While one might not think of Napa Valley as a golf destination, it's well worth off-setting some of those winery visits and Michelin-starred meals with a few rounds at one of the valley's three courses.
The Chardonnay Golf Club, southeast of downtown Napa is set within over 150 acres of chardonnay vineyards, with the vines setting the boundaries for many of the holes. Much of the course and the surrounding area is also nature preserve, allowing golfers to spot hawks, golden eagles and sometimes even families of bobcats. They have also hosted several prestigious events including the Northern California Open Championship and the PGA Tour Qualifier.
Regulars describe the Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park as fun and challenging, and advise newcomers to bring a few extra balls. Designed by Jack Fleming and Bob Baldock, the course earned 3.5 stars from Golf Digest in 2004. At 6,704 yards from the black tees, the course has narrow fairways, a 131 slope rating and water on 16 holes (it's set in the Napa River estuary). Three sets of tees make it a bit more accessible to golfers at a variety of ability levels.
The Silverado Resort is the only spot in the valley that boasts 36 holes. Originally designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. in 1967, the two courses, north and south, were some of the architect's first. While the resort was a destination a few decades ago, it faded for a time, and was bought in 2010 by two-time major, Hall of Famer and NBC Analyst Johnny Miller and two partners. Renovation of the north course was completed in October 2011 and the course is now almost completely different-- longer for men, shorter for women, with fewer trees and replanted grass. Miller notes that he tried to make it look like Georgia's Augusta National.