Spyglass Hill's third hole (Pebble Beach Resorts photo)
The Golden State offers seemingly endless varieties of golf courses. From the redwood-lined fairways off the Sierra Nevada to the pristine coastal landscape of Monterey County; from the arid yet lush oasis of the Palm Desert to the oak-studded foothills of Northern California. There truly is something for everyone’s specific golf course setting preference.
California features two renowned associations representing each half of the state. From the pair come flagship events like the NCGA Amateur (formerly known as the NCGA Match Play) and the SCGA Amateur, which have both been running for more than 100 years. And of course, the state’s crown jewel: the California Amateur, which has crowned champions like Ken Venturi, Johnny Miller, Mark O’Meara, and Xander Schauffele.
But aside from the no-brainers, where are the best, most unique, and hidden-gem opportunities to play competitively this summer and beyond in California?
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Memorial Amateur; May 28-30, 2022; Ancil Hoffman Golf Course
Ancil Hoffman's par-3 5th hole (Ancil Hoffman photo)
This 54-hole invitational held at the always-challenging Ancil Hoffman Golf Course in Sacramento has only been running since 1998 but has quickly become one of the premier amateur events on the west coast. Vietnam veteran John Rochelle founded the event which serves as a fitting way to honor Memorial Day as a cherished national holiday, and a perfect kick-start to the summer tournament season.
The 84-player field is cut to roughly the top-30 players for a Monday finale. Various exemption categories exist and resumes can be sent to the tournament committee for consideration.
Past champions include PGA Tour winners Derek Ernst (2009) and Cameron Champ (2014), as well as three-time European Tour winner John Catlin (2011, 2022).
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George C. Thomas, Jr. Invitational; June 23-25, 2022; Los Angeles Country Club
The North Course's par-3 11th hole (USGA photo)
Stack your tournament resume full of impressive performances to earn a trip to The Los Angeles Country Club’s esteemed North Course. This exclusive mid-amateur invitational’s venue, having successfully hosted the 2017 Walker Cup, will take on the 2023 U.S. Open – the club’s fourth USGA event and first PGA Tour event since the 1940 Los Angeles Open.
Named to honor the course’s architect, the Thomas draws an elite field of players over the age of 25 usually including reigning and former U.S. Mid-Amateur winners.
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San Diego City Amateur; July 15-17, 2022; Balboa Park & Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines South Course, hole 7 (USGA photo)
Competitive golf and two guaranteed rounds at an annual PGA Tour venue? That’s what you’re getting with entry to the San Diego City. After an opening round at the historic Balboa Park Golf Course, rounds two and three head to Torrey Pines with 18 holes at each of its challenging layouts, including the finale at the two-time U.S. Open host South Course.
The 54-hole event has women’s and senior flight, and is even more enticing for San Diego County residents, who receive a discounted entry fee.
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Marin County Four-Ball; July 18, 2022; Meadow Club
Meadow Club's par-4 9th hole (Conner Penfold photo)
A 36-hole, two-man shootout at a serene Alister MacKenzie track, the Marin County Four-Ball at Meadow Club has been a local favorite for years. Played entirely in one day, the event draws a quality field generally consisting of mid-amateur and senior talent.
Contestants will enjoy the club’s included barbecue lunch between rounds beside the historic clubhouse. Submit your entry soon as the 48-team field, which includes all three divisions, reaches capacity quickly.
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California State Fair; Sept. 3-5, 2022; Haggin Oaks Golf Course
Much like the Memorial kicks off summer, the California State Fair has been bringing summer to a close since 1925 as the iconic 54-hole tournament at Haggin Oaks nears its 100th year. Always one of the strongest non-association fields in the state, the State Fair cuts to the low 36 and ties after Saturday and Sunday’s round for a Labor Day finale that has seen winners such as Ken Venturi and Kevin Sutherland lift the trophy.
The Alister MacKenzie course’s back-to-back par-5 finishing holes surely leaves it open for anyone within striking distance to capture the title in dramatic fashion. The State Fair tournament committee also runs events for Women, Junior, Mid-Amateur, and Senior, and Super Senior divisions.
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Pasadena City Championship; March 2023; Brookside Golf Club
Brookside's Koiner Course and the par-4 9th hole (Conner Penfold photo)
Just three years removed from a canceled event due to a dwindling number of entries, the 2022 rendition’s 340-person field filled to capacity in just 10 days – a record said longtime Tournament Director Rob Moore. Played for 86 years at the iconic Brookside Golf Club in the shadow of the Rose Bowl, the 54-hole tournament hosts the standard Championship flight as well as multiple competitive net flights, making the event a must for all skill sets.
While on property for the weekend, contestants also have the opportunity to hit three shots from inside the Rose Bowl – an experience which benefits The First Tee of Greater Pasadena.
The tournament committee also runs a Women's Championship
(July 23-25, 2022) and a Senior Championship
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NCGA Four-Ball; May 2023; Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Spyglass Hill's par-3 3rd hole (Pebble Beach Resorts photo)
Typically held during the first couple weeks of May, the NCGA Four-Ball offers the chance to play a two-man format on one of the most spectacular public courses in the United States. Co-host to the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Spyglass Hill’s opening five coastal holes give way to a difficult layout amidst the notorious Cypress-packed forest of the Monterey Peninsula.
The NCGA also offers Mid-Amateur and Senior championships at Poppy Hills, held in October and March, respectively.
“The best four-ball in the country is the NCGA Four-Ball at Spyglass, and it’s not even close,” said Jerry Ledzinski, who tied for fourth with his partner Jeff Britton in 2015. “Being able to play that course in tournament conditions, it’s just a really special event.”
Mark your calendars and grab a partner for 2023 as qualifying for the event runs in early April at five courses spread throughout the region.
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More Notable Tournaments
Los Angeles City Championship
- June 16-19, 2022
- July 26-28, 2022
Monterey City Amateur
- July 28-30, 2022
California Women’s Championship
- August 8-10, 2022
- October 20-22, 2022
San Francisco City Championship
- March 2023
Alameda Commuters Tournament
- April 2023
for a full list of more than 200 tournaments taking place in California this year.