IN THE PUBLIC EYE: The Cedars at Dungeness Golf Course in Sequim, Wash.
THE LAYOUT: Between sightseeing in Port Townsend, Port Angeles and nearby Victoria, British Columbia, on the gorgeous Olympic Peninsula, Dungeness is well worth the visit.
It's considered a gem by rain-soaked locals because it's playable when the more highly touted Gold Mountain, McCormick Woods and Trophy Lake courses are virtually unplayable when they are wet.
You don't have to wait long to enjoy Dungeness' signature hole. After two manageable par 4s, the par-5 third is 456 yards with a hard dogleg right. A well-placed drive will give you a shot at the green in two ... if you can judge the uphill distance correctly and clear the group of sand traps shaped like -- drum roll -- a Dungeness crab protecting the green.
The course offers four tee boxes, and golfers with a 15 or better handicap might want to step back and challenge themselves from the championship tees that extend the course to 6,456 yards.
Water comes into play only on the par-3 17th, and many holes are forgiving to wayward drives, but errant approach shots will be gobbled up on several holes that feature large swales.
What Dungeness lacks in water hazards and pure length, it more than makes up for in scenery throughout and a stretch of holes from No. 12 to No. 16 that run out toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Handle the constant wind from off the Strait and the treacherous 520-yard, par-5 14th without blowing up your round, and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the 17th and 18th holes playing back toward the Olympic Mountains.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Garrett Smithson.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: When a course in the Pacific Northwest -- located only miles from a rainforest, no less -- bills itself as playable year-round, you have to take notice.
When riding the half-hour ferry from Seattle to the west side of Puget Sound, don't ask the locals how to get to "See-kwee-um." It's "S'kwim," and the translation of "quiet waters" in the language of the S'Klallam tribe is appropriate for this town protected by the Olympic Mountains from the typical western Washington weather.
Sequim averages 13 inches of annual rainfall, far less than the 38 inches Seattle averages, and even less than Palm Springs' 17 inches.
The course is hardly a secret in the Northwest, as evidenced by the dozens of new homes popping up along the layout over the past few years.
Golf packages are available with almost every lodging area in Sequim and Port Angeles, where you can catch a quick ferry to Victoria. The 7 Cedars Casino is another nearby attraction.
OTHERS COURSES IN THE AREA: If you're on the Olympic Peninsula, you are no doubt enjoying the sights of the natural wonders between the Pacific Ocean and the Hood Canal.
An hour's drive to the south, three of the state's most heralded courses are located within minutes of each other. They will hit you a bit harder in the wallet during the summer months, but Gold Mountain in Bremerton, and Trophy Lake Golf & Casting and McCormick Woods in nearby Port Orchard are very well maintained and deliver an experience worth the price of admission.
The Olympic Course at Gold Mountain played host to the 2006 U.S. Amateur Public Links Golf Championship and, at over 7,000 yards from the gold tees, features wide fairways, greens protected by ample bunkers and stunning views of Mt. Rainier while you negotiate the hilly terrain.
Trophy Lake was designed by John Fought and might be the most challenging of the three at 7,206 yards on sloping fairways.
WHERE TO STAY: Part of the charm of the Olympic Peninsula are the quaint bed and breakfasts, with many of the best located in nearby Port Townsend. Every hotel, motel and Bed and Breakfast in Sequim and Port Angeles offers golf packages.
You won't find many resorts on the Peninsula, but there are plenty of waterfront lodges, hotels and campgrounds. For those simply planning on a day-trip golf outing to the Peninsula, Seattle offers all the city accommodations, and each of the four golf courses is within two hours by ferry across Puget Sound and a short car ride.
ON THE WEB: www.dungenessgolf.com; www.goldmt.com; www.trophylakegolf.com; www.mccormickwoodsgolf.com.
--Cedars at Dungeness review By Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange.
THE LAST RESORT: Ojai Valley Inn and Spa in Ojai, Calif.
THE LAYOUT: Humphrey Bogart and some of his Hollywood cronies commissioned the great George C. Thomas Jr. -- who designed Riviera, Bel-Air and Los Angeles North among other notable layouts -- to create this golfing treasure in the Topatopa Mountains above the beach community of Ventura in 1923.
Another noted designer, Billy Bell, assisted Thomas, who said his goal in designing this course was "that the average golfer could enjoy his round without too great a penalty, and that a test must be afforded requiring the low-handicap man to play fine golf in order to secure pars."
This classic course, which measures 6,292 yards and plays to a par of 70 with a rating of 70.7 and a slope of 125, was retooled in 1988 by noted modern designer Jay Morrish -- who paid particular attention to the greens.
Ojai hosted the Senior PGA Tour, now the Champions Tour, for seven years during the 1980s and 1990s, in addition to hosting the EMC Skills Challenge and the Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Tournament, two made-for-television events.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Mark Greenslit.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Doug Sanders and three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret once represented Ojai on the PGA Tour.
Winners of the FHP Health Care Classic, which was played at Ojai from 1991 to 1996, included Walter Morgan, Bruce Devlin, Jay Sigel, Al Geiberger, Bruce Crampton and Chi Chi Rodriguez.
In 1999, two holes of Thomas' original layout that were dormant for more than 50 years were restored. The U.S. Army took over the hotel during World War II to house officers returning from overseas, and Quonset huts were placed on the back nine. When the course was handed back after the war, two of the holes had been replaced.
One of the new-old holes is a 203-yard downhill par-3 to a green guarded in front by a massive bunker complex, a gaping arroyo on the left and out of bounds right -- but the green area is like a giant catcher's glove, funneling balls toward the hole. It is a replica of a hole Thomas grew up playing at famed Pine Valley.
Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, a golf historian and a fan of George C. Thomas courses, has called the tee shot on this hole "one of the great shots in golf."
Next is a gorgeous par-4, 403 yards uphill with a panoramic view of the mountains.
A few years ago, Ojai finished a multi-million-dollar renovation of the inn that includes a new clubhouse. The course has been reconfigured, with the two "lost" holes leading to the No. 1 handicap hole, a 442-yard uphill par-4 that now is No. 18, giving Ojai one of the most beautiful and challenging finishes anywhere.
The picturesque par-4, 358-yard second hole requires two shots over barrancas and has been selected as one of the "500 Greatest Golf Holes" by Golf magazine.
The new two-story, 1,645-square-foot pro shop is designed in the Spanish Colonial style of architecture with a red tile roof and white plaster walls, arches and terra cotta floor tiles.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Right down the street in Ojai is a terrific municipal layout, Soule Park Golf Course.
It's only a short drive from Ojai to Buenaventura and Olivas Park golf courses in Ventura, Elkins Ranch Golf Course in Fillmore, River Ridge Golf Club in Oxnard, Rustic Canyon Golf Club in Moorpark, Moorpark Country Club, Tierra Rejada Golf Club in Moorpark, Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo and the nine-hole Saticoy Regional Golf Course in Ventura.
Also not far are Robinson Ranch in Canyon Country and TPC Valencia.
WHERE TO STAY: The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa has been rated among the top 10 hotel spas in the United States by USA Today, Travel and Leisure magazine, National Geographic Traveler magazine and Town & Country magazine.
Ojai once was a hideaway for Hollywood stars such as Bogart, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth, Hoagy Carmichael, Judy Garland, Paul Newman, Lana Turner and Loretta Young.
Other fine accommodations in the quaint village of Ojai include the Casa Ojai Inn, the Ojai Rancho Inn, the Emerald Iguana Inn and Casa de La Luna.
ON THE WEB: www.ojairesort.com
--Ojai Valley Inn and Spa review by Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange.