Napa’s Finest, Here and Now
North of San Francisco the world-famous wine growing region of California known as Napa Valley. With vineyards surrounding it, the city of Napa is a dreamy, charming place. Vintage character homes are plentiful along with a variety of tempting upscale restaurants, alluring quaint retail shops and enticing wine bars.
Now if eating, shopping or drinking aren’t your calling, but satisfying your golf bug is then Silverado Resort and Spa, located 10 minutes north of town, is the spot to aim for. On the grounds of this amazing stretch of land are 2 championship golf courses. The North Course is host of The Safeway Open on The PGA Tour. This very windy, sunny day was the first of 2 days of play for Myra and I. Our host while we play here is Silverado Golf Sales Manager, Bryan Johnson, a very upbeat and welcoming hockey-playing Ilinoian.
Managed under the prestigious Troon banner, upon arrival you are immediately impressed by the expanse of the white washed structures housing the spas, restaurants, golf clubhouse and guest suites. To play either North or South courses is possible in numerous ways. Become a member, be a member’s guest or stay at Silverado. Another possibility is be part of a group outing, minimum of 12 golfers please. This is where fellow hockey nut, Bryan Johnson, is your man.
The first thing that impacts you in a very positive way is the bag drop. This is where I really start to sharpen my pencil and observe an operation from a customer service standpoint. Chet greeted us promptly and loaded up our golf clubs, additional gear like spare jackets and my clipboard. And, he informed us that Myra could pick me up in the parking lot with the power cart which is a major plus in our books. We checked in at the pro shop and Harry, brimming with confidence at 20 years old, was very capable, friendly and confident as he manned the pro shop counter on his own. Back out to the cart area, Chet flanked by colleague Leo, directed us to the practice range, but not before we shared some opinions on golf clubs, playing in the wind and yes, the recent weather. We headed to the range where we were surprised by how hard the wind was blowing. It was a short almost pointless warm up given the wind, but not without a first for me in my golfing career. While hitting a few balls Rob, the range attendant came over and wiped off my two clubs and did the same for Myra. That’s service personified.
Of the two courses, the North is the longest and is very playable for any skill level. Although it has a few holes with elevation changes it is predominantly a flat course. It also has a wide array of trees ranging from dormant leafless valley oaks, which will leaf out later in the spring, to gorgeous tall spruce and pine trees. Although we may curse them when they obstruct our shots, we love that they are home to red tail squirrels, red headed woodpeckers, wrens and other varietals of birds. Myra, who is more of an accuracy player, loved the playability of the course.
I liked the classy simplicity of the layout; void of gimmicks and tricked up holes. This did not equate to being an easy course to score on. The scores were not indicative of how we played, it might have been Myra’s best ball striking round of our trip. I simply got on the 3-putt wagon with the wind on numerous occasions blowing downhill putts 20-30 feet past the hole; resulting in six 3 putts in total. At the end of the round Bryan, Myra and I were discussing the impact of that strong a wind, a 4 clubber in my estimation. Bryan thought it was worth 15 strokes, I’ll take 10 myself. None the less, when I make 2 pars in 18 holes and shoot 90 I’m looking for any excuse I can get.
The upside, as any greens keeper will tell you, is the benefit high winds have on drying out a golf courses. Given the recent rains drenching California from Redding to San Diego, the wind is a welcome gift from mother nature. Any course on the PGA Tour rotation must have consistent greens, fairways and rough, so it’s no surprise these are ever present given the pedigree of the course dating back 1967 and its days as the home of the Kaiser International Invitational Open on the PGA Tour.
What caught my attention most of all was the bunkering. They are some of the best designed and positioned bunker topped off by beautiful Idaho white sand. I was in them 4 times greenside and each time hit high soft-landing shots onto and close to get up and down. Myra was so deep down in one I thought it had gobbled her up when all of a sudden, a puff of white sand appeared followed by her ball stopping 2 feet from the flag.
In spite of the wind, which can beat down the spirits of any seasoned player, we finished in under 4 hours with numerous memorable highlights. Like a typical male, one of them involved my stomach. With a snack shack conveniently located at the confluence of the 7th and 14th tee, checking out the menu when teeing off on 7 was all the convincing I needed to order something later. I called Melinda from the 13th tee and by the time we had putted out she had a cheese dog, graced with chopped onions and sweet relish on a toasted bun all ready for me. Now that’s the way to a golfing man’s heart.
There are numerous exceptional holes on the course; the long straight Par 5 16th flanked by a corridor of valley oak trees, the 17th a purely special short par 4 and the moment that provided the most fun for us – the Par 3 12th. I call this Par 3 a “bucket of chicken” hole. It is protected by a large pond in front and a tight short front flag position on this day. On a warm summer’s evening, I could take a bucket of chicken wings, 6 cold O’Doul’s and my good lady out there and play it over and over and over. We should have, as it was the one hole where we both made par. A real beauty proving 125-yard holes can bring more joy than 550-yard monsters. Into the wind I pured a 6 iron to 10 feet, a club usually reserved from 165. Myra rolled a 50-foot downhiller ever so gingerly to two feet and we did our little “Par,Par” dance.
There to greet us as we came off 18 was Bryan and he invited us to join him in The Grill for a recap of our experience. The attendants, Larry and Cole, secured our clubs for our second round tomorrow on the South Course. The next hour was very enjoyable as we enjoyed a cold drink and some great appies served by a smiling and attentive Rosie along with lots of laughs and warmth. Bryan beckoned Senior Group Sales Manager, Kevin Buckles, over to say hi. It was evident by the continuity of the positive manners and friendliness off all the staff members we met, that this was not only a wonderful place to play golf, but also to work. This is not a given in any industry and is born out of a company ethos of respect for all staff which creates a positive work environment. It transcends through to the way the customer is treated and is paramount to creating a successful product ensuring customer loyalty. I know that Silverado Resort and Spa will provide an outstanding experience for you as it did for us.