IN THE PUBLIC EYE: Lake Chabot Golf Course in Oakland, Calif.
THE LAYOUT: Lake Chabot reopened in April 2007 after completion of a much-needed renovation that restored the classic course that introduced generations of East Bay residents to golf.
Included in the improvements were comprehensive reseeding, fertilization and improved irrigation that have significantly improved course conditioning and playability.
Also, the historic Spanish-style clubhouse was remodeled, including an upgrade to the Chabot Cafe, and enhanced banquet and catering facilities.
Operated by the City of Oakland, Lake Chabot was designed by William Lock and opened in 1923. It measures 5,972 yards from the back tees, but because it is located on hilly terrain overlooking the city, many holes play longer than the actual yardage.
While the course is a spectacular walk through the Oakland Hills adjacent to Anthony Chabot Regional Park, with magnificent views of San Francisco Bay and the hills of Contra Costa County, use a cart unless you are in excellent shape.
However, Chabot's outstanding par-3 course is the perfect walk in the park.
Several top players have grown up playing at Lake Chabot, most notably the late Tony Lema (St. Elizabeth's High in Oakland), who captured the 1964 Open Championship at St. Andrews; Pat Hurst (San Leandro High), the 1998 Nabisco Dinah Shore champion; John Brodie (Oakland Tech High), former All-Pro quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers who played on the PGA and Senior PGA Tours; and Gary Vanier (Skyline High in Oakland), the 1982 California Amateur champion and 2007 California Senior Amateur champion, who played on the Stanford golf team with Tom Watson.
HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Brandon Chapman.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Regulars at Lake Chabot know to consider at least one more club when playing the uphill holes, not only because of the elevation changes but because the omnipresent fog that rolls in off San Francisco Bay can make the air heavy.
Standing out on the front nine are back-to-back roller-coaster par-5s, Nos. 3 and 4, that play only 458 and 464 yards but are very difficult to reach in two. The tee shots on both holes from elevated tees carry downhill into a valley and across the road that enters the course, but the approach shots are severely uphill.
The ninth probably is the most fun hole on the course, playing 151 yards from a tee perched on the side of a hill to a green more than 100 feet below. A short tee shot is in the weeds, long is in the trees beyond the green and left is into a gully, but the green complex is ample.
No. 14 features a blind tee shot to an elevated fairway, with a periscope situated next to the tee from which to see if the fairway is clear. The hole plays longer than its 358 yards because usually the golfer is hitting into the prevailing wind.
The most spectacular views on the course are on the last four holes, starting with the reachable 259-yard 15th, where a gully gobbles up wayward slices.
The home hole is the most remarkable on the course, a downhill 673-yard monster that plays to a par 6 -- and that's no typo.
The hole lost its par-6 rating for a while when the course fell into a bit of disrepair, but when Raymond Chester, former All-Pro tight end of the Oakland Raiders, came aboard as general manager several years ago, the course was retooled and the designation was returned by the Northern California Golf Association.
Kevin Hardy, an Oakland kid (St. Elizabeth's High) who was a 270-pound All-America defensive tackle for Notre Dame in the 1960s, once drove the ball to the bottom of the hill, wedged his second shot to the elevated green and sank the putt for a rare double-eagle 3.
OTHERS COURSES IN THE AREA: The City of Oakland also operates the Metropolitan Golf Links, a Scottish-style course formerly known as Galbraith Golf Course on the Bay adjacent to the Oakland Airport, and the par-3 layout at Montclair Golf Course.
Not far from the Metropolitan is Monarch Bay Golf Club in San Leandro, featuring the 18-hole Tony Lema Course and the 9-hole Marina Course.
Across the Oakland Estuary in Alameda are two fine muni courses at Chuck Corica Golf Complex, the Earl Fry Course and the Jack Clark Course, named for a longtime sportswriter with the Alameda Times-Star.
Also a short drive away is Tilden Park Golf Course, another traditional muni course that opened in 1937, in the Berkeley Hills above the University of California.
Yet another nearby public course is Willow Park Golf Course in Castro Valley.
WHERE TO STAY: Other than the Marriott Oakland City Center in the revitalized downtown, the best places to stay in Oakland are in trendy Jack London Square or near the Oakland Airport.
Try the Hilton Oakland Airport, the Best Western Oakland Airport Inn and Suites or the Holiday Inn and Suites Oakland Airport Hotel in the Hegenberger Road area. Closer to downtown are the Jack London Inn, the Waterfront Hotel and the Homewood Oakland Waterfront.
ON THE WEB: www.lakechabotgolf.com
THE LAST RESORT: La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, Calif.
THE LAYOUT: Guests at the resort, which has been a hideaway for Hollywood stars since 1926, have the luxury of choosing from five magnificent and varied courses on which to play.
There are the Mountain and Dunes courses on the hotel property, as well as the TPC Stadium Course, the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Greg Norman Course right down the road at PGA West. All of the properties are owned by KSL Resorts.
Both courses at the hotel and the famed Stadium Course were designed by the legendary Pete Dye.
The Mountain Course, which plays along the base of the San Jacinto Mountains and opened in 1960, has hosted the World Cup of Golf, the California State Open and the PGA National Club Professional Championship. It measures 6,756 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 72.
Even though the Dunes Course (opened in 1981) runs alongside the mountain, the 6,742-yard layout meanders through flatter desert terrain. It is a kinder, gentler Dye layout for the resort golfer, although it can provide plenty of challenge. The Dunes Course has hosted PGA Tour Qualifying School six times.
The TPC Stadium Course, which opened in 1986, is most famous as host of the Skins Game from 1986 to 1991, with Fuzzy Zoeller, Lee Trevino, Curtis Strange (twice), Raymond Floyd and Payne Stewart hoisting the trophy. It stretches to 6,753 from the tips, plays to a par of 72 and was part of the Bob Hope Classic rotation in 1987.
The Nicklaus Tournament Course, which opened in 1987, is a tamer version of the Stadium Course and also has hosted PGA Tour Q-School. It measures 6,556 yards and plays to a par of 72.
The Norman Course is the youngest of the five, having opened in 1999. It lies in an ancient seabed 40 feet below sea level and is surrounded by dark, forbidding mountains that contrast the grass and the white crushed marble in the bunkers.
The Norman Course can play the longest of the five at 7,156 yards and a par of 72, but there are five sets of tees.
The Jim McLean Golf School is located on both properties.
DIRECTOR OF GOLF: Bill Shaw.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The most famous hole among this fabulous fivesome of courses is the 147-yard 17th hole on the Stadium Course, which is known as "Alcatraz" because of its island green.
Lee Trevino made the hole part of golfing lore with the only hole-in-one in the history of the Skins Game in 1987.
Before you get to Alcatraz, try to stay out of the 19-foot deep waste bunker on the par-5 16th hole. Short-game guru Dave Pelz once started an instructional show on the Golf Channel from the bottom of the bunker.
Even though the Dunes might be the most user-friendly course of the bunch, its 17th hole is annually selected by the PGA of America as one of the most difficult par 4s in the United States. The 433-yard monster wraps around a large lake that runs all the way down the left to a treacherous, two-tiered green.
And No. 18 on the Dunes is no picnic either, even though it is only 390 yards, because this time the water is on the right.
No. 16 is the signature hole on the Mountain Course, a gorgeous 167-yard par 3 from an elevated green. It runs alongside a huge talus slide and has been called one of the 500 best holes in the world by Golf Magazine.
Best of the Nicklaus Course probably is the par-5, 561-yard 15th, which features a well-bunkered island green. The finishing hole, a 432-yard par 4, requires an approach shot over water to a huge double green it shares with the ninth hole.
No. 8 on the Norman Course lists at 617 yards from the back tees, with water running all the way down the right side of the hole, one of nine ponds on the course covering 18 acres.
When you get on the greens, remember that putts in the Coachella Valley tend to break toward Indio to the East.
OTHER COURSES IN THE AREA: If five courses are not enough, the city of La Quinta also boasts another world-class course at Trilogy Golf Club, which hosted the Skins Game from 2003-06. There are more than 100 golf courses across the Coachella Valley and 300-plus sunny days a year on which to play them. What more could a golfer ask?
WHERE TO STAY: La Quinta Resort & Club features 800 guest rooms tucked away in Spanish-style casitas throughout the 45-acre property. In addition to five championship golf courses, guests also have the use of 23 tennis courts, 42 swimming pools, 52 hot tubs, five restaurants and the world-famous Spa La Quinta.
Other golf resorts in the Coachella Valley include the Doral Desert Princess and the Cimarron Golf Resort in Cathedral City; Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage; Indian Canyon Golf Resort in Palm Springs; the Golf Resort at Indian Wells; Indian Palms Country Club and Resort in Indio, and the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Spa in Indian Wells.
ON THE WEB: www.laquintaresort.com