CordeValle A Robert Trent Jones Masterpiece

If you’ve ever spent time around the wine country of California, you’ve found a place of leisure built on a natural balance of good things. In Napa, St. Helena, Calistoga, and San Martin, the powers that be knew exactly what the temperature balance should be, the moisture content of the land, the purity of the air, what should make noise, and what should not. In the heart of such country is a resort  that provides beauty, comfort, and a sense of graceful action on top of all that. The resort at CordeValle stands as one of the greatest examples of a business endeavor that partnered its environment instead of subduing it. It gives one a feeling of both getting away from it all, and getting TO it all, in the same breath.

cordevalleThe golf course on which the women are currently playing their national “Open” is set in the ultimate example of topographical symmetry and a seamless bond with the surrounding land – and no wonder. CordeValle is a creation of Robert Trent Jones, famous golf architect, 1906 – 2000.

There are still people out and about who get Robert Trent Jones mixed up with Bobby Jones. Just a reminder that they are two very separate people, although they worked together in one of the architect’s first big assignments, the lovely Peachtree course in Atlanta.
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The confusion between the two men is long-abiding, and it is thought that the golf architect Jones began to use the middle name of Trent for that very reason. He is actually of English origin, from a Welsh family. Immigrating to this country around the age of six, he grew up as a caddy in Rochester before going into business with a Canadian partner to create golf course designs. Along the way, he hob-knobbed with American presidents and consulted with overseas royalty. More impressive, however, was that Trent Jones was given the keys to some of the most precious golf real estate in the world, including the redesign of Augusta itself.

By the time he was done, Trent Jones had designed or re-designed approximately 500 courses around the world. In his new home country of the United States, he provided some of the most notable course names, adding 45 states to his work in 35 countries. These include Hazeltine, Spyglass Hill, and Firestone – not to mention an unrivaled trail of golfing jewels through Alabama.

All that being said, I have to believe that CordeValle is one of Jones’ very best in that long career – and many agree. The climatic personality of the region is a little bit dry and a little bit green. Rather than the rich-rain-soaked examples of the Pacific Northwest, the Californian balance welcomes both the northwesterner and those hailing from desert course country. Take the photo tour of CordeValle, and you might have trouble finding the seam where the edge of the course meets the surrounding hills. The blend is magnificently subtle, one doesn’t get any sense of ecological casualties. There’s not an eyesore moment on the course – not anywhere.
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The resort of CordeValle is extensive in its offerings, from dining to spas, tennis, a winery, pools, meeting venues and on and on. A feature that struck me in particular was an extensive youth golf program offering instruction and tournament venues for underserved communities. If you view golf as an elitist game, you might see it differently, as the indoctrination of youngsters into an exclusive environment. I don’t see it that way, and continue to believe that golf is good for you, at any age. Every time I see young people on the course, at the range, taking lessons, I breathe a sigh of relief at what they’re not doing, and the paths they are not taking. Along with the beauty, CordeValle is doing what great businesses do – give back. I can’t help but think that Trent would like that.


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