Like many cabernets in the surrounding Northern California wine country, Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa has healthy legs. Since 1968, the quaint getaway has hosted professional golf tournaments. In fact, the PGA Tour’s Fortinet Championship – a.k.a. “the most fan-friendly Tour event” – is played here every September. I visited this past week to experience the chill, laid-back vibe I’ve heard so much about. And it lived up to the hype.
The first pleasant surprise: How accessible the resort is from the San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento airports plus the smaller Santa Rosa, all about an hour’s drive. I flew into Sacramento and within two hours was standing on the first tee of the iconic 7,166-yard North Course with two of my buddies. Of the two layouts on property, this one hosts the pros. Many of the holes are long and fairly straight. And every one is lined by towering oaks that often come into play – trust me. The front nine ascends slowly uphill into a scenic area recently ravaged by fire, but it’s still walkable for most players. And you always have the option of switching to a cart on the back nine. I found the greens to be pretty straightforward, with very few hidden breaks. That said, I still had trouble reading the greens the first time around. Apparently all putts break towards a local bay. Eventually I started figuring them out. Since many of the approaches play uphill, I think a good general rule of thumb on the North is to play an extra club into the greens. Overall, it’s a challenging-yet-enjoyable course. It reminds me of those classic 1970s-style layouts, has been well-kept, and caters nicely to all skill levels.
The 6,612-yard South Course – which staffers claim the locals tend to favor – offers more character and personality, with winding holes, some hilly terrain, plenty of water crossings, and shots that collectively require you to use every club in the bag. Maybe because I’d gotten used to the greens on the North by the time I played the South, I scored better on this layout and felt it better embraced my game. I think it’s an interesting layout because of the hole variety.
Both courses were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and then enhanced by Johnny Miller over the past several years. I love courses that make me think, because that helps me stay focused through the entire round. These courses fit the bill. Both feature “Burgerdog” shacks along the way — touting the renowned local food that’s a hamburger patted down into a hot dog shape and then served on a grilled hot dog bun. It’s very tasty and hits the spot. And the aroma sprinkles the adjacent holes, which is pretty cool.
The resort itself is modest. The main building – coined The Mansion because that’s what it is – provides a grand entranceway. We had some drinks on The Mansion’s back patio one evening, watching players negotiate the 18th green on the South from a perfect vantagepoint. My room was a junior suite located by one of the pools. I loved that it had its own private patio and entrance – with no room above or below. The bed was super-comfortable. I had no trouble falling asleep any of the nights, which is more than I can say about pretty much every other hotel I’ve stayed in. There’s also “The Grill” restaurant inside the golf clubhouse – which pairs dinners with tasty wines from the vineyard of LPGA Tour pro Christy Kerr – as well as “The Market” in the center of the property serving hot and cold food to go, along with fresh coffee and amazing breakfast pastries.
Across the driveway from the main part of the resort lies its 16,000-square-foot spa. I had a deep-tissue massage there that was outstanding. My body was aching from weeks of stress and an injury I’d suffered, and masseuse Katie knew the cure. As I told my friends afterwards, I couldn’t believe someone so petite could be so physically strong. My lingering pains were gone within an hour.
We ate dinner one night in downtown Napa at AVOW, which was a 10-minute drive from the resort. The rock shrimp appetizer and pan-seared salmon on the outdoor patio provided the perfect way to wind down a day. And then we headed to the rooftop bar, to enjoy the sunset view over the town. Our last day in town, we ventured less than a mile from the resort to Prime Solum winery for some flight tasting. All eight of the whites, reds and roses we tried hit the spot. I really like going wine tasting. And of the 400-plus wineries in Napa, I loved that we were able to grab a hotel shuttle bus for this one with the option of walking there in probably less than 10 minutes. After all, you don’t want to be driving after drinking. And the resort seemed more than happy to shuttle us anywhere in town, which only makes it an even more attractive destination in my mind.
While Napa’s main attraction is undoubtedly wine, Silverado offers a great location with relaxing amenities – making this a perfect golf-and-wine pairing.