Whether you play the game or not, golf courses offer some of the most inspiring scenery on earth. Consider the love that goes into a course -- the years of design by golf pros, architects and landscaping experts. Like the curves of a woman's body, the fairways undulate into an expanse of green velvet, framed by foothills and water and trees.

The truth is, you don't have to pay green fees to take advantage of these multimillion dollar properties. Many courses have restaurants that are open to the public, with exceptional food, patio seating and sweeping vistas. Some clubhouses even have happy hour, which means you can sit on the deck and sip wine like a land baron. Just in time for summer, here are four of my favorites:

  • Vintners Golf Club in Yountville: A great girlfriend getaway, the Lakeside Grill offers patio dining on a championship nine-hole course framed by the Mayacamas Mountain Range. Nibble on their signature "Sand Wedges" with homemade garlic fries and plan your afternoon wine tastings nearby. Daily lunch prices range from $3 for a soft taco to $13 for a grilled prawn salad.

  • The Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon: This beautiful Mediterranean clubhouse overlooks six holes of a meticulously manicured course and gardens. Chef specials include grilled Sonoma chicken breast salad with cranberries and Brie and pan-seared Thai salmon. An added bonus is Bridges happy hour Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. featuring $2 beer, $3 wine and $4 cocktails.


    Advertisement

  • The Restaurant at Wente in Livermore: The setting is sublime and so is the food at this venerable restaurant that looks more like a European castle and gardens. The Restaurant at Wente is known for award-winning wine country cuisine. The smoked pork chops and seasonal sides like melon soup are a celebration of local farms and the restaurant's own on-site garden. Try the Sunday brunch before you start a tour of the Livermore Valley Wine Country. For lunch, the grilled portabella sandwich is a favorite for $12.95.

  • Presidio Café at Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco: It's no small feat to make the dining experience match the wonder of this National Historic Landmark that opened for public play in 1996. Chef Emily Damon has a following with her farm-to-table California cuisine, offering comfort foods like griddled pork and beef meatloaf for $12 and grilled chicken breast potpie with a puff-pastry lid for $15. As for the bar, just knowing they serve more than 70 different whiskeys tells you they take cocktails seriously.

  • Runner up: Willow Park Golf Course in Chabot Regional Park: You'll probably see as many wild turkey and deer as you do golfers on this pretty little back roads course outside Castro Valley. They also make a mean burger on a Ciabatta bun and have live music on Friday from 8 to 10 p.m.

    Got a favorite golf course restaurant or bar? Share it with Happy Wanderer readers on ginnyprior.com.

    What are your favorite local adventures? Drop me a line, and I'll share them with readers. You can reach me at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or online at www.ginnyprior.com.