There are no five-star golf resorts in Los Angeles, but turn and walk in any direction and you're bound to stub your toe on a five-star celebrity. A-List encounters are a fact of life in the City of Angels, and that includes on the golf course, even on the city's public-access tracks where the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger are often spotted. For stay-and-plays, head south to Orange County or San Diego, or north to Santa Barbara. But if your fix is stellar golf, consistently sunny weather and hobnobbing with celebs, touch down in L.A.
Trump National Golf Club L.A.
7,311 yards, par 71;
Greens fee: $195-$300
310-303-3240, trumpgolf.com; Architect: Donald Trump
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump never does anything halfway. Trump National Los Angeles is no exception. Trump spent $264 million to makeover the Pete Dye Ocean Trails Golf Links, a redesign masterminded by the Donald himself. The result is a celebration of opulence, and it works partly because the public and not just the golfing public gets to enjoy it, too. Dog walkers and surfers are allowed to wander right through the heart of the layout to get to the beach.
The course sits on bluffs above the Pacific in Palos Verdes, 25 minutes south of LAX. No layout in America offers such terrific ocean views for an entire round. Much of the front nine is cramped with repetitive shot options, with fairways stair-stepping one after the next down to the water, separated only by dense native shrubbery. The short, uphill par-4 first is an unforgettable exception, with a cascading pool fronting the green and a waterfall behind it. The 510-yard ninth is among the strongest and most scenic par 4s you'll ever play that is, until you get to the bunker-strewn 512-yard 18th. Trump L.A. isn't all tinsel, but by round's end what stands out isn't really the course itself but the superb service. That combined with the hefty greens fee will make you forget you're at a public-access course. Of course, from Trump would you expect anything less?
Rustic Canyon Golf Course
6,988 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $35-$55 805-530-0221, rusticcanyongolfcourse.com; Architects: Gil Hanse, Jim Wagner and Geoff Shackelford
This linksy layout is one of the country's best bargains and traverses barrancas and edges environmentally protected areas in semirural Moorpark. This is not a course where you automatically reach for driver: the sagebrush-framed fairways are crisscrossed with shaggy-edged bunkers so tee shots require some thought. You'll need a Ph.D. to solve the puzzles presented by the low-profile green complexes, which put a premium on the ground game. A superior set of short par 4s emphasizes Rustic Canyon's appeal for that dying breed of golfer who relies more on thoughtful strategy than brute force.
Lost Canyon Golf Club
Sky Course: 7,250 yards, par 72; Shadow Course: 7,005 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $95-$125; 805-522-4653, lostcanyons.com;
Architects: Pete Dye, Fred Couples
There are 36 holes at this serene Simi Valley setting, 45 minutes northwest of downtown L.A. The ridgetop Sky Course overlooks the narrower but more dramatic 7,005-yard Shadow Course. While each course dishes out multiple forced carries over ravines, both also offer scenic views of the craggy hills that served as the backdrop for many a M*A*S*H* episode. (And we thought that was really Korea!) Bring a ton of balls you're going to need 'em.
Industry Hills Golf Club (Eisenhower Course)
7,181 yards, par 72;
Greens fee: $69-$96; 626-810-4653, ihgolfclub.com; Architect: Billy Bell
The Ike, as locals call it, is the quintessential L.A. course: it's under the knife, getting a facelift. After 25 years, the time was right to restore one of the toughest courses in town a tight, tree-lined affair with topsy-turvy greens. New fairway turf and six reconstructed greens will greet golfers when the Ike reopens in September. (In the meantime, its sister course, the Babe Zaharias, is an easier alternative.) What won't change is the 651-yard par-5 18th, with its uphill third shot. Fortunately, a Swiss funicular will whisk your bag and weary legs up the steep hillside to the 19th hole.
The Card Wrecker
Trump National Golf Club L.A., No. 9, 510 yards, par 4
Completely redesigned by Trump from the original Pete Dye layout, this hole is a hardy two-shotter that doglegs slightly to the left around a lake and can spit back some ugly numbers if you bite off more than you can chew. A par 5 from the ladies' tees, it's a demanding but spectacular test for all players.
Trump on how to play it
"You must play down the right-hand side, avoiding the bunkers and tall fescue that guard the left. The wind off the Pacific is primarily in your face, so make sure to club correctly on the approach, otherwise the lake, which looms on the left and short of the green, can gobble up shots that don't have enough muscle. If you must lay up, play to the widest part of the fairway, approximately 120 yards from the green and leave yourself with a direct look at the pin. I've designed the hole with a three-tiered green, so play the shot to the appropriate area."
Where to eat
- [LIST "El Tarasco has 12 locations in L.A., but the 10-seat, hole-in-the-wall original on Rosecrans Avenue in Manhattan Beach is tops. The $5 Jr. Super Deluxe is all the burrito you can handle. 310-545-4241."] [LIST "Old Rat Packers like Frank Sinatra and new ones like George Clooney have made Dan Tana's in West Hollywood a favorite for pasta, beef and booze. The mostaccioli al forno is tops. 310-275-9444, dantanasrestaurant.com."]
Where to Stay
- [LIST "The Regent Beverly Wilshire boasts Four Seasons service and a heart-of- Beverly Hills location. Rooms start at $495. 310-275-5200, regenthotels.com."] [LIST "Pacific Palms Conference Resort is the area's only true golf resort. Rooms start at $129. 800-524-4557, pacificpalmsresort.com."] [LIST "Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica is where David Letterman stays on his West Coast sojourns. Rooms from $480. 310-458-0030, shuttersonthebeach.com."]
What to do
- [LIST "August and September (and occasionally October) is prime time to catch a game at Dodger Stadium and enjoy a Dodger Dog. 866-DODGERS, losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com"] [LIST "Film buffs may prefer the no-frills Paramount tour, but if you crave rides and more action, take the tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Then head next door for CityWalk's shops and restaurants. 800-UNIVERSAL, universalstudioshollywood.com"] [LIST "You've got to experience a SoCal beach at least once. Santa Monica Beach is as good as any, with its famous pier, clean and wide sands, and nearby 3rd Street Promenade for shopping and dining. 800-544-5319, santamonica.com"] [LIST "Grauman's Chinese Theatre is ground zero for L.A. tourists. The famous heartof- Hollywood theater still shows first-run movies, but the classic hand-and footprints in cement and the sidewalk stars on the Walk of Fame are the attention getters. 323-464-8111, manntheatres.com"] [LIST "Once in a while it rains in L.A. If you're looking for an indoor activity, take a drive over to the Petersen Auto Museum. Race cars, early motorcycles and celebrities' cars including the 1966 Batmobile and Steve McQueen's ride from Bullit are among the attractions. 323-930-CARS, petersen.org"]