Ask Travelin' Joe: California, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Palm Springs
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We live in rainy Northern California. Do you have any ideas for the following criteria: 4- to 5-hour drive from the Bay Area, pet-friendly accommodations, warm weather, good practice facility, reasonable pricing? We want to jump in the car with the dog, drive a few hours, practice for two to three days and drive home. V. Shellenberg
Cruise down the 101 to the town of Nipomo, just south of San Luis Obispo, where you'll find Monarch Dunes (805-343-9459, monarchdunes.com; $30-$78). Part links in the dunes, part parkland in the Eucalyptus trees, this collaboration from architect Damian Pascuzzo and six-time PGA Tour winner Steve Pate aces the scenery, variety and playability tests from start to finish. With Kemper Sports in charge of management and course conditions, a fine practice range and a new 12-hole Challenge Course that features par-3s ranging from 82 to 242 yards, Monarch Dunes should deliver just what you're looking for.
Rover can join you at the Best Western Royal Oak Hotel (royaloakhotel.com, 805-544-4410), 26 miles back the way you came in San Luis Obispo. Best of all, the forecast from January 7 through the 15th touts sunny skies and daytime highs ranging from 65 to 71 degrees. Hi Traveling Joe,
I am going to San Juan, Puerto Rico and need to find a couple of golf courses on the island. What do you recommend? Bob Barth
If you like bells and whistles, you'll get fired — up — for Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico (787-657-2000, trumpgolfclubpuertorico.com; $140-$180). The closest championship golf to San Juan (14 miles east), the 36 holes here still lack some maturity, but as a PGA Tour stop the past two years, they boast plenty of eye candy and challenge.
Among the better bargains on the island is Dorado del Mar at the Embassy Suites (787-796-6125, embassysuitesdorado.com/golf; $55-$120), a hilly 1998 Chi Chi Rodriguez design 45 minutes west of San Juan that features iguanas, swaying palms and a terrific 10th hole, a 525-yard par-5 that overlooks the Caribbean Sea.
I'm heading to the Palm Springs area in late January with some buddies to play as much golf as possible. If you had to choose between the two courses at Desert Willow or the two at Indian Wells, which would you recommend? Alan Z.
Sorry to straddle the fence on this one, Alan, but it's nearly impossible to choose between Desert Willow (760-346-7060, desertwillow.com; $95-$185) and Indian Wells (760-346-4653, indianwellsgolfresort.com, $130-$155). Both are similarly priced, impeccably groomed, offer terrific facilities and boast staggering mountain views. I'll pick Desert Willow's Firecliff course over its sibling Mountain View and call Indian Wells' Celebrity and Players a toss-up. Firecliff offers bunkering that's so dramatic, it once made the cover of Smithsonian magazine, while Mountain View is the most forgiving of the four, if that's important to your group. Celebrity is a tad too tight in spots, but the shaping and landscaping is off-the-charts, while the aptly named Players, a John Fought re-design, offers the best test of shotmaking of the four. Pick any one — you cannot go wrong.