Where To Golf Next

Faith leap produces rich harvest for Meadowood

Napa Valley resort has evolved with the region's wine popularity

ST. HELENA, Calif. — In the late 1970s, a giant leap of faith was required for San Francisco developers Bill Harlan, John Montgomery and the late Peter Stocker to gather the courage and finances they would need to convert a very modest, out-of-the way country club into the highly-desirable Meadowood Napa Valley resort.

Keep in mind, the resort is located in an area that was barely on the cusp of being a global wine destination. There were only a few dozen working wineries here, many of them small family concerns. Otherwise the region was an agricultural area producing orchard fruits, nuts, livestock and grain, along with both table and wine grapes.

That meant visitors were very likely to high-tail it back to civilization in San Francisco after a day in the countryside. As Harlan recalls, they wanted to keep the golf course at nine holes, to provide “a good sporting option” while allowing time for guests “to get a round in, and then leave the estate to taste wine and enjoy the Napa Valley.”

Meadowood Golf Course — Hole 6
Meadowood Golf Course's sixth hole can play as a 117-yard par 3 or a 254-yard par 4, depending on whether the upper or lower green is in play.

The new resort was an instant hit and today there are some 500 wineries located in the Napa Valley. It was as if valley visitors had just been waiting for Meadowood to appear, to give them the right kind of place to stay and play in.

The property’s current suites were built with privacy in mind. They are set into the hillsides, each with an individual entryway and an outside deck or terrace. While there are many different styles of decor, they all share the main goal of luxurious comfort, while also maintaining an awareness of the outdoors through their colors and materials.

The Meadowood Napa Valley property, its grounds and recreational facilities are continuously being updated for visitors who arrive during all seasons of Northern California’s mild climate to play golf, tennis and croquet, to wander hillside trails, to linger in the pools and spas, to attend outdoor concerts and other special events. Visitors can enjoy casual meals poolside or at The Grill, and in the evening they can stroll up to The Restaurent, a three-Michelin-star eatery under the direction of chef Christopher Kostow.

With wine at the core of its establishment, Meadowood offers guests a variety of experiences from on-site tastings to customized tours of top Napa wine estates — even visits to some of the cult wineries that are not open to the public. After all, a Meadowood founder was also the founder of Napa’s first cult wine, Screaming Eagle.

Early on, Meadowood also became the host of the stellar, charitable Auction Napa Valley. This premier U.S. wine auction was established in 1981 and to date has raised $190 million to fund medical, housing and educational needs of children and underserved populations in Napa, which includes the all-important grape pickers and their families.

Meadowood Golf Course aerial
An aerial view of Meadowood Golf Course, a nine-hole course that opened in 1963 and was originally designed by Jack Fleming.

Auction Napa Valley is a completely over-the-top event. With a plethora of fresh, uber-cool tastings, meals, art exhibits, cooking demos and more, the entire weekend is designed for enjoyment. So is the Auction itself, whether one is bidding on a barrel of wine with friends or frantically waving a paddle to acquire one of the unbelievable collections of experiences put together in the name of charity.

While evolving with the times, Meadowood has remained true to its founding principles: blending the experiences of wine and wellness, sport and relaxation. The golf course’s recent renovation is a true illustration of this philosophy.

“Our walking, nine-hole golf course fits our property perfectly not only in scale and use of available land (we are heavily wooded with steep surroundings),” said Doug Pike, director of golf, “but also in our desire to allow our guests to experience a multitude of other available activities both on site and throughout the valley during their day.”