Drink it in: the 7th and 8th holes at Wente Vineyards.
Wente Vineyards
Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Course at Wente Vineyards
Livermore, California
7,181 yards, par 72
Green fees: $55-$110

\nThe Wente family does nothing on the cheap. The smooth service begins at the bag drop and doesn't stop until your 14th club has been wiped down. The only quibble: the range sits on a windswept hilltop, a lengthy cart ride from the first tee.

\nThe Nationwide Tour stop here usually yields high scoring averages, so you'd expect a death march around a demanding track. But nicely spaced tee times and carts speed the process. Expect to beat the pro shop's four- and-a-half hour goal.

\nThe opening seven holes are as interesting to play as any in inland California. But the rest of Greg Norman's layout, though long on difficulty, is short on drama. You'll be awed by the setting, but disappointed that the course reveals all of its charms too early.

\nAny quibbles with the layout seem picky when you take the other positives into account: the professional service, the polished conditions and the postcard setting. The experience feels like a wine country vacation with a sand wedge, and that ain't bad for $85.

\nThis beautiful but demanding course may alienate those who don't enjoy too much challenge, but the picturesque surroundings and the high-end pleasures of the course make it worth playing at least once.

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