Napa Valley is the most popular wine tourism destination in the United States...so what is one to do if their winery doesn’t fall within that famous region? Although Wente Vineyards is renowned for its products, management must have assumed that adding a championship golf course to the brand’s offerings couldn’t hurt in luring tourists from the more famous valley to the north, to this establishment located more directly west of the San Francisco Bay.
They brought in Greg Norman to inject some of his noted heroism into the design, which can be seen from the very first tee. This is one of a few that involve launching the ball down into the valley below. No. 8 may be the most notable of the descending holes; although the drop from tee to green on this par three is not the most dramatic on the course, it does feature an alluring backdrop, showing off numerous holes well below the one in play. Don’t get distracted!
When one isn’t traveling downhill, they can admire the surrounding ridges that define the lightly mountainous region. The course is an 18-hole loop, not returning to the clubhouse until the round is complete.
I like Greg Norman courses.
I am a member of The National Golf Club in Australia, where The Moonah course designed by Norman is oft regarded as a world top 100 course.
Norman has produced a lot of high quality courses around the world- particularly in Australia & Vietnam.
I have been fortunate to play many of them (including Ellerston, Cathedral Lodge, Danang & The Bluffs).
To be fair a number of the early courses in Australia were designed in conjunction with Bob Harrison..
Norman was himself a tremendous ball striker, and I think this is reflected in his designs.
His par 3's in particular are quite demanding.
However his work is usually sympathetic to the terrain, and built with a sense of drama.
Sandbelt style bunkering often dominates the look of his courses.
At Wente Vineyards Norman has a very interesting piece of land as his palate.
The routing moves through difffering terrains encountering significant elevation change along the way.
Norman often throws in some short strategic par 4's, and some testing longer holes.
So there is plenty of variety.
Not to mention some magical background landscapes..
I would not have picked this as terrain for a golf course.
The severity of the land precludes any possibility of walking the course, but provides plenty of heroic shots.
I found Wente Vineyards very entertaining to play.
Your cameras will be working overtime as the holes fit snugly into the most pictureque of landscapes.
Perhaps the finishing trio of holes lower the bar a little, but overall Wente Vineyards is a course worth playing over.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
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