Life in La-La Land
Like Randy Newman sings, "I love L.A.!" It's got glamour, beauty and the beach. And some of the best places to play are some of the least expensive.
Favorite public courses
The Wilson and Harding courses at Griffith Park have been open for 80 years and are still as fun to play as when I was a kid. Rancho Park is 15 minutes west of downtown, right next to the Rose Bowl. If you feel like dropping a few hundred bucks, don't miss Trump National at Rancho Palos Verdes. If you have any pull with the swanky clubs, try Lakeside Golf Club. You can have fun star-gazing at high-handicappers like Joe Pesci and Jack Nicholson. I play there and they're always pestering me for swing tips.
I learned about precision approach shots at Wilson's 416-yard second because if I didn't stick it, the ball would bounce off the green and I'd be banging my club into the fence behind it. Playing the fourth here always reminds me of an important milestone in my development. I was watching my dad blast out of the bunker when he cold-shanked one that hit me right in the leg. He didn't apologize or express any parental concern. He just asked what the hell I was doing standing there. Ever since, I never break the 90-degree plane in front of an amateur golfer.
Where to eat
Tito's Tacos is a Culver City institution. The guacamole and salsa are the best and it's dirt-cheap. A great night is steaks at Boa on Sunset Boulevard and then stroll down to catch a band at the House of Blues. The Water Grill has tremendous seafood, a nice atmosphere and a great wine list.
Best halfway house
I don't know how they do it, but the snack shop at the turn at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana can make a simple tuna salad sandwich seem like an elegant meal. Other halfway houses have hot dogs, but I've eaten ostrich burgers at El Cab.
Where to stay
Just having a cocktail in the lobby is an experience at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. The rooms and suites are like luxury beach cottages, but with all modern amenities. You can spend some real money there, but it's worth every penny. Stay at the Hotel Bel-Air and you might see Julia Roberts or you might not see another soul. The place is very secluded and has acres of gardens and fountains. The Pacific Palms Conference Resort in the City of Industry has it all, including two fine courses.
The beaches. You can go to scenic Zuma Beach or Ventura-Oxnard beach, a great place to enjoy with the whole family. And if you get tired of the beach, head over to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia. And, man, Dodger Stadium never disappoints, even though sometimes the Dodgers do.
Los Angeles seems so sprawling it can be intimidating. But try to stay near where you want to go and grab a good guidebook.