IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Griffith Park Golf Course, Harding and Wilson courses, in Los Angeles.
THE LAYOUT: George C. Thomas, one of the greatest American designers in the early part of the century, helped design not only Riviera Country Club and Los Angeles North -- perhaps the two best private courses in Los Angeles -- but also these two remarkable municipal courses.
The United States Golf Association believes the Wilson course, where nine holes were created as early as the 1860s by Gen. John M. Baldwin at Potrero de Los Angeles, is the oldest muni course in the U.S.
Thomas added nine holes to Wilson in 1923 and also designed Harding, opened in 1924.
Harding measures 6,536 yards from the back tees, with a 70.8 rating and a slope of 112. Wilson stretches to 6,947 yards with a rating of 72.9 and a slope of 115. Both par-72 courses wind through tall eucalyptus trees in Griffith Park next to the Los Angeles Zoo.
Even though Wilson is longer, more accurate shot-making is required on Harding. The trees make the fairways appear to be narrower than they actually are, and the greens are relatively small.
Also in Griffith Park is the Marty Tregnan Golf Learning Center for youngsters and beginners.
HEAD PROS: Tom and Roger Barber, sons of the late Jerry Barber, the 1961 PGA champion, who was head pro at the course for 23 years.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The Los Angeles Open, now the Northern Trust Open, was played at Wilson and Harding from 1937-39, with "Lighthorse Harry" Cooper, Jimmy Thomson and Jimmy Demaret winning. Sam Snead cashed his first check on the PGA Tour, worth $400, after a high finish in the 1937 L.A. Open.
Babe Ruth played the Harding and Wilson courses often when he came to Hollywood to dabble in the movies during the 1920s and '30s, and Tiger Woods won the Los Angeles Junior Championship on the Griffith Park courses in 1991.
Other winners of L.A. City Junior titles include Al Geiberger, Charlie Sifford, Corey Pavin, Duffy Waldorf, Curtis Sifford, Tommy Jacobs, Phil Rogers, John Cook, Amy Alcott, Marlene and Alice Bauer, and Laura Baugh.
Several years ago, Woods was filmed for a commercial hitting a tee shot from Wilson's elevated first tee. The 536-yard downhill, dogleg right par 5 can be reached in two shots by big hitters who shape the approach around the corner to the green.
That's the beginning of a strong three opening holes, which also include the downhill, 416-yard par-4 second -- rated No. 1 on the card -- and the uphill 192-yard third.
Memorable on the back nine at Wilson are the 222-yard par-3 11th, which plays in a grove of trees, and the daunting 438-yard par-4 16th.
Harding opens with a challenging, downhill 421-yard par-4, with the tee box perched atop a large hill.
Tee shots that wander right on the 345-yard, par-4 12th and the 192-yard, uphill par-3 13th are gone -- the first onto Interstate 5 and the second onto the grounds of the Gene Autry Heritage Museum.
The par-5 18th plays uphill to the clubhouse, with the zoo on the right. Flamingoes often fly over the fence to provide a gallery on the tee box.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks also operates the Encino and Balboa golf courses at Sepulveda Golf Complex in Encino, Rancho Park Golf Course in West L.A., Hansen Dam Golf Course in Pacoima and Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys.
Nine-hole layouts under the L.A. City umbrella include Roosevelt Golf Course in Griffith Park, Penmar Golf Course in Venice and Harbor Park Golf Course in Wilmington.
Angeles National Golf Club, the only course in Los Angeles County created by Nicklaus Design, is a highly-regarded daily-free course in Sunland. About 40 miles away in Santa Clarita are TPC Valencia, which had Mark O'Meara on its design team, and Robinson Ranch, with its award-winning Valley and Mountain courses.
WHERE TO STAY: The best hotels in downtown Los Angeles -- including the Westin Bonaventure, the New Otani, the Omni Hotel Los Angeles, the Millennium Biltmore, the Hilton Checkers, the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown -- are about a 10-minute drive from Griffith Park. The Sheraton Universal, adjacent to the theme park, also is about 10 minutes away.
ON THE WEB: http://www.ci.la.ca.us/rap/golf/cdp_harding.htm; http://www.ci.la.ca.us/rap/golf/cdp_wilson.htm
THE LAST RESORT: Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Resort & Spa in Cabo Del Sol, Mexico.
THE LAYOUT: The Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, designed by Jack Nicklaus, wraps around the resort, while the newer Desert Course, designed by Tom Weiskopf and opened in 2001, runs along the hills above the hotel and offers panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez on every hole.
Cabo del Sol has been described as Pebble Beach with desert and mountains.
Nicklaus has called the Ocean Course "the greatest piece of golf property on earth," and it can play tough at 7,107 from the black tees -- with a par of 72, slope of 147 and a rating of 74.5. But there are five sets of tees to make the layout resort-friendly.
The Desert Course, another par-72 layout at measure 7,053, is considered almost as difficult with a 144 slope and a rating of 74.3, but again five sets of tees give every golfer a fair challenge.
The Ocean Course annually is ranked No. 1 in Mexico by Golf Digest and the Desert Course has been rated as high as No. 5.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Gregory Tallman.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Weiskopf, who captured the 1973 Open Championship at Royal Troon, designed the Desert Course with traditional bunkering, expansive greens, wide fairways, multiple tee areas, natural waste areas and spectacular ocean views.
Signature hole on the Desert Course is the 432-yard finishing hole, which plays downhill to the Sea of Cortez. Avoid the creek that runs along the entire left side of the fairway before crossing the approach and cascading into the lake that guards the front of the green. The downhill second shot requires accuracy to the generous, undulating green that is protected by the lake and bunker on the right.
While Weiskopf's course has gotten good reviews, golfers come to Cabo del Sol to play the Ocean Course, which has been rated by Golf Magazine as one of the top 100 in the world.
There are nearly two miles of ocean frontage on the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol, with seven holes running right along the water. The first taste of it comes on Nos. 6 through 8.
Before that, the golfer must negotiate the par-4, 450-yard fifth hole, which Nicklaus' version of the renowned fifth hole at Royal Portrush in Ireland. The fairway is wide, but aim down the right side because shots on the left can leave a blind approach to a generous green that favors a low, running links-style shot.
Of Nos. 16 through 18, Nicklaus has said: "Cabo del Sol has three of the best ocean finishing holes in the world."
No. 16 is a 429-yard par 4 that plays directly downhill to the ocean, but it can be reached with a favorable wind by a tee shot that takes advantage of the knoll on the left side of the fairway to give the ball the last necessary impetus to reach the green.
At the 17th, the tee shot requires a 178-yard carry over a corner of beach and rocks to a smallish green protected by bunkers on one side and the ocean on the other.
The finishing hole, a 430-yard par 4, reminds the golfer a bit of the famed finishing home at Pebble Beach -- only with the ocean on the right. Challenge the ocean side to stay out of the desert and cactus on the left in addition to shortening the hole for the approach to a large oceanside green.
And don't miss the famous fish tacos at the halfway house.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: There was no golf in Los Cabos -- a world-class sport-fishing destination -- until the early 1990s, but now there are seven places to play, and 63 of the 144 holes have Golden Bear tracks on them.
Palmilla Golf Club, located on the property of the Palmilla Resort about 10 miles from Cabo del Sol, was the first Nicklaus golf course in Latin America when it opened in 1992, and offers three dramatic nines -- the Mountain, the Ocean and the Arroyo.
Also located on the 18-mile tourist corridor from Cabo San Lucas to San Jose del Cabo are the Nicklaus-designed El Dorado Golf Club; Querencia Golf Club, which was Tom Fazio's first venture outside the United States; Cabo Real Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones II; the Raven Golf Club, formerly Cabo San Lucas Country Club, designed by Pete Dye and featuring the longest hole in Baja, 620 yards; and the nine-hole Campo de Golf Los Cabos, a municipal layout (with plans to add a second nine) in San Jose del Cabo that was the first course in the area when it opened in 1991.
Los Cabos was the site of the PGA Senior Slam five times. Raymond Floyd won in 1995 on the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol and repeated at Cabo Real in 1996, Hale Irwin won at Palmilla in 1997, and Gil Morgan won on the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol in 1998 and at Cabo Real in 1999.
WHERE TO STAY: The Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Resort and Spa is situated on a private beach amid 28 acres of private gardens, featuring old-world hacienda architecture. It was on Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List in 2004 and 2005, and was rated the "Best Golf Hotel in Los Cabos" by the noted travel publication in 2003.
The elegant Palmilla, located about 10 miles east of Cabo del Sol, is listed in Great Hotels of the World and was a hideaway for the likes of John Wayne and Bing Crosby in days gone by.
Among the many other resorts in Los Cabos are the Fiesta Americana Grand Resort, the Westin Regina Resort, Las Ventanas al Paraiso, the Crowne Plaza Los Cabos, the Fiesta Inn Hotel, the Presidente Inter-Continental Los Cabos Resort, the Grand Baja Resort and Spa, the Playa Grande Resort, the Hotel Twin Dolphin, the Pueblo Bonito Rose Resort, the Casa del Mar Golf and Spa and the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort.
ON THE WEB: www.cabodelsol.com.