Fat Guy's PCH Golf Road Trip

U.S. Rt. 1 / Pacific Coast Highway, California

Fat Guy Review:  I tacked on this scenic drive from L.A. to Monterey CA as part of my Route 66 golf sojourn back in the late '90's.  The drive is probably America's most scenic, most popular, and depending on current or recent weather, possibly one of the most dangerous (due to winding clifftop roads, blind turns, rock slides, and washouts).  And waiting on the other end is the best public course in America, Pebble Beach Golf Links.  What golfer hasn't dreamed of doing this trip?

When To Go:  Summer means a crowded stretch of road.  However, winter golf at Pebble Beach can be in less-than-enjoyable conditions (you've seen the often-nasty weather at the AT&T on TV for years).  T&L Golf says spring and fall are the best seasons for golf at Pebble.

Budget:  With Pebble Beach being involved and gas probably approaching $6-$7/gallon on remote sections of Route 1, this probably isn't a trip for you budget-minded guys with 4 kids to put through college.  If you're liquid, then go for it.  Figure the 2-night minimum room stay and greens fees at Pebble alone will run around $1,800-plus, so I'd budget at least $4,000 for this one.






What To Read Before You Go:
Pebble Beach: Golf and the Forgotten Men by Jerry Stewart
If your tastes run more toward public courses, there's no doubt that the gold standard is Pebble Beach.  Stewart's volume about the caddies at Pebble ($25, Sports Media Group) does for the California course what Clayton's book did for Augusta National. After reading this comprehensive book, you'll know more about Pebble Beach than most of the folks in the surrounding multi-million dollar mansions do.

Sample Itinerary-

It's roughly a 400-mile journey, but with all the switchback turns and snaking clifftop pulloffs for photo ops, this is best done as a minimum of a long weekend--just for the road trip.  Add on another few days on the Monterey peninsula for tee times, and let's call it a full week.  It'll be worth the vacation time, as this will undoubtedly be among your most memorable golf trips ever.

Here's a link some good PCH overview maps:  www.roadtripusa.com/routes/pacificcoast/california/pac_pacificcoasthighway.html

Route:  Start at the the southern end, allowing your final destination to be Pebble.  The true beginning of PCH is in San Diego.  I started my journey from L.A., since I'd just finished my Route 66 golf trip there.  After heading north from L.A., you'll pass through the celeb enclave of Malibu, then Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Davenport, Pescadero, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cambria, San Simeon, Gorda, Pacific Valley, Lucia, Big Sur, Carmel, and finally Monterey.

SAN DIEGO:  Fat Guy's Recommendations:  Downtown San Diego is the cleanest and most ridiculously beautiful big city architecture and landscaping you'll ever see. Stay at the waterfront Hyatt, with a quaint villiage of shops next to the marina. Have drinks in a classic, classy, new/old school room at Redfields. Go for steak at Rainwater's on Kettner for low-lit ambiance, or Harbor House for the cajun shrimp app, a flavorful filet, and sweet cheesecake. For Mexican in the Gaslamp Quarter, hit casual '04 Best Of S.D. Fred's Mexican Cafe for good pork marinated tacos, sizzling fajitas, and cute Southern CA waitresses. Colorful outdoor mall nearby.

For a cool Polynesian tiki bar & restaurant, hit Bali Hai (2230 Shelter Island Dr, 619-222-1181, www.balihairestaurant.com). Critiki.com says, "When Bali Hai first opened, it was called The Hut, and was a susidiary of Christian's Hut in Newport Beach. The business didn't do well initially, until the manager Tom Ham took it over and renamed it Bali Hai. Atop the building, you can still see "the Goof," a funny-looking guy who was the mascot for Christian's Hut. Bali Hai developed their own mascot, Mr. Bali Hai, whose droopy-lidded face can be seen at the front door, and on the tiki mugs. Today, Bali Hai remains a popular polynesian restaurant, with many fine examples of polynesian art both indoors and out. Also check out Mister Tiki's Mai Tai Lounge (Gaslamp District, www.cohnrestaurants.com/cohn/cohnrestaurants/tiki/), Humphrey's Half Moon Inn and Trader Mort's Liquor."

T&L Golf says: Beating out the steakhouse chains, Donovan’s (www.donovanssteakhouse.com) in well-heeled La Jolla offers a mahogany-laden men’s-club ambience that goes down well with marbled meat and martinis. You can pull up solo at the bar and have your way with a steer. For fabulous down-home Mexican fare, head to Super Cocina (619-584-6244).

Playboy ranks San Diego State in it's Top 10 Party Schools in the country for 2006. Those crazy Aztec kids like to hang out at Moondoggies in nearby Pacific Beach, or come during the annual Sigma Chi Reggae Sunsplash partae.

SAN DIEGO TO L.A.:  If you're starting this trip down in San Diego, the obvious no-brainer is a stop at 2008 U.S. Open venue Torrey Pines South.  This thing was a genuine lunch eater even before Rees Jones doctored it for the Open.  Eat at one of the rooftop cafe's in the upscale enclave of Pacific Beach.

Per Golf Digest, most municipal golf courses offer great deals to city residents but burn out-of-towners. However, there are munys out there that are kind to all people from all places. The 6,590-yard, par-72 Coronado Municipal Golf Course outside San Diego, where the climate puts it high in the running for best green-fee value nationwide, has several holes along the bay and charges the same rate to all: $25 to walk 18 holes, or $13 for twilight. Named one of GD's 2008 Best Values in Golf.

L.A:  For a good value in L.A., try Duffy Waldorf's old stomping grounds at the Wilson and Harding courses at Griffith Park. Old school golf.  Duffy learned precision approach shots thanks to the Wilson course's 416-yard par-4 2nd.  If you can't stick it, the ball will bounce off the green and back against the fence.  Or, Rancho Park is 15 minutes west of downtown, right next to the Rose Bowl.  If you feel like dropping a couple hundred clams, don't miss Trump National at Rancho Palos Verdes.

Duffy digs Tito's Tacos, a Culver City institution.  The guacamole and salsa are the best, and it's dirt cheap.  A great night is steaks at Boa on Sunset Boulevard and then catch a band at the House Of BluesThe Water Grill downtown has tremendous seafood, a nice atmosphere, and a great wine list.  Playboy digs Tiki Ti on Sunset for a real deal old school tiki bar.  A groovy little shack serving froufrou frozen concoctions.  Shout "Toro! Toro! Toro!" with the crowd, and the booze will flow into the house specialty drink, Ray's Mistake.

For booze & grub a little closer to PCH, Drew Barrymore digs Chez Jay for a great oceanside, dark, old marina kinda bar where Kennedy and Marilyn used to rendezvous.

L.A. is a big sprawling town, so Duff says stay near where you want to go.  For cool digs:  Just having a cocktail in the lobby is an experience at Shutters On The Beach in Santa Monica.  The rooms and suites are like luxury beach cottages, but with all the modern amenitites.  You can spend some real money there, but it's worth every penny.  Stay at the Hotel Bel-Air and you might see Julia Roberts, or you might not see another soul.  The place is very secluded and has acres of gardens and fountains.  The Pacific Palms Conference Resort in City Of Industry has it all, including two fine courses.  Fans of '70's icons The Eagles will want to head for The Hotel California (which I never realized was a real hotel until I stumbled across it on Expedia).  Stargazers will want to crash at a famed Hollywood hotspot, so hit the Hollywood Roosevelt, host to the first Academy Awards, and famous for serving underage Hollywood at the bar.  For glamorous old-school Hollywood, crash at the Chateau Marmont, (www.seeing-stars.com/Hotels/ChateauMarmont.shtml ), where John Belushi died.

If you have the time for a throwback, Golden-Age-Of-Hollywood tour, hit: Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd, 323-467-7788).  One of the oldest restaurants in Tinsel Town, Musso & Frank's is the last bastion of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Unpretentious, and old fashioned.  Sit at the counter--one of the best places in town for eating alone. Or copy Raymond Chandler and sit at one of the high-backed red booths--he's rumored to have penned part of The Big Sleep here, or sit at Steve McQueen's regular booth up front next to the door.  Order a martini, poured tableside, and served stirred, not shaken.  Another old school Hollywood landmark restaurant still good enough to be frequented by stars and studio execs is The Smoke House (4400 Lakeside, Burbank, across the street from Warner Bros. Studios), a fave of James Dean, Andy Garcia, George Clooney, and Robert Redford. Jack Paar also hosted the original Tonight Show from The Smoke House.  Order the garlic bread with whatever entrée looks appetizing.  Other old Hollywood haunts include the round red booths and Chinese-theme at the reasonably-priced Formosa Café (7156 Santa Monica Blvd, www.formosacafe.com ), located across the street from the Warner (formerly Samuel Goldwyn) Stuidios since 1925, and an old haunt of Monroe, the Rat Pack, Bogart, and Gable. It was also used in the filming of L.A. Confidential and Swingers. Or swing by Ciro's.

For the quintessential SoCal beach experience, Duffy says hit the beach at scenic Zuma Beach, or Ventura-Oxnard Beach. Personally, Fat Guy dug the surfer's fave upscale strand at Huntingdon Beach. It's best known as the place where surfing was first introduced to the U.S. mainland. To attract Angelenos down to this new town, Huntington hired Hawaiians to demonstrate the sport, which at the time made use of huge solid wooden boards, 15 feet long and weighing around 150 pounds. Huntington Beach, especially around the pier, is still a very popular surfing spot—though contemporary surfers slice through the waves on high-tech foam-core boards, a third the size of the original Hawaiian long boards and weighing under 10 pounds. The history and culture of West Coast surfing, with examples of boards then and now (plus special collections highlighting “surf” movies and the creation of “surf music” by local heroes Leo Fender and Dick Dale), is recounted in the small but enthusiastic International Surfing Museum (daily noon–5 pm; $2; 714/960-3483), two blocks from the pier at 411 Olive Avenue, in the heart of the lively downtown business district. The only surviving location of the originator of the tiki bar concept left in the contiguous 48 states is Don The Beachcomber's (www.donthebeachcomber.com) in Huntingdon Beach.


Drew Barrymore likes Neptune's Net (PCH @ the end of Malibu) for an as-true-as-it-gets beach bar and fish stand.

Pacific Crest Inn by the Sea (433 Corona Del Mar, Santa Barbara, 805/966-3103, from $59), a no-frills motel in Santa Barbara, is remarkably inexpensive for a place only a block from the beach.

Per Travel Channel, to toast your first stop on the PCH in true California fashion, hit the Santa Barbara Brewing Company for a locally brewed ale.

La Super-Rica Taqueria (622 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara, 805/963-4940, tamale $4) in Santa Barbara has been celebrated by Julia Child.  The tamales, stuffed with chayote squash and topped with cream sauce, are among the best you'll ever eat, and the salsa is hot enough to melt your teeth.

SANTA BARBARA TO BIG SUR:  A nice side trip to a nice couse would be to jump off Route 1 just north of Guadelupe and take Guadaelupe Road over to the 101 around Nipomo, and hit Monarch Dunes GC (www.monarchdunes.com).  Monarch Dunes was named #3 Best New Course Under $75 in America by Golf Digest, Best New Courses You Can Play by Golf Magazine '07, and Best In The West by Fairways & Greens.  The "Old Course" has reflective lakes, floral flourishes, and lush fairways sprinkled with stand of aspens, while the newly-built 12-hole "Challenge Course" is a true California links with sandy soil, and unique mounding that looks a bit like those "drip sand castles" you build with your kids at the beach.  I've seen web specials as low as $50 on their website, and at those rates, this thing is a steal.

Golf Magazine's Travelin' Joe says, "From San Fran, cruise down the 101 to the town of Nipomo, just south of San Luis Obispo, where you'll find Monarch Dunes (805-343-9459, www.monarchdunes.com; $30-$78). Part links in the dunes, part parkland in the Eucalyptus trees, this collaboration from architect Damian Pascuzzo and six-time PGA Tour winner Steve Pate aces the scenery, variety and playability tests from start to finish. With Kemper Sports in charge of management and course conditions, a fine practice range and a new 12-hole Challenge Course that features par-3s ranging from 82 to 242 yards, Monarch Dunes should deliver just what you're looking for.

"Rover can join you at the Best Western Royal Oak Hotel (www.royaloakhotel.com, 805-544-4410), 26 miles back the way you came in San Luis Obispo. Best of all, the forecast from January 7 through the 15th touts sunny skies and daytime highs ranging from 65 to 71 degrees."

Fine Living Network likes The Gelatomania Cafe in Santa Cruz, an Italian ice cream shop/oxygen bar run by Buddhists (only in CA!).

Pismo State Beach, (Pier Ave, Oceano, 805-489-2684) south of San Luis Obispo, is a winter breeding ground for monarch butterflies.  The stretch from Santa Barbara to Ventura resembles the classic Beach Boys coastline all of us East Coasters and MidWesterners envisioned watching TV growing up. 

San Luis Obispo holds a farmers' market every Thursday evening, and be sure to check out local weirdness attraction, Bubble Gum Alley.  TravelChannel.com digs The Big Sky Cafe, downtown San Luis Obispo, serving all the great morning standards, plus a terrific posole, a pork and hominy stew.  Fine Living Network says Big Sky Cafe on Higuera, SLO's tree-lined main drag, drop by for homemade buttermilk-ginger coffee cake and other vegetarian-friendly goodies. The cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. 1121 Broad St., San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 www.bigskycafe.com 805-545-5401.

Fine Living Network also likes Novo, housed in an 1890s cigar factory, Novo (which means "new" in Brazilian Portuguese) serves Brazilian, Asian and Mediterranean cuisine to a mostly local crowd.
726 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo, CA 93401, 805-543-3986

Madonna Inn
Even if you don't stay overnight in San Luis Obispo, the overwhelmingly pink Madonna Inn is a must-see. Its 108 themed rooms range from the shamrock-laden "Irish Hills" to the cowboy-inspired "Yahoo" suite. Definitely peek in the (literally) cavernous men's lobby restroom.  100 Madonna Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405 www.madonnainn.com 800-543-9666.

Per Travel Channel, San Luis Obispo is a college town (Cal Poly is here) with a surfy vibe, and home to one of the most kitschy-cool hotels ever. The Madonna Inn is over-the-top ornate, with 109 completely unique rooms that range from caveman-style to old English decor. Gents shouldn't miss a trip to the men's bathroom in the main lobby, where the urinal has a waterfall feature.

For winos with more time than worries, a potential sidetrip from here would be a Sideways golf weekend [see my Sideways buddy trip by Sideways author Rex Pickett ] in the Santa Ynez Valley, with your main base of wine-"tasting" operations being The Hitching Post II in Buellton.

Nearby Solvang was originally settled by Danish immigrants and now resembles a Danish Disney World, with windmills, wood-frame gingerbread houses, and a store selling Christmas ornaments year-round. Grab breakfast at Paula's Pancake House 1531 Mission Dr., Solvang, 805/688-2867, pancakes $5.

After San Luis Obispo, stop to fly a kite on the wide swath of sand at Morro Bay and hunt for anemones in the tidal pools.

Fine Living Network digs one of the route's historic general stores: Sebastian's, 442 SLO San Simeon Rd., San Simeon, CA 93452 , www.sebastians.com  805-927-4217.

Fine Living Network says: "Continuing north, Cambria is an artsy oceanfront enclave dotted with organic cafes, wellness retreats and shops hawking everything from handmade garden statuary to wizardry supplies. Per Travel Channel, Cambria's idyllic forest-meets-ocean locale and small town setting make it a great stopover for the night. Lost in the woods, the Cambria Pines Lodge offers cabins and up-market suites. A short walk away, The Brambles Dinner House is one of the best restaurants in town.  For an overnight stay, the FogCatcher Inn is an aptly named romantic getaway located just steps from the town of Cambria's Moonstone Beach."

Courtyard Deli
In Cambria, fill the cooler with sandwiches from Courtyard Deli.
604 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428

French Corner Bakery
Also in Cambria, grab quiche, cheesecake and pastries for the road.
2277 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428

In San Simeon, break for a tour of Hearst Castle (www.hearstcastle.com), a 165-room Moorish mansion and former playground for 1930's socialites (Erroll Flynn and Charlie Chaplin were frequent guests).  Yes, it's touristy. Yes, it's austentacious. And yes, it's worth a visit.

San Simeon Pines Seaside Resort
Around Cambria, moderately priced lodgings lean toward nondescript motels. A good alternative is the San Simeon Pines Seaside Resort — not exactly luxurious, but clean, comfortable and steps from the ocean.
7200 Moonstone Beach Dr., Cambria, CA 93428 866-927-4648

Before the coast-hugging, two-lane highway becomes too rugged, stop and scan the windswept beach for resting sea otters and elephant seals (www.elephantseal.org). They're especially prevalent south of the old lighthouse at Piedras Blancas.

Then head 20 miles north to Ragged Point (www.beachcalifornia.com/ragged.html), where sparkling waterfalls plunge from pine-covered granite cliffs. For an invigorating stretch, follow a short (but steep) roadside trail to the driftwood and shell-covered beach below.

Fine Living Network recommends:

Ragged Point Inn
The cliff-perched, glass-walled Ragged Point Inn offers awe-inspiring Big Sur views. The gourmet restaurant serves fresh Californian cuisine, but if you're there for a brief stop check out the snack bar.
19019 Highway 1, Ragged Point, CA 93452

Or hold out for a less taxing hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to view an 80-foot waterfall that drops into the ocean. Afterward, head on to Big Sur Village, just a few miles north, for a soothing massage and hot mineral springs soak at the renowned Esalen Institute spa (www.esalen.com).

BIG SUR:  Fat Guy says

Eventually I made my way up to Big Sur, which to this day remains in my Top 5 favorite spots on earth. I picked a winding side road up into the mountains and just drove through the giant forests for awhile. The place made you feel small in its’ massive grandeur. Returning back to Route 1, I stumbled upon a solitary steakhouse on the edge of the cliffs, with sunset ocean views that could just make you cry. I wish I remembered the name of the place [a subsequent Google search revealed Rocky Point Restaurant as the highly likely candidate, www.rocky-point.com]. I had one of the most enjoyable meals of my life there, taking my time, having a few leisurely brews before I even ordered my steak, then lounging on an outdoor patio after dinner before I bade this great little spot a bittersweet farewell.

Big Sur's most prolific vegetation is poison oak and it's not fun if you get it. Watch out for the shrub's vaguely football-shaped leaves, clustered in threes. Even a quick brush can cause an itchy, blistery reaction.  Turn right at unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road (the first paved road before the post office) and drive two miles to Pfeiffer Beach, where the currents have carved arches in the sandstone and greenstone rocks.

FLN likes:

In Big Sur Village, everyone goes to the terrace at Nepethne for Ambrosia burgers and sweeping coastline scenery.
Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920 www.nepenthebigsur.com 831-667-2345.  Per Travel Channel, If you stop at only one spot, make it Nepenthe Restaurant.  There you can sip a glass of wine perched atop a cliff with the views beckoning below.

Big Sur Lodge
The Big Sur Lodge features forest-nestled cottages away from it all, with no phones, TVs, radios or alarm clocks.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
47225 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Deetjen's Inn
A slightly less secluded option is upscale-rustic Deetjen's Inn where guests keep warm on chilly mountain evenings sipping regional wines (www.slowine.com) beside the fire.
48865 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Fine Living Network digs Cafe Rustica in Carmel Valley, for great wood oven pizza.

Carmel River Inn Hwy. 1 at Oliver Rd., Carmel, 800/882-8142, www.carmelriverinn.com, from $89

MONTEREY:  Of course, half the reason to make this trip is to play Pebble Beach Golf Links.  I won't bother with the accolades, you already know them, and you've been drooling over the vistas on TV for years.  Suffices to say it's generally regarded as the top public access course in the U.S., and probably the #2 public in the world.  The problem here is an economic one; getting on Pebble is a study in the modern laws of supply and demand.  Booking a tee time in advance requires a 2-night minimum stay at the resort.  An '08 check of the website (www.pebblebeach.com) showed greens fees at $500 and the cheapest room on the lot at $580/night (a garden view room at The Inn at Spanish Bay) and up.  So that's a paltry $1,660-plus just to get on.  That's a good downpayment on a car where I'm from.  And forget the waiting list option; I tried it once, but with non-refundable $500 greens fees, you'll likely sit there for a day-and-a-half like I did, and still not get on.

At Pebble, try both of the bars in The Lodge at Pebble Beach; Club XIX, or The Tap Room, named as one of Golf Magazine's 2003 "50 Coolest Places In Golf" and Golf Digest's 2008 50 Best 19th Holes.  "The Tap Room might be the 'most famous 19th hole in golf'; exhibits memorabilia from numerous U.S. Opens, Bing Crosby National Pro-Ams and other professional tournaments; wood-paneled room has a fantastic scotch and wine collection, and the menu is 'way better than bar food'; order the whole-roasted garlic."  The most atmosphere of any 19th hole in the country, and the perfect place to recount your pilgrimmage to the ultimate public links.  Check out the photos of pros and celebs from the Crosby Clambake era, as well as pix of Tiger at the '00 U.S. Open.  OR, Golf Magazine says Stillwater Bar & Grill on premisis serves sublime seafood and a great AT&Tini (get it?) made of vodka, orange juice, and a splash of champagne ($12).

While you're there, you may as well buck up and book tee times at both Spanish Bay ($260) and Spyglass Hill ($330).  This is a once in a lifetime kinda trip and you knew it wasn't going to be cheap, so let's not have course collector's remorse nipping at our heels a month after we get back home by trying to shave a mere $600 off the budget when you're already in the pot for 4 grand or so. Bad pot odds.

If you've got the time, Poppy Hills is a slightly better value, but an inland course, cut out of Pacific pine alleys.

The best value on the Monterey Peninsula is Pacific Grove Golf Links ('08 $42 weekend ride, www.ci.pg.ca.us/golf/). T&L Golf Review: 3.5/5 stars. The "Poor Man's Pebble" by the same design team has a tight parkland front through homes and cypress woods. The links-style back runs dramatically out to the Pacific at Point Pinos. Sandy fairways, tiny dune-flanked greens, and the truest links on the Peninsula despite being only 5732 from the tips.  At $45 weekend greens fees, it was named as one of the best deals in golf by Golf Digest 2008.

Monterey Budget Lodging Options:  Fat Guy's Recommendation:  After you check out of Pebble Beach Resort, check into the Motel 6 Monterey #5, 2124 North Fremont Street (SR 1 at Casa Verde Way/North Fremont Street), Monterey, CA, 93940, (831) 646-8585.  Clean, good value digs, and an outdoor pool with a hottub under a pergola.  Sneak a few Budweisers out to the hottub in your towel, and maybe late night you'll get lucky enough to have a drunk amorous couple in the next room with the signature Motel 6 thin walls like I did.  Or, contact Resort 2 Me (800-757-5646, www.resort2me.com), a free hotel reservation service based in Monterey.

In Monterey, I walked down a few streets from the motel and had a beer at a little bistro. It was packed to the point of being annoying, mostly with Yuppies who seemed overly concerned with what wine they were ordering. The place was cute and lit mostly with white Christmas tree strings, but it was nothing super-memorable. I grabbed a couple overpriced six packs to go.  A Google search revealed the likely candidate to be:  Point Joe's, or possibly but less likely, Casa Moreno or Norma Jean's.  I've also read great things about Monterey Fish House 2114 Del Monte Ave, Monterey, CA - (831) 373-4647, about 3 blocks down Casa Verde from Motel 6.

For bars, I dug the Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards (685 Cannery Row, 408-375-7000).  A rare combo of upscale second floor poolhall and enough neon to double as a nightclub.  T&L Golf recommends The Mucky Duck (831-655-3031)  My buddy Mike Cannavino says Clint Eastwood's bar in Carmel is called Hog's Breath, more of a divey neighborhood joint than a tourist trap.  For a nightcap, pop into Jack London's Bar & Grill (831-624-2336, $) in Carmel, a favorite of PGA players and caddies (they put on an ALS fund-raiser here each year during tournament week in memory of Bruce Edwards).

Down towards the pier in Monterey among some upscale seafood joints I probably couldn’t afford, they had a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant right there on the bay. I had never seen one before, and it wasn’t all that long after Forest Gump had come out on video. I had some kind of shrimp dish at an outdoor table on the water.

In the Monterey/Carmel area, for a good steakhouse, T&L Golf recommends Rio Grill in Carmel (831-625-5436).  Jim Furyk recommends Sardine Factory for seafood, while Rocco Mediate likes it for the lamb.  David Toms goes to the popular Forge In The Forest for the house specials, and Jeff Sluman always hits Mondo's Trattoria for lasagna.  T&L Golf and CBS' on-air golf crew both like Casanova Restaurant (831-625-0501, $$$$) for a festive dinner in Carmel, a preferred spot among players and celebs. The menu carries echoes of Italy and Southern France, the wine cellar holds 30,000 bottles and has won numerous awards, and the dress code is California casual.

Per Travel Channel, at the turn of the 20th century, Monterey's Cannery Row was the site of a busy salmon and abalone canning industry. These days, the historic quarter on the peninsula is the go-to destination for dining and lodging.  Also in Monterey, splurge on a room with a view at the Spindrift Inn, next to the aquarium and right on the beach.  Asilomar Conference Grounds attracts big groups, and reservations should be made well in advance. The rooms may be simple and rustic, but the forest setting - which gives onto a wild oceanfront - is otherworldly. The Fishwife Restaurant at the resort serves California cuisine with a Caribbean twist. For fresh seafood in more romantic surrounds, try Domenico's on the Wharf.  You can't visit Monterey without hitting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the country. The psychedelic jellyfish display alone is worth the admission price, and the Wild About Otters exhibit, with freshwater otters from Asia and Africa, has everyone talking.

If you've used up all of the vacation time and cash the boss and/or the wife would allow, book a flight out of the Monterey airport.  Once you're on the plane, see if anyone can slap the smile off your face, and tell me this trip wasn't worth it.

If you've got the time, a thorough tour of San Fran is a great capper to this trip.  If you do get north of Pebble, hit Pasatiempo GC in Santa Cruz on your way up to San Fran.  Ranked #14 on Golf Digest's 2000 Top 100 You Can Play, and the on-site Tap Room made Golf Digest's 2008 50 Best 19th Holes list.  "The Tap Room in the historic Hollins House (built in 1929 by championship golfer Marion Hollins, who consulted on the design of Augusta National) was frequented by Clark Gable, Bobby Jones and Bing Crosby; sit at the oak bar or near a bay window with a view of Monterey Bay."  T&L Golf recommends The Crow's Nest (2218 E. Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz).  Order a frosty Crow's Nest Lager. Then check out the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and take a spin on the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster.

San Fran:  Play Harding Park MGC (www.harding-park.com, $135-$155), '05 PGA Tour host with a blue collar feel per Golf Magazine.  Tee times are 9 minutes apart and the marshalls actually muster the courage to marshall.  Firm fairways, reasonable rough, and subtle, slick greens.  The course peaks with a stretch of first-rate par 4s on Lake Merced. Near the airport, play a great value track at Poplar Creek (www.poplarcreekgolf.com, $35).  Flat, fun doglegs, 5 lakes, two waterfalls, a couple streams, and strong par-3's.

San Fran was once the high water mark for tiki bars. Booze it up at the Emeryville Trader Vic's location, near the now-gone original Oakland lounge. Emeryville is the company's flagship restaurant, positioned near the end of a spit in San Francisco Bay, with beautiful views. The dining room has tall, elegant stylized artificial palm trees, and tikis are everywhere here. Or try Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge on the island of Alameda, a new tiki bar with the look and feel of a classic old tiki lounge. Or try the Tonga Room Tiki Bar in the basement of the upscale Fairmont Hotel. The space has gone through several incarnations over the years, themed initially as a cruise ship (the S.S. Tonga), then a Chinese restaurant, then finally the current theme of a Polynesian paradise. The Happy Hour at the Tonga Room, which goes from 5-7pm Monday-Friday, is quite popular and can get very crowded.

Maximum Golf (a short-lived golf mag by the guys at Maxim) recommended Sno Drift, 1830 3rd St.  70's ski lodge decor with circular fireplace, sno-cone machine, and vodka-spiked confections.  Also, Backflip, 601 Eddy St., watery-blue hotel lounge with fountains, rock stars, and good DJs.  Or Dalva, 3121 16th St, local fave with good sangria.  Also, Red Room, 827 Sutter St, everything bathed in red with award-winning Cosmopolitans.  Or check out Harry Denton's Starlight Room, 450 Powell St. at Sir Francis Drake Hotel, with a retro-Vegas vibe.

For grub, Maximum Golf recommended Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission St, French fare with an avant garde movie thrown in.  Also, Buckeye Roadhouse, 15 Shoreline Hwy, Mill Valley, American BBQ menu with hunting lodge feel.  OR, Moki's Sushi, 830 Cortland Ave.  OR, Pancho Villa Taqueria, 3071 16th St, big space and big burritos.  Or Bruno's, 2389 Mission St, onetime Rat Pack hangout with live jazz and tapas. 

FoodNetwork.com Recommendations in San Francisco:  www.foodnetwork.com/food/ck_gc_san_francisco/text/0,2495,FOOD_20216_27162,00.html


What's that?  You're single with an inheritance / retired early with a golden parachute / freshly divorced with a good pre-nup / just won the lottery?  Then keep gettin' it, from San Fran all the way up to the ultimate U.S. golf destination, Bandon DunesGolf Digest suggests the following itinerary:

"For 530 miles, California Route 1 careens around mountain hairpins, edges along 1,000-foot oceanside cliffs, then angles through old-growth redwood forests before returning to the seaside at the Oregon border. And it's golf season 12 months of the year. Sign me up.

Even if you couldn't pass, the first 300 miles on Route 1 out of San Francisco, hugging the coast, is the best drive in North America. You cross the Golden Gate Bridge in the mist, then climb a series of switch-backs before shooting out into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There, you can gape at the ocean on your left while plastering your passenger's face against his window with hairpin-induced centrifugal force.

Cruising through coastal Sonoma County, the route cuts inland on 101 north of Mendocino, into the last remaining group of redwood forests in the world. The 31-mile Avenue of Giants byway runs parallel to the main road and weaves through columns of trees so tall they look pretend -- and you're playing with a Matchbox car.

About an hour into southern Oregon, Bandon is an old lumber town that used to be the place where people asked for directions back to the interstate. Now, hundreds of private jets buzz in and out of the Bend airport 20 miles away, and the resort does more than 120,000 rounds a year.

Everything here is designed around the golf -- there's no spa or even a swimming pool -- and shuttles carry you between the courses, restaurants and the Lodge, which is pure golf-guy nirvana. It has 17 single rooms, three four-bedroom suites, a bar and a restaurant -- all of which are a stumble from the original Bandon Dunes course's first tee.

The only stress on the trip comes when trying to pick which course to play. Pacific Dunes is second on our list of America's 100 Greatest Public Courses, the original Bandon Dunes course is seventh, and the new, inland Bandon Trails is No. 21."

[See Also:  Bandon GR]