Visitors to Napa and Sonoma counties usually pack their days full of visits to wineries and restaurants and leave very little time for other activities. After all, why come all the way to wine country and carve out time for non-wine-related activities? The truth is, sometimes you get “wined out.” While this may not be a medical or scientific term, it is one that will resonate with anyone who has visited wine country and packed in one winery or one restaurant wine bottle too many. We have found an excellent compromise that allows visitors to stay in the vines while trading their glasses for cups – golf cups that is.
Visible from the scenic Jameson Canyon Road that leads into Napa (also known as Highway 12) are two side-by-side golf courses, Eagle Vines and Chardonnay Golf Club. Twice a day – going to and coming back from work – we pass these clubs and look jealously and longingly at the players lucky enough to be hitting the little white ball instead of solving the world’s problems at the office. This past Friday, though, a friend was coming to town and suggested a round of golf. One vacation day later, we joined this friend for a round at Chardonnay Golf Club, one of the prettiest courses that we have ever played. Previously a 27-hole layout, Chardonnay now has 18 holes creatively architected around 150 acres of chardonnay grape vines. Between the lakes, creeks, elevated tee boxes, abundantly visible wildlife and, of course, the chardonnay grapes, it was a stunning experience. When we got to the tee box at the first hole, I could tell that we were in for a real wine country round of golf.
If anyone is interested, we played mostly from the Magnum distance – the white tees. Our game is sufficiently poor that we do not need to heroically play the longer tees; this would just balloon our scores even higher. Some courses play tight because of narrow fairways and punishing high rough. Others play tight because of natural hazards, such as imposing tree lines along the fairway, or water hazards. While Chardonnay Golf Club has some of both, the element that shrunk the course the most for us was ….the vines. One of us in the group had what I gently refer to as an extreme fade (think “wild slice”) while the other of us has an extreme draw (think “snap hook”). On more holes than we are willing to count, our drives (and subsequent approach shots) landed in the middle of rows of chardonnay grape vines. Some balls we were able to track and retrieve, others are still in the vineyard adding to the overall growing experience for the grapes. On a net basis, though, we probably found as many balls among the grapes as we lost, so we don’t feel too bad.
Breathtaking courses are often an excellent distraction from the dismal level of play; the 135 we shot at Pebble Beach several years back hardly stings as we remember the stroll around the iconic course and the views of the Pacific Ocean from holes such as #7 and #18. Chardonnay Golf Club was no different as we often said “wow” as we stepped up to the tee box and looked across the vines and the rolling hills of the valley. Several times we also said “wow” after one of our drives, regrettably not once in admiration and always out of despair. About 4 hours and 15 minutes after we started the round, we arrived at our last tee marker.
After the round, we ate lunch at the clubhouse, which has a nice selection of wines and beers on the menu as well as a variety of food options. If you do not get enough of the view during the round, get a window table, like we did, with a view of vines and course.
The staff at Chardonnay, from the pro shop to the restaurant to the cart crew to the drink cart girl is excellent. Everyone was friendly and positive and helped make the day a great one. Because of the beauty and serenity of the course, we will be back again soon when either we or one of our out-of-town guests has gotten “wined out.”
John & Irene Ingersoll
July 12, 2016
To make a reservation at Chardonnay Golf Club, click here: http://chardonnay.w5golf.com/
To learn more about the club, click here: http://www.chardonnaygolfclub.com/index.htm