For L.A. golfers, Rodeo Drive's glitter completes the ultimate shop and swing

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Standing in the Porsche store, holding a pair of designer sneakers that even Sarah Jessica Parker might consider outrageously overpriced, you realize you're suffering from Rodeo Drive Syndrome. Suddenly, amazingly, inexplicably, you must have these shoes.

Rodeo Drive - Beverly Hills' ritzy shopping - Ferrari
A Ferrari parked on the street? It's ho-hum on Rodeo Drive.
Rodeo Drive - Beverly Hills' ritzy shopping - FerrariRodeo Drive - Beverly Hills' ritzy shopping - Two Rodeo plazaTrump National LA - Donald Trump golf course - Hummer limoRodeo Drive - Beverly Hills' ritzy shopping - tourists
If you go

And you don't even like to shop.

You're a golfer. You understand it's much better to spend Sunday afternoon outdoors cursing a little white ball than inside maxing out plastic. But there's something about this street that sucks in even shopping-phobic.

Rodeo Drive isn't just a shopping district. It's a scene - a living, walking Theater of the Absurdly Expensive. You see a Ferrari parked on the street and think nothing of it. Chanel-swathed heiresses brush past picture-snapping tourists. Some stores require an appointment, and the ones that don't can keep the great unwashed at bay with one baleful sales-associate stare.

If you think about it, the world's most famous retail zone is a lot like high school, only more entertaining and escapable. You can leave Rodeo Drive whenever you want - no one's chaining you to a desk for four years. (But if they did, the desk would cost $24,999.)

"I'm having a blast," said George Comadena, a vacationing golfer who found himself pulled to ritzy row by his wife - almost literally.

"I thought it'd be another boring shopping excursion where I'd be reading my Tom Clancy novel in a store chair while my wife went nuts. But it's been anything but."

Of course it has. Who wants to be reading when Leonardo DiCaprio's coming down the street with his baseball cap pulled low, a Rolls Royce is circling so its owner won't have to suffer the indignity of carrying a bag, and a blonde who clearly thinks she deserves both the Rolls and Leonardo struts around in a headband disguised as a skirt?

"You don't see that every day," Comadena said, Jack Ryan long forgotten.

Yes, Rodeo Drive is a little different than your average Midwest mall.

It's a shopping date you want to work into your Los Angeles-area golf trip. In fact, it's the best swing-and-shop you're likely to experience. And, as far as that combo goes, one of the least publicized.

Plenty of golf destinations zealously hawk their shopping options. You can't golf Houston without getting an earful about the Galleria, a gigantic mall with its own ice rink. In Minneapolis it's practically a city ordinance that all visitors must be directed to the Mall of America.

But Rodeo Drive doesn't go out of its way to lure golfers - or anyone else. You can find just about any golf package imaginable on the Internet, but you won't find one involving Rodeo Drive.

"A number of our players, I'm sure, visit Rodeo Drive while they're in the area," said Mike van der Goes, general manager at Trump National LA, the kind of course that gets its share of stretch limos. "But they don't need our help finding it."

This no-need-to-push-it attitude makes a Rodeo Drive jaunt all the more enjoyable. Sure, some of the stores are downright intimidating, but that's part of the fun. There are places where you can probably afford something - Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, even The Gap - but it's much more entertaining to saunter into Cartier or Harry Winston.

That's the Rodeo Drive secret for non-shopping junkies: It's more walking and gawking than a walk-and-gawk experience than a shopping trip.

"I asked the sales guy about 50 questions about a $50,000 watch," Comadena said, laughing. "It was fun."

Think this guy's going to be intimidated by his next Pete Dye fairway swale? Please.

Swing rich

Spend time on Rodeo and even those $500-green-fee Las Vegas golf courses start looking reasonable. And the gated showcase courses within a few minutes of shopping central, like the Wilshire and Bel-Air country clubs, will leave you with a serious case of class envy.

Luckily for us credit-card mortals, there are some good golf buys not far off.

While your girlfriend/wife/enlightened buddy is still bubbling about reliving the Julia Roberts shopping scene from Pretty Woman (for extra brownie points, take them to the actual snubbing store, Boulmiche), suggest a round at Black Gold Golf Course.

Up in the hills of Yorba Linda, this Arthur Hills design offers some sweeping views of Orange County and even boasts its own waterfall. It's no Donald Trump waterfall, but then Black Gold's $84 green fee is less than half that of Trump National.

You could also play a crowded muni like Griffith Park, but you're better off jumping on the freeway and heading out to Newport Beach for a course like Big Canyon Country Club.

No, it's not exactly the land of the common man. But you can get a little ocean air. Collect a few birdies. Before long you'll snap out of the Rodeo Drive daze and realize you don't need an $800 pair of shoes or that $9,300 golf bag (available at Louis Vuitton).

Sooner or later, Rodeo Drive will call you back.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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