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Journey to the Garden of Youth

An old friend from my Stanford days, Bruce Conklin, had driven from his home in Grass Valley to see me, and I told him about it. He was unsurprised; he had had pretty much the same experience while jogging along the seaside trail. "Look at this place," he said, indicating the view from my window--an apron of native grasses leading down to a battlement of black rocks and boiling surf.

The setting was sublime. For about $200 a night I had a rustic two-bedroom house with kitchen, deck and woodstove. I told Bruce about the memorable ninth at Sea Ranch--a par four calling for a blind layup followed by a two-hundred-yard second over trees to a sunken green. "It's like the eighth at Pebble Beach," I said, "only with trees instead of ocean."

After lunch, we drove the four miles back up the coast, where a three-club wind continued to massage the Sea Ranch Golf Links. "The Point Arena lighthouse up here is the fourth windiest place in the world," said Skip Manning, the golf shop manager. Had we visited Sea Ranch in 1969, Manning went on, we would have found no golf course--just a treeless pasture dotted with sheep.

Bodega Bay was less compelling. In fact, it gave me a taste of what a bad acid trip must be like.

Understand, the property is spectacular. The land rises steeply from bayside marsh to grassy mountaintop, with the grand sweep of the harbor rewarding golfers on their descent. Unfortunately, the middle elevations are densely packed with "fairway homes"--a term Bodega Harbour takes all too literally. Standing over a typical approach shot, I only had to look up to see that the McKorkles were watching CNN in their family room, while next door at the Pfisters' someone was slicing red cabbage for the Salad Shooter. One of my tee shots, veering off-line with killing force, sailed over a dormer.

The bigger problem with Bodega Harbour is its attitude. The first four holes run straight inland--that is, right up the grade--and since the prevailing wind is off the sea, architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. made them long. In an eccentric wind, such as the three-club southeaster I faced, the holes are impossibly hard. On the tenth hole, an uphill par four, I paused on the fairway, gasping. I have never quit a golf course from fatigue, but my legs ached and the bag weighed on my shoulders like a large wooden cross.

The following day's schedule had me playing Northwood Golf Course, the one my friend had told me about, Mackenzie's nine-holer in the redwoods. It was raining as I drove inland on Highway 12, so I resigned myself to a day of tourism. A friend had told me to stop in tiny Freestone at the Wishing Well Nursery, which features "an antique store, about six llamas and a pond with an eight-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty." I did stop, but the biggest statuary I found was a copy of Michelangelo's David, looking chilly amid the dripping arbors. What caught my eye instead was just across the road. osmosis read the sign in front of a building with an Old West-style false façade. enzyme bath and massage.


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