California’s CordeValle, the Perfect Weekend Getaway

Golf Writer Andy Reistetter continues his exclusive “Play-Write” series with a weekend visit to CordeValle which is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains an hour from San Francisco and Pebble Beach. A place you may have heard of for Rocco’s hole-outs or Tiger’s play in the Open on the PGA TOUR. This is definitely a place you want to experience, if only once. Join Reistetter as he gets away with a golfing buddy to “secluded luxury and unparallel championship golf.”

Spectacular morning view of the valley and Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s masterpiece.

Spectacular morning view of the valley and Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s masterpiece.

Departing in the evening from the East Coast, I arrived at CordeValle in the dark. Although limited, my sight of the shadowed landscape gave me the sense of a cowboy heading up a canyon to a secure place to rest for the night.

This was a boys’ trip as my friend Rich picked me up at the nearby San Jose Airport and drove me to our weekend getaway. He was a longtime friend, a golfing buddy from when I lived in Southern California in the early 1980s.

I hadn’t seen Rich since the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach nearly two years ago. He’s one of those friends where you can pick up the phone every so often and you never miss anything of relevance in each other’s lives.

As the car came to the warm lights of the clubhouse area. I sensed what Adam, Hoss and Lil’ Joe must have felt when they rode home to the Ponderosa and were greeted by their father Ben Cartwright.

Clubhouse foyer leading to One Iron Bar.

Clubhouse foyer leading to One Iron Bar.

At nearly midnight, we were greeted by name and our luggage, golf clubs and registration were handled so professionally it seemed like I was opening the door to my bungalow quicker than Rich drops another ball for a mulligan.

Each of the 45 guest beds is king-size at CordeValle whether in one of the 28 bungalows, three fairway homes or five villa suites. Good thing too since word from Rich’s wife is that he is a heavy snorer. I needed a good night sleep.

Golfers will say a golf course “fits their eye.” I think every guest will say a CordeValle room captures their total being with a warm, comfortable and beautiful place to call home. To say my bungalow was luxurious is an understatement. From the cozy fireplace, exquisite honeyed wood, and goose-down comforter, this is one of the nicest places I have stayed, if not the nicest ever.

After a night’s rest I was completely rejuvenated. My heart pumped a little faster as I opened the sliding wood shutters and saw the valley and golf course down. The morning light and long shadows accentuated the immense beauty of the landscape. I knew this was going to be a magical weekend.

Hearty breakfast, Cordevalle-style!

Hearty breakfast, Cordevalle-style!

Rich and I met for a hearty breakfast in the One Iron Bar. We warmed up hitting a few balls and stroking a few putts. On the first tee, Mike the starter introduced us to our caddie. Here I was walking and playing golf, with a caddie, with the course to our selves, with my old buddy Rich. Life does not get better than this.

Golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., who is based close by in Palo Alto, refers to CordeValle as “perhaps my finest golf course creation.”

I met Jones last year at a Masters party. He shared with me his Yale Story, an inviting essay about being the first to design and build an 18-hole golf course in Russia. As the creator of Moscow Country Club, the Links at Spanish Bay as well as 250 golf courses all over the world, for him to say “perhaps my finest” translates to CordeValle is a must-play for any serious minded golfer.

What I didn’t tell Rich is that Jones sent me his book Golf by Design, which educated me on how to read the features of a golf course and lower my score.

Mike's view from the back tee on No. 9.

Mike’s view from the back tee on No. 9.

The hospitality and friendliness at CordeValle is unsurpassed. Mike came out to 7th green to let me know about the view from the hidden back tee on No. 9. “It’s worth the walk up the hill,” he said with friendly conviction, “you don’t want to miss it.” He was right, CordeValle means “the heart of the valley,” and it was a spectacular view with nature as far as the eye could see.

The match was memorable with us both playing well, recording five birdies, and I escaping with a 1-up win.

The Tuscany-style winery off to the left on the long uphill 6th hole was on my mind so we hopped in a shuttle to taste the wines of Clos La Chance. It was member “pick-up” night and we joined the fun. We left with a bottle of Santa Cruz Chardonnay to enjoy with a cheese plate in the room.

Afterward we enjoyed a casual dinner at the One Iron Bar. The dry aged NY steak with artichokes and truffle and garlic fries is to die for.

Happy to golf and drink wine... by the way CordeValle is a very woman-friendly environment.

Happy to golf and drink wine… by the way CordeValle is a very woman-friendly environment.

The second day of golf had a little different feel. Rich and I decided to ride in a cart with a forecaddie because we were tired and older than we think. We were paired with a nice couple from San Francisco, Gayle and Eric who came to CordeValle to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

I knew this would play into my favor as Rich was a friendly and helping sort of guy. The type of guy anyone would want to meet and play with on a golf course. Unfortunately I was wrong, he was more relaxed and focused and he won the match 2&1.

In a little over 10 years, CordeValle has established a legacy of championship golf. In 2010, Rocco Mediate won the Open on the PGA Tour with dramatic hole-outs each day. An ace, an eagle-2, an eagle-3 and the crescendo came on Sunday afternoon with a pitching wedge from 116 yards on the 17th for another eagle-2. The 2011 tournament won by Bryce Molder featured Tiger Woods in the field preparing for the Ryder Cup.

In 2011 CordeValle hosted the PGA Cup Matches- the PGA of America’s version of the Ryder Cup for club professionals. Next year they will host the U.S.G.A. Sr. Women’s Amateur.

A Sycamore tree large enough for Rich and I to stand inside.

A Sycamore tree large enough for Rich and I to stand inside.

Very few golf courses gain the PGA Tour, the PGA of America and the U.S.G.A.’s “stamp of approval,” especially at so young an age.

As we played along Rich and I learned Gayle and Eric were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. That got us thinking and we realized we first met as young chemical engineers working in an oil refinery in 1982.

So unexpectedly we celebrated 30 years of friendship in CordeValle style.


Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Spotter, Research and Broadcast Assistant for The Golf Channel, NBC and CBS Sports. He spends time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.

Reistetter resides within two miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and the home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.

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