherwise, a variety of hotel chains are represented near the stadium, including Hilton, Sheraton and Hyatt. There are also several hotels in and around the airport, which is a 15-minute drive to the stadium on a normal day.
Tierra Verde Golf Club, Arlington
Back during the “Tiger Boom,” municipalities jumped into the golf course business, and Arlington developed Tierra Verde. The design firm of Graham-Panks was hired in the mid-90’s to produce the course on previously underutilized city-owned land. The results were spectacular; a 6,975-yard (back tees) course winding through unspoiled woodlands, deemed an Audubon Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International. And Californians will find the green fees quite reasonable – the most expensive available round is $69.
Tangle Ridge Golf Club, Grand Prairie
Another of the Tiger Boom municipals, this one constructed by Arlington’s neighbor, Grand Prairie, began capturing golfers and accolades the day of the O.J. Simpson verdict in 1995. Designed by Arlington-based architect Jeff Brauer, Tangle Ridge stretches to 6,835 yards, and despite being in a housing development, there are very few courseside homes and lots of heavily-wooded pleasure. Again, the green fees won’t impose heavily on the Californian’s wallet – the Saturday morning prime time rates are $50.
Prairie Lakes Golf Club, Grand Prairie
Stone clubhouses and high-end perks of the top municipals aren’t your cup of tea? You prefer the grill and the pull cart? You can have a genuine North Texas municipal experience at Grand Prairie’s original golf facility, Prairie Lakes GC, and play as many as 27 darn-fine holes originally routed by Ralph Plummer and masterfully updated by Arlington-based architect John Colligan nearly a decade ago. Strong par-3s and water features galore define this facility, and the kitchen in the low-slung, classic municipal clubhouse is operated by a local barbecue joint. If you’re walking, it’ll cost you $17 on Saturday morning. Add $13 for an 18-hole cart ride.