Here’s an L.A. confidential: the celebrity-driven specter of Hollywood, epicenter of the world’s movie-making industry, isn’t the only reason to touch down in Tinseltown. Los Angeles doesn’t conjure the image of a golf destination at first glance, but once you escape the car-choked freeways, you’re free to explore an eclectic array of municipal, daily-fee, and high-end resort facilities. Needless to say, the off-course attractions, dining options, and accommodations are exceptional. Here’s a working outline for a wonderful weekend.
Trump National: Stretched along ocean cliffs on the Palos Verdes Peninsula 30 minutes south of downtown L.A., this well-bunkered world-beater, attributed to Pete Dye and Donald J. Trump, is a strategic tour de force with stellar views of the rugged coastline, Pacific Ocean, and Catalina Island. A proponent of eye-catching water features, Trump used native Palos Verde stone to create a trio of huge waterfalls on site, including a thunderous double-decker cataract behind the first green. Not quite “better than Pebble Beach,” as the Donald once claimed, but an intriguing, windswept layout anchored by a magnificent Spanish Mission-style clubhouse.
Rustic Canyon: This local favorite in Moorpark, set on a former sheep ranch, is a throwback to the kind of naturalistic courses built at the time Hollywood first started making talkies. Designed by Gil Hanse, this low-profile charmer has broad fairways, fringed bunkers, and open-entry greens embraced by close-mown spill-offs designed to test short-game creativity. Incoming holes, routed on higher ground, meander through steep-walled canyons and skirt rock-strewn barrancas bristling with cactus. With prime weekday rates for walkers priced at $43, Rustic Canyon is L.A.’s best value.
Griffith Park: This popular municipal facility within L.A. city limits is the perfect place to rub elbows with locals, including aspiring actors and screenwriters. Griffith Park’s Harding Course, a classic 1924 design by Geroge C. Thomas, brings hills, lakes, and tall specimen trees into play. The Wilson Course, stretching to 6,942 yards, is known for its long par 5’s and speedy greens. The park’s sleeper venue is the 9-hole, par-33 Roosevelt course, which overlooks an observatory and offers a petite, delightful test if two hours is all you’ve got budgeted for golf.
TCL Chinese Theater: Formerly known as Grauman’s, this quintessential L.A. landmark, located on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is where kids of all ages can enjoy the time-honored tradition of fitting their hands into the cemented prints of their favorite celebrities and movie stars on the theater’s forecourt.
Universal Studios Hollywood: For a peek behind the movie industry’s curtain, the backlot tour at Universal Studios, the world’s largest working movie studio, offers a look at iconic film and television sets. The special effects demonstrations are jaw-dropping, while the theme park’s rides and shows are perfect for a family outing.
Rodeo Drive: A street of dreams deservedly famous as the most glamorous shopping boulevard in America. Spanning three city blocks off Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, this gilded thoroughfare is renowned for its fine jewelers (Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, etc.) and dozens of luxury fashion stores, from Bally and Burberry to Tori Burch and Tumi.
Venice Beach: A popular beachfront neighborhood in the city’s Westside section, this former gathering place for Beat generation poets and artists in the 1950’s is now home to show business personalities and provides a window to the southern California lifestyle. For people watching, the boardwalk, “Muscle Beach,” the basketball courts, and the Venice Breakwater (an acclaimed surf spot) are must-sees.
WHERE TO STAY
Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows: A secluded oasis in Santa Monica nestled on bluffs across from the beach, this renovated, low-key retreat, which dates to 1921, is loaded with character and charm and Hollywood lore. Dotting the beautifully landscaped grounds are 32 discreet poolside bungalows where the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Charles Lindbergh, and Eleanor Roosevelt once stayed.
Hotel Bel-Air: Reopened last year following a two-year closure for a complete renovation, this L.A. grande dame, a member of the Dorchester Collection, is an enchanting oasis of refinement that embraces design motifs from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. The grounds are perfect, the staff is impeccable, celebrity sightings are common. Wolfgang Puck manages the hotel’s well-regarded restaurant and signature bar.
The Beverly Garland: This comfortable, centrally located North Hollywood property, set on seven tree-shaded acres, features Spanish Mission-style architecture, 255 guest rooms and suites, a pool and outdoor fireplace, and easy access to popular attractions such as Universal Studio (complimentary shuttle service), Hollywood Bowl, Disney and Warner Brothers Studios, and many more. A moderately-priced, family-friendly hotel.
Mastro’s Steakhouse: This popular Beverly Hills mainstay, located across the street from the Montage hotel, is a classic old-school eatery for carnivores specializing in deluxe cuts of prime meats. It’s a see-and-be-seen institution (there’s also a second location in Thousand Oaks), but regulars return for the great steaks and superb service. The seafood appetizers are outstanding.
A.O.C.: This very popular Hollywood restaurant pioneered the “grazing craze” in L.A. Casual and bustling, A.O.C. is actually a glorified wine bar, with dozens of exceptional pours by the glass or carafe. (A.O.C. stands for Appellation d’Origine Controlee, a label given to French wine to signify quality). It’s a perfect place to share delectable Mediterranean-style tapas and Cal-French small plates, including excellent charcuterie and artisanal cheeses.
Pink’s Hot Dogs: Located near TCL Chinese Theater, this vintage L.A. eatery, a family-owned establishment that dates to 1939, serves the best hot dogs in town. Pink’s is also renowned for its hamburgers, huge portions, and affordable prices. Perfect for a late-night bite. Jay Leno, Steve Martin, and Betty White are regulars.