Cruising down Interstate 5 southward out of L.A., one immediately notices three things: The air becomes cleaner; the traffic gets less congested; and the number of world-class, publicly accessible golf courses grows exponentially. Orange and north San Diego Counties form a kaleidoscope of wealthy entrepreneurs, hardworking immigrants, exercise fanatics and spiritual seekers, out of which a crop of fanatical golfers has emerged. It's as if Tiger Woods (born here in Cypress), Donald Trump, Gary Player and Shivas Irons all rode together in the same rainbow-colored golf cart. Burt Lancaster bathed away his existential angst across Southern Californiastyle suburban swimming pools in the classic 1968 film The Swimmer. Today a different movie might feature Bill Murray soaking his shanks away in seaweed wraps and Native American stone treatments at one of the area's many luxurious golf resorts. There is also no shortage of private golf tracks in these two counties, many encased in the protective pearl-bearing shells of golf-course communities.
But there is more than playing games within these borders. Live theater, art galleries, nature preserves, aquatic activities, gourmet dining and shop-till-you-drop malls proliferate here like the Poa annua grass on virtually every putting green. Disney-obsessed kids of all ages can even find refuge in the "Happiest Place on Earth"—although you can forget about inviting Mickey for a round of golf, as he'll never get the ball out of the kikuyu grass with that awkward eight-finger grip of his.