IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Eagle Vines Vineyards and Golf Club in American Canyon, Calif.
THE LAYOUT: The course, designed by local hero Johnny Miller and Jack Barry, has been open for only six years but has been labeled a can't-miss experience for golfers visiting Northern California's renowned Wine Country.
Eagle Vines measures 7,283 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 72 and a slope of 134, with a rating of 74.8 from the black tees.
Some people have said tongue-in-cheek that the 1973 U.S. Open champion must have been under the influence when creating some of his earlier designs, but this is a kinder, gentler Miller.
Critics said the same thing about some of Jack Nicklaus' early designs, but it seems that perhaps great players become more forgiving in their designs as their golf skills began to diminish and they realize not everybody can play the game the way they once did.
PGA HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Marcus Sharit.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Eagle Vines wanders through 30 acres of vineyards that produce cabernet, syrah and blanc grapes, in addition to 200-year-old oak trees and native grassland.
The rich colors of the Wine Country are enhanced by white-sand bunkers, seven lakes and Fagan Creek, which traverses the course on several holes.
Proving that length isn't everything, one of the best holes is No. 4 -- the shortest par-4, measuring 355 from the black tee and 312 from the whites. You can leave driver in the bag for the tee shot to set up the approach over Fagan Creek to a small green protected by native vegetation on the left and traps on the right and behind.
No. 6, perhaps the best of the par 3s, plays 174 yards from an elevated tee, featuring a flowery garden and a waterfall, to a large island green guarded by four bunkers.
No. 11, a 565-yard par 5, is a bit of target golf and the most picturesque hole on the course. The second shot is to a peninsula fairway framed by lakes on either side that are connected by a canal dissecting the hole about 210 yards from the green. The farther right you are, the more water you must clear on the approach.
Although the 473-yard, par-4 14th is the No. 1 handicap hole (featuring a replica of the St. Andrews bridge that crosses the Swilcan Burn), the 610-yard 16th is just as daunting. It takes three solid shots past acacia and cherry trees on the right to reach the shallow, tiered green that is protected by a large lake.
That's the beginning of a strong finish that includes two strong par 4s -- the uphill-downhill 390-yard 17th and the 457-yard finishing hole, where lakes on the right come into play on the drive and the approach.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Even though the clubs are under different ownership, Eagle Vines is part of a 45-hole complex that includes neighboring Chardonnay Golf Club. Chardonnay has three nines -- the Lakes, Meadows and Vineyards -- that meander through the vineyards. It will become a private course once it reaches its membership goal.
Silverado Resort in Napa, which hosted the PGA Tour in the past, offers the challenging 6,500-yard South Course and the more forgiving North Course, which measures 6,700.
Not far away over the hill is the private Sonoma Golf Club, at which guests of the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn receive playing privileges, and it's a pleasant drive to the Links at Bodega Harbour in Bodega Bay, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed his classic thriller, "The Birds."
Other nearby courses are Rooster Run Golf Club in Petaluma and Windsor Golf Club in Windsor. For a little less glamour but a solid muni golf experience, try Napa Municipal Golf Course.
WHERE TO STAY: Silverado Resort and the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn offer world-class accommodations, but there are many other options in Napa Valley. Among the best is the Doubletree Sonoma Wine Country in Rohnert Park, near Foxtail Golf Club, which has two championship golf courses.
For a unique boutique hotel experience, try the Harvest Inn in St. Helena or the Napa River Inn.
Also highly rated are River Terrace Inn in Napa, the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa, the Carneros Inn in Napa, the Inn at Southbridge in St. Helena, the Worldmark by Wyndham in Windsor, Napa Valley Lodge in Yountville and the Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena.
ON THE WEB: www.eaglevinesgolfclub.com
THE LAST RESORT: Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii.
THE LAYOUT: For several years, Turtle Bay was the only resort in Hawaii to host two events on what is known as the Aloha Tour, but its courses have been left to the tourists because Champions Tour and LPGA Tour events that were held there lost their sponsors.
The resort offers two challenging courses -- the George Fazio Course, which opened in 1971 and hosted the first Senior Skins Game in 1988, and the Arnold Palmer Course, which opened in 1992.
While both courses offer exceptional golf experiences, there's no question that the Palmer is the preferred layout, although the Fazio is exactly what is was intended to be when it opened -- a fun, sporty resort course.
Playing the Palmer Course presents two different golfing experiences. The front nine reminds the golfer of a Scottish links course, virtually without trees, while the back side winds through a tropical forest of ironwood trees (haole koa in Hawaiian) and the Punaho'olapa Marsh, which is a bird sanctuary.
Be sure to consult your course guide because water comes into play on almost every hole and some of it cannot be seen from the tees or even the fairways.
Arnold Palmer enjoys Turtle Bay so much that he was married to the former Kathleen Gawthrop on the property before the start of the 2004 Turtle Bay Championship.
Somebody who probably enjoys Turtle Bay and Hawaii even more than Arnie is Hale Irwin, who won the Turtle Bay Championship five consecutive times among his nine official titles. Irwin also captured three Senior Skins Game victories in Hawaii.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Matt Hall.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: With five sets of tees, the Palmer Course, which plays to a par of 72 and measures 7,199 yards from the back tees, is very playable for the resort golfer of any level.
The third through seventh holes, which wrap around a large lake, provide the meat of the front nine. The par-5, 543-yard third hole is No. 1 on the index rating, with water down the left side of the fairway and bunkers surrounding the green. Be careful, because you can't see that the water narrows the fairway considerably 220 yards from the green.
The strength of the back nine is the finish, which consists of two 450-yard par 4s and a 577-yard par-5 closing hole, where tournaments are won and lost.
The 452-yard 17th, probably the signature hole of the Palmer Course, plays downwind to the ocean's edge, with seven fairway bunkers from the driving area to the elevated green.
Tom Kite came to the 18th hole one shot behind Irwin in the 2003 Turtle Bay Championship and tried to go for the green in two across the pond that guards the wide, shallow green -- which also has two bunkers waiting for shots that go long.
Kite's approach from 235 yards with a fairway wood hit the rocks short of the green and fell back in the water.
Perhaps the most memorable feature of the Fazio Course is an exceptional set of par-3 holes, with water to contend with on three of them. No. 11, the only one without a water hazard, runs along the beach. The ocean comes into play only if the tee shot is 50 or more yards offline.
The most intriguing hole on the Fazio Course is the 277-yard 14th hole, a risk/reward par 4. Take the risk and it's possible to make a 3 or even a 2, but there's also a chance to make 6 or 7 because the hole is ringed by native vegetation and there is out of bounds on the left.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: Among the many courses on Oahu are the Hawaii Prince Golf Club in Ewa Beach, Kapolei Golf Course and Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei, the West and East Courses at Makaha Golf Club in Waianae, Mid-Pacific Country Club and Luana Hills Country Club in Kailua, Mililani Golf Club, Pearl Country Club in Aiea, Waikele Golf Course in Waipahu, and Koolau Golf Course in Kaneohe.
WHERE TO STAY: Although the modern mega resorts certainly provide a stimulating vacation experience, there's still nothing like discovering a slice of Old Hawaii. Anyone searching for a spot where time passes at tortoise speed might be surprised to find it on the island of Oahu at Turtle Bay, less than an hour's drive from the frenetic activity at Waikiki in Honolulu.
The sprawling 880-acre property gives guests their choice of five miles of beach, 12 miles of oceanfront hiking trails and its two magnificent championship golf courses. It's also a short drive from the fabled surfing spots at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Bonzai Pipeline.
Those who want the action and energy of Waikiki should enjoy the Hawaii Prince Hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort and Spa, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Sheraton Waikiki Resort and the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. Away from Honolulu is Marriott's Ihilani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina.
ON THE WEB: www.turtlebayresort.com