Situated to the east of San Francisco in scenic Livermore Valley, the course at Wente Vineyards is a late 1990s Greg Norman design that’s laid out on rolling terrain within three contrasting, yet complementary, landscapes: woodland, meadowland and mature vineyard.
It amazes me how Greg Norman often fails to get much attention for the various designs he has done. The Shark has a good sense in how holes should be created and he's quite conscious of playability without pandering to the lowest common denominator.
The site provides for a range of land types and the diversity is done well so that there are few indicators of predictability.
You will see mega-sized bunkers that dot the landscape and greens whose dimensions are also large.
There's sufficient width but matters get more complicated on numerous approach shots. The greens are often divided into sections which mandate proper club usage.
The routing necessitated a complete 18-hole journey with no return to the clubhouse at the halfway point. The prevailing wind often means golfers heading into the breeze from the west for the middle portion of the round.
I was not enamored with the incessantly long cart path journey to the 10th tee but the views provided did soften the paralysis my back suffered on the way there.
The rolling terrain adds to the experience and Norman was wise enough not to clutter up the layout with too much of his fingerprints. The main issue I have with Greg is that there are times when his finished product stands apart from the site -- rather than being in total alignment. Wente Vineyards shows both sides of that at times.
The main downside with the course rests with the concluding three holes. Each plays in the same direction and should the wind be with you -- which it normally is -- or even against you -- the diversity of the challenge should have been more better thought out.
Wente Vineyards provides a quality test of golf and while may not hit a home run in baseball parlance -- it's still a solid double and worth the time to play if in the area.
M. James Ward