A thousand years ago, Native Americans flourished on the peninsula that is now Monterey, Calif. They thrived on the area's natural bounty of plants, wildlife and seafood. The peninsula teems with that same abundance today, and Monterey County is often called The Salad Bowl of the World, because it produces such a large quantity and variety of California's vegetables. From local vineyards to the area's famous abalone farms, a legacy of plentitude permeates the social and recreational fabric of this fertile region. Take, for instance, the Carmel Valley Ranch, a lush resort in a niche of rolling hills at the base of the Santa Lucia Mountains. A few miles inland from Carmel-by-the-Sea, it's like a little Xanadu for elite vacationers, or a Camp David with a West Coast twist for business summits.
The entire peninsula is populated with golf courses, and golf culture is as profuse as the fish specials on local menus, so the Carmel Valley Ranch spared little expense to make sure their fairways are among the most sumptuous. Pete Dye's original par-70 course design has been restored to take full advantage of the diverse terrain. The air here is fresh and the breeze is crisp, keeping temperatures comfortable even in the California sun, and the greens meander through the hilly landscape with mountain views and a woodsy aroma, making it a pleasant eighteen holes to walk. Still, most players whiz around the championship course in club carts. Caddie service, a rental center, driving range and on-site pros are just a few of the extras that make golf vacations a longstanding tradition here.
The fine cuisine of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea are a quick drive away, but most guests make reservations at the lodge's signature dining room. Chef Tim Wood has built relationships with local fishermen, farmers and artisan food producers, and he uses ingredients from these people — along with produce from the ranch's organic garden — to craft his sophisticated menu. His skills cross over to the Adventure Kitchen, an interactive cooking space available to all guests, but which is particularly popular with groups, who come to the resort to take advantage of its unique event spaces and wealth of activities.