Hills on the Monterey Pen- insula may be the original NCGA member-owned course and the organiza- tion’s headquarters, Poppy Ridge is a flagship. And for members, playing these three nines is a voyage well worth taking. With a sliding scale of
rates depending on tee time, day of the week and how far in advance a round is booked, members pay from $39 to $77, verses $62 to $112 for the general public. What’s more, food in the excellent Porter’s Restaurant and pro shop merchandise are also discounted by 10 and 20 percent, respectively, for members. Money notwith- standing, the main attrac- tion is the golf.
Opened in 1996,
the Rees Jones design has distinctly different holes throughout all three nines, named Zinfandel, Merlot and Chardonnay. Each measures about 3,500 to 3,600 yards from the black tees, with three other more forgiving sets. Poppy offers spectacular views and the greens and fairways are well main- tained. Beware that this region can get windy, the proof of which is the forest of windmills visible up on Altamont Pass. Given its quality and
discounted fees, Poppy Ridge is definitely the best deal in the Valley—if you’re an NCGA member. In fact, it was rated by Zagat as one of the top 15 courses in the nation for value.
The Course at Wente Vineyards When the Wente
family commissioned Greg Norman to design a golf course on their property, the Shark made the most of the landscape, from the flat valley floors to the high ridgetops. Opened in 1998, the par-72 course has five sets of tees, ranging from 4,866 to 7,181 yards. Each brings different shot values into play. A round here starts with a par 4 where drives are launched to a wide and open fairway more than 100 feet below, a breathtaking way to begin a round and the first of five elevated tee shots. The fun continues on the short second, a par 4 where one can lay up with a mid-iron or easily drive the
ball over a tree to a narrow landing area, leaving a short wedge—if the visual dis- tractions don’t compromise a confident swing. Because the slope
between several greens and tee boxes are long and steep, carts are requisite. In fact, the path between the ninth green and 10th tee is a switchback appro- priately named Lombard Street. From that elevated 10th tee is a view of the entire Livermore Valley and Mt. Diablo, and a mid-iron to a dogleg right, followed by an easy pitch to a well-bunkered green. On No. 12 the course shows its teeth, with a 564-yard par 5 that demands a forced carry over a ravine and a blind second shot over a hill to a narrow landing area.