RV Life by Rick Stedman

Like an oasis in Southern California, the city of Irvine offers a wide variety of attractions and activities, including several quality golf tracks. Conveniently located in the center of Orange County, Irvine is just 45 miles south of Los Angeles and 90 miles north of San Diego. The John Wayne Airport is a few minutes away.

With Orange County boasting a warm Mediterranean climate, golfers can enjoy all 53 public and private golf courses anytime of the year. Offering everything from executive courses for the beginning player to championship courses for scratch golfers, the mix and variety of courses is impressive to say the least.

In the heart of Irvine, Strawberry Farms Golf Course combines the rural beauty and tranquility of the surrounding area with the challenge of true championship golf. As one of the premier golf courses in Southern California, Strawberry Farms is a par-71 track that stretches to 6,700 yards. The 18-hole course is set amid canyons and wetlands, and features picturesque vistas across a 35-acre reservoir.

The 10th tee box demands a photo before your tee-off. Other stunning features throughout Strawberry Farms Golf Course include large rolling greens surrounded by wildlife and natural vegetation, as well as scenic hills studded with granite boulders and natural waterfalls. Developed by Doug DeCinces, former California Angel third baseman, Strawberry Farms Golf Club should be on your must-play list when visiting Orange County.

RV Golfer - Jan 2016 - photo 2Nearby is Tustin Ranch Golf Club and it's equally impressive. This par 72 championship layout features majestic palms, cascading waterfalls, and sparkling lakes coming into play on eight holes. Measuring 6,842 yards from the tips, Tustin Ranch immediately grabs your attention as the elegant entry invites you to experience the grand traditions of golf within its boundaries. Designed by Ted Robinson, Tustin Ranch Golf Club also offers the enjoyable Big Easy, an 18-hole executive course. The Big Easy at Tustin Ranch acquired its name as it was designed with three simple goals in mind:

•It's easy on the wallet and is an alternative quality product for all players.
•It's easy on your time with a fast pace-of-play and only 2,715 yards for the entire course.
•It's also easy for beginners, helping them make the easy transition from their first lesson to the first tee.

Coyote Hills Golf Course is close by in Fullerton and is a unique golf experience. Teeing up your golf ball next to oil derricks makes it feel like you're golfing in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, this is still a worthwhile course to consider when visiting the Irvine area.

Oak Creek Golf Club is another quality course that's open to the public. Designed by the legendary Tom Fazio, Oak Creek is a par 71, 18-hole championship course that stretches to 6,850 yards. Every hole presents a new challenge with the many tapered fairways, scenic greens, beautiful lakes, and bull-nose carved bunkers. Oak Creek is more than just a golfer's sanctuary. While owls and hawks nest in the eucalyptus, egrets and herons fish in the meandering creek. In fact, Oak Creek Golf Club participates in the innovative Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for golf courses.

Oak Creek Golf Club is also tied to the heritage of Orange County golf as part of the original 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch. Once an orange grove, the land was reinterpreted for modern-day use with careful attention to environmental sensitivity and to preserving a trace of the past. Oak Creek Golf Club opened in 1996. Today, all golfers will appreciate the towering heritage eucalyptus that once provided a windbreak for the citrus trees that now contribute to the peaceful setting. No matter your vantage point, not a single house or road interrupts the scenic beauty of the course.

Much of Irvine's open space is part of the Irvine Ranch, which has been named a Natural Landmark by both the U.S. Department of the Interior and State of California. The area, deemed by scientists as one of the world's biodiversity "hot spots," features hundreds of different species of plants and animals, including eagles, badgers, mountain lions, Tecate cypress trees, and many rare species of birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

Après Golf

If you are not driving an RV, a quality hotel that's centrally located is Hotel Irvine, the largest property in the area with 536 rooms. It features everything you'd expect in a service-oriented area like Irvine and Southern California. A few things to appreciate include the Marketplace, a mini-store of sorts with a variety of snacks, beverages, and to-go items available 24-hours a day. The hotel's Backyard is where the pool is located and is a great place to hang out.

If you are driving your RV, a couple of camping options include Orangeland RV Park, Anaheim RV Park, and Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina.

With nearly 40 percent of its 250,000 population Asian, Irvine offers true global cuisine, with a wide selection of delicacies from China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, and other distant shores. Several restaurants that originated in Asia's Pacific Rim can be found at Diamond Jamboree, a unique Southern California retail destination that brings together a variety of cuisines and international flavors.

Specializing in coffee, cakes, and breads, 85°C Bakery, a Taiwanese chain of coffee shops, opened in Irvine in 2009 as the first U.S. store. Why 85°C? It is the ideal temperature to drink coffee. Their most popular beverage is the Sea Salt Coffee - slightly sweetened iced coffee topped with creamy foam whipped with sea salt, with semi-sweet chocolate powder sprinkled over the top of foam.

A few more activities to consider when visiting Irvine:

•Ride the Irvine Spectrum Center's iconic 108-foot tall Giant Wheel, custom-designed and hand crafted in Italy.
•Get a bird's-eye view of the area 400 feet above the ground aboard the Great Park Balloon at the Orange County Great Park.
•Check out an impressive $30 million collection of historical, exotic, and classical cars at the Marconi Automotive Museum.
•Attempt a triple Salchow on the Irvine Spectrum Center's ice skating rink.

For more information on Irvine, Calif., visit www.destinationirvine.com.

Rick Stedman is an avid golfer, RVer, and writer who lives in Yakima, Washington. Rick writes a weekly golf blog, "The 19th Hole," which is published every Saturday at rvlife.com. He can be reached at rstedman@gmail.com.

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