“Serenity Now” at CordeValle

by Robert Kaufman

Long before Silicon Valley became the epicenter of the chip universe, a popular song begged the question, “Do you know the way to San Jose? I’m going back to find some peace of mind.”

Nowadays, if you’re determined to discover a slice of serenity, it would be best to continue driving to San Martin, an agricultural community 20 miles south of downtown San Jose, where CordeValle rests on a tranquil, secluded 1,700-acre landscape covered with golden wild grasses and twisted oak trees in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, between the high-stakes tech world and the coveted bucket-list golf destination at Pebble Beach.

Upon arrival at CordeValle (Spanish for “heart of the valley”) following a ten-minute drive from the fast lanes of Highway 101, an understated guarded entrance opens to an intimate playground retreat highlighted by a Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course created at the height of the dot-com boom in 1999, to meet the demands and lifestyle for the sultans of tech. Soon after a tech-bubble burst in 2001, the club opened its private doors to outside guests with the addition of upscale accommodations. Now, nearly a quarter century later, while the championship 18 holes has garnered most of the attention from hosting of the PGA Tour (Frys.com Open, 2010-15) and 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, if you’re one of the fortunate CordeValle members or your name appears on the guest list, you can pass “go” to start rejuvenating with a luxuriant line-up of premium amenities.

From the time I received the green light to enter, parked my car, and arrived at check-in where I was welcomed with a glass of wine, five employees had already greeted me by my name. With such flawless customer service, I took that as my cue to make myself right at home upon being handed the key to my Craftsman-style bungalow adjacent the 9th fairway and with a private open-air patio for gazing at golfers by day and stars by night.

At the 5-star boutique resort, all 45 rooms, consisting of bungalows, villa suites, and fairway homes, have recently been renovated and curated with original artwork from the private collection of Cordevalle’s owner, Hasso Plattner (founder of SAP and owner of the NHL San Jose Sharks), flat-screen TVs, wet bar, fireplace, oversized bathrooms with garden baths and even high-powered binoculars for spying on local wildlife wandering the surrounding hillsides.


As one of the crown jewels on the Northern California golf landscape, the 7,360-yard layout is quintessential Jones Jr. snaking seamlessly through the valley and rolling hills with dramatic elevation changes. The impeccably maintained routing presents challenges for players to maneuver creeks, ancient oaks, sycamores and skillfully-placed bunkers regardless what set of tees are chosen to play from. As such, these factors, not to mention the soothing scenery, clearly sets the stage for an impressive variety of strategies and club selection options. Not to fear. Caddies (or forecaddie) are at your beck and call to do anything – except hit the ball – to assist with navigating your game.

The front nine starts with a par four, par three, and a long par five that sets up as a three-shot hole requiring players to carry a meandering creek on the second shot followed by a short iron to the green’s front edge to avoid trouble.

After putting out at the 6th green and maybe in need of an attitude improvement, the Clos LaChance Winery is a mere lob wedge away. So, perhaps, consider which direction to go before stepping up to the next tee on the downhill par three and the drivable par four 8th hole that lures long hitters to carry the pond fronting the green.

When playing the U.S. Women’s Open, the current No. 3 women’s player in the world, Lydia Ko, attested, “CordeValle is not suited for just one type of play. It’s not fitted for long hitter or a straight hitter, so it balances out.”

On the strong second half, holes No. 13-17 provide an uphill/downhill adventure including a risk-reward par five at the 15th with seven bunkers (most on any one hole) staring at you along the way. Just as you’re closing in on the 19th hole, the final stretch presents one last challenge with a par five guarded by water down the entire left side (and a crossing creek to catch long tee shots) of the fairway and green.

After one last putt and a tip of the cap to my forecaddie for saving me a few strokes, I made a beeline for libations and snacks at Lion’s Peak Grill, an alfresco eatery with a patio setting located just outside the clubhouse. Other dining options include One Iron Bar, a communal gathering spot adjoining the resort lobby serving a California-inspired menu and a more sophisticated dining atmosphere at Il Vignetto featuring an extensive wine collection from around the world.

No question golf is the main attraction at CordeValle but it’s not without a solid supporting cast of activities including the tennis and pickleball center run by former ATP Tour player and Tour Manager Benjy Robins, bocce ball, a state-of-the-art fitness center, spa, year-round heated outdoor pool, or a 2.3-mile trail loop around the property hillsides to get the lungs working.

Regardless how you fill the day during your pleasure getaway or business retreat, CordeValle showcases a harmonious experience where the saddest scene is the gatehouse in your rear-view mirror exiting the property.

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