Massive green makes Chardonnay Golf Club a memorable Napa Valley stop

By Wes Gilbertson, Contributor

AMERICAN CANYON, Calif. -- It could be the most satisfying three-putt of your life.

Chardonnay Golf Club - hole 7
Chardonnay Golf Club is carved into the vineyards of Napa Valley.
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Chardonnay Golf Club

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Sitting at the gateway to Napa Valley, Chardonnay Golf Club wanders through 150 acres of Chardonnay and Merlot vineyards. Native trees, vast lakes, and meandering creeks make up the beautiful landscape, which is naturally home to an abundance of wildlife.

18 Holes | Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 6939 yards | Book online | ... details »
 

The eighth hole at Chardonnay Golf Club in the Napa Valley is home to one of the largest putting surfaces you'll ever see, a monstrosity that measures almost 100 yards across and features more shelves than a grocery aisle.

"You leave the place, and if there's one hole that sticks in your head more than any other, it's that hole," said Roger Billings, general manager at Chardonnay Golf Club. "It's a memory maker. People go home and they tell their friends, 'Man, you've gotta see the green on this par 3 at Chardonnay.'

"It's such a different hole, depending on where they put the flag. There are lots of places you can put the pin there, and it's going to be a real fun hole."

Chardonnay Golf Club: The course

Course architect Algie Pulley is known around these parts for his rollercoaster putting surfaces, and the eighth hole at Chardonnay Golf Club is as wild as they come.

For club-toting tourists, the six-tiered green is a unique challenge you'll be anxious to tell your friends and co-workers about. In fact, Golf Digest included it on its list of the "18 Most Fun Golf Holes in America."

For regulars at the 6,948-yard track just a few minutes east of Napa County Airport, it's an incentive to check the pin positions prior to each round.

The assignment measures between 125 and 198 yards from five sets of elevated tees, although knowing the distance to the center of the dance floor still leaves plenty of guesswork in the club-selection process.

"When the pin is in the bottom, I have no problem. And if the pin is in the back, that's alright, too," said Sacramento's Joe Young, who tees off at the course about once a week. "But when it's in the middle, you've got all sorts of problems. If you're down at the bottom, you're looking at three or four putts, and if you hit it to the top, it's three or four putts coming down the hill."

The eighth green can cause headaches for even the most sure-handed putters, but don't let the hangover from a three- or four-jack spoil the rest of your round at this picturesque setup.

The Napa Valley is better known for grapes than golf, but Chardonnay Golf Club is one of a just a handful of layouts actually carved out of the crops that made this area famous.

While there's no shortage of short stuff, and you shouldn't hesitate to uncork your driver, a nasty hook or slice could realistically find the vineyards on a dozen different holes.

At the 183-yard 14th, the expansive green is completely surrounded by grape vines.

In case you need any other reminders you're in wine country, the hole signs are stamped on old barrels and several of the assignments have wine-themed nicknames, such as Valley of Zin, Corkscrew and Grapes of Wrath.

Chardonnay Golf Club: The verdict

You can only sample so many reds and whites in one day, right?

The wineries will always be the top attraction in the Napa Valley, but with an emphasis on pace of play and dozens of tasting rooms within about a half-hour drive, Chardonnay Golf Club is a perfect place to warm up for a vineyard tour -- or shake off any lingering effects of one.

The list of assignments features several fascinating shorties, although the eighth hole is the one that will be burned in your memory.

Chardonnay Golf Club also has a full-grass range and practice facility, with instruction available.

The club recently completed its transition from a 27-hole facility to 18 holes, scrapping a third nine and planting more "cash crops" on the reclaimed land.

"It's truly a wine country golf experience. Virtually every hole you play here, you have vineyards on one side or the other, front or back," Billings said. "It's just so beautiful to be, really, out in the country playing golf and not seeing any condos or houses or hotels. Everywhere you look, it's just vineyards."

Chardonnay Golf Club: Where to stay

Located about three miles from Chardonnay Golf Club and just a few minutes from Napa's charming downtown area, the Meritage Resort and Spa (www.themeritageresort.com) has everything you'll need to stay comfortable on your golfing getaway, plus a few extras.

There's a swimming pool to cool off after your round, a bocce ball court to settle your bets and a wine-tasting cave where you can pay up if you lose.

The Meritage, which also boasts a full-service spa, offers a shuttle service to Chardonnay Golf Club.

Wes GilbertsonWes Gilbertson, Contributor

Wes Gilbertson is a sports reporter and golf feature writer at the Calgary Sun. Living in Calgary, Alta., he trades his golf clubs for a hockey stick in the winter months. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @GilbertsonGolf.


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