Where To Golf Next

Sonoma County: Grapes, golf and glamping

Historic Sonoma offers a diverse array of shops and restaurants, such as the Spanish-influenced menu at Gerard’s Paella y Tapas, which features a variety of paella. [Photo: Gerards Paella Y Tapas]

While there is an abundance of wine many don’t realize that it’s also a golf destination

While there is an abundance of wine in California’s Sonoma County, many don’t realize that it’s also a golf destination featuring more than a dozen 9- and 18-hole courses. The courses are sprinkled throughout Sonoma, a few offering spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

Sonoma is reachable by driving a little more than an hour north of San Francisco, but it’s still tempting to stay a few nights and enjoy the numerous other activities the region offers. 

One of the more most amazing experiences is glamping at Safari West. It’s as close to going on an African safari as can be imagined, with jeep tours for viewing herds of wild animals from antelopes to zebras, along with giraffes, emus, foxes, hyenas, impala, gazelles, lemurs, monkeys and rhinoceroses. The animals are kept in habitats as similar to their home environments as possible, prioritizing their health and safety. In addition, visitors can walk around certain zoo-like areas of Safari West’s grounds, as well as its extensive aviary of exotic birds.  

Glamping tents all have outdoor decks for relaxing; inside bedrooms have solid floors and individual bathrooms. Most guests opt for dinner onsite, which finishes with glampfire s’mores so it’s easy to fall into bed sated, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the wild and safe surroundings.

At any time of the year, there’s plenty to see while strolling around the historic Sonoma plazas, lined with unique shops and restaurants. For instance, Gerard’s Paella y Tapas is a ideal place to stop in for lunch or dinner — and perhaps meet owner Gerard himself, a devotee of Spanish food who has created this small kingdom of variations on the paella theme and its accompaniments.


Oakmont Golf Club, a semi-private facility in Santa Rosa, Calif., features East and West layouts designed by course architect Ted Robinson. The West Course is a roughly 6,300-yard layout, while the East Course is a noted par-63 Executive Course. [Photo: Oakmont Golf Club]

Then, of course, there are the amazing Sonoma County wines to savor. But wine tasting now is not like it used to be. The days of bellying up to tasting room bar after bar are over. Now the wine sampling is all pre-planned, with reservations required for the best tastings. And there are stellar wine-and-food pairing experiences offered by some of the top wineries. 

For example, St. Francis Winery and Vineyards places guests at a large circular table with a knowledgeable leader to guide them through a polished wine-and-food presentation. St. Francis serves absolutely delicious small plates of seasonal vegetables, herbs, meats, fish and seafood, each dished matched with one of their wines, from appetizers through dessert.

Speaking of seasonal and local, the chefs who design Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens’ pairings source the most local vegetables and herbs possible. In fact, they have their own sustainable farm right next to the tasting rooms at Kendall-Jackson. Baked goods and desserts are also created in-house, with a variety of food and wine experiences offered. The farm itself is so artfully landscaped that in warm weather, farm-to-table wine-pairing dinners are held outside along a central allée amongst the fruit trees and gardens. Hyper-local, hyper-tasty, and good for the environment too.