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Presenter : Ian Cross

Southern California

Courses: Rancho Park, Alisal Ranch, PGA West Stadium @ La Quinta, and Sandpiper.

image: Ian Cross at the PGA West Stadium Course with Mhairi McKay - an LPGA Women's Tour regular.

Ian Cross at the PGA West Stadium Course with Mhairi McKay – an LPGA Women’s Tour regular.

Our host Ian Cross travels to Southern California, the most populous and ethnically diverse state in the United States, which also offers some of the most varied golfing experiences in the country – from parkland to desert to seaside courses.

He starts his journey at the renowned La Quinta resort, a haven for movie stars, in the desert near Palm Springs which was established in the 1920s. Nowadays you can live like a star in one of your own personal casitas and swim in one of the 41 swimming pools. More importantly, La Quinta offers a staggering 90 holes of championship golf. Ian plays the PGA West Stadium Course with Mhairi McKay who has been playing the LPGA Women’s Tour for the last seven years. Designed by Pete Dye to be one of the most difficult courses in the world, the Stadium Course has lots of water, tricky bunkers and undulating greens, but it’s also a very rewarding and beautiful round to play.

image: The 18th hole of Sandpiper GC, Santa Barbara

The 18th hole of Sandpiper GC, Santa Barbara

Before heading out of the Coachella Valley – the golfing capital of Southern California with over 100 golf courses – Ian stops off at theTwin Palms Estate, an ultra modern house built for Frank and Nancy Sinatra in 1947 and now available to rent for a mere $15,000 per week!

Three hours down the highway, Ian takes a rest in one of LA’s hippest hotels on Sunset Boulevard, The Standard Hollywood, frequented by the likes of Rob Lowe and George Clooney. Up early the next morning, Ian tries to get a tee time at Rancho Park, but finds he hasn’t come early enough for a course that claims to be the busiest in the world! And it’s no wonder, Rancho plays surprisingly long for such an urban course and at $22 a round, it’s eminently more affordable than the neighbouring course Hill Crest, which costs $100,000 just to join.

image: Gliding in the Santa Ynez Valley

Gliding in the Santa Ynez Valley

It’s only about two hours drive up the coast to Santa Barbara. A great way to see this area of coast is to take a leaf out of Ian’s book and go gliding over the Santa Ynez Valley which is blessed with perfect thermals. Known as the “poor man’s Pebble Beach”, Sandpiper Golf Course can certainly give that course up north a run for its money! Ian plays with Dr Joseph Parent, the creator of ‘zen golf’ whose fans include the top rated player in the world, Vijay Singh. Sandpiper has two really outstanding holes, the 10th and the 11th, that take you right down to the sea and despite their beauty they really test your skills. Good job Ian’s got Dr Parent on hand to explain the positive mental tenets of zen golf.

image: Ian on Sandpiper with Dr. Joseph Parent

Ian on Sandpiper with Dr. Joseph Parent

Up over the San Marcos Pass, Ian heads into wine growing country and stops at the Rideau Vineyard where he meets the owner, Iris Rideau, who treats him to some of her award winning wines and fries him some oysters flown in from New Orleans which compliment some of her strains perfectly. Ian stays the night in Solvang, just down the road from the vineyard, an American town with a distinctly Danish feel to it. On the outskirts of town is the Santa Ines Mission, an oasis of tranquility set up in 1804.

Ian’s final golf stop is the Alisal Ranch where you can combine your love of golf with all the activities you’d expect at a working ranch. Ian takes a ride across some beautiful countryside with Tony Thompson, a wrangler at the Alisal for 20 years. Finally, he plays the Ranch Course with Dave Rosenstrauch, the course superintendent, for an old parkland ending to his tour of Southern California.

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