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California: Join the club

To call Meadowood a hotel is a misnomer; it doesn’t do it justice. It’s a country club, an estate. Guests don’t walk around here, but are ferried throughout the carefully manicured grounds in golf carts, or in the house Mercedes. Make a quick call from your private cottage and one will appear outside within minutes, ready to take you to the pool, or the tennis courts, or the croquet lawn, or the golf club, or the three-Michelin-starred restaurant.

Meadowood is set in the middle of wine country, North America’s most famous. The Napa Valley is hugely popular, yet still feels like your own boutique northern California hideaway, a beautiful area of vine-covered hills and quaint little towns that’s only a short morning’s drive from the bustle of San Francisco. The nearest town to Meadowood is St Helena, the epitome of Main Street USA culture, a place of white picket fences and mom-and-pop corner stores. There’s an unhurried charm to the town, where local wines are drunk in upmarket bars and growers and viticulturists come to talk vintages and yields.

The Bathroom of a Meadow room

 

Meadowood itself, however, can feel like a self-contained town that you’ll never need to leave. Set on an extensive property of wooded hills, it’s been largely left to nature, with seven kilometres of hiking trails snaking around the estate. The guest cottages are spread out with privacy in mind – some rest on slopes on Meadowood’s outer boundaries; others huddle around the croquet lawn like business men at a board meeting. They’re subtly luxurious, with none of the over-the-top glitz of most upscale resorts. These are places for friends and families.

You can make your own breakfast each day, or call a cart to take you to The Grill restaurant, where a table awaits overlooking the pines and fairways of Meadowood’s nine-hole golf course. Birds chirp over pancakes and coffee; a golfer whoops from the ninth green. It’s hard to tell if the other diners are talking about tee times or their plans for dotcom takeovers and the resurrection of Wall Street. Probably both.

The adult swimming pool

 

The Meadowood golf course is far from a championship edition, although it’s ideal for those looking to sharpen their game. A little hut to the side of the first tee houses TrackMan technology, an advanced system used to observe and correct absolutely everything about your golf game apart from your choice of trousers. Distance of carry, ball speed, ball rotations, club-head speed, club-face angle, swing path… Everything is tracked and measured. Every swing is video-taped and analysed, every shot radar-traced to its completion. For the amateur golfer it is, frankly, frightening. At the end of the session, Doug Pike, Meadowood’s golf pro, passes over a laminated card with all of the professional PGA players’ TrackMan stats on it, purely for comparison to your own ridiculous numbers. “The PGA guys are amazing,” he says. “But what you should realistically be aiming for is on the other side of the card.” Flip it over – it’s the stats for the LPGA players. Understood.

You can make your own breakfast each day, or call a cart to take you to The Grill restaurant, where a table awaits overlooking the pines and fairways of Meadowood’s nine-hole golf course. Birds chirp over pancakes and coffee; a golfer whoops from the ninth green. It’s hard to tell if the other diners are talking about tee times or their plans for dotcom takeovers and the resurrection of Wall Street. Probably both.

A tranquil treeline room

 

The Meadowood golf course is far from a championship edition, although it’s ideal for those looking to sharpen their game. A little hut to the side of the first tee houses TrackMan technology, an advanced system used to observe and correct absolutely everything about your golf game apart from your choice of trousers. Distance of carry, ball speed, ball rotations, club-head speed, club-face angle, swing path… Everything is tracked and measured. Every swing is video-taped and analysed, every shot radar-traced to its completion. For the amateur golfer it is, frankly, frightening. At the end of the session, Doug Pike, Meadowood’s golf pro, passes over a laminated card with all of the professional PGA players’ TrackMan stats on it, purely for comparison to your own ridiculous numbers. “The PGA guys are amazing,” he says. “But what you should realistically be aiming for is on the other side of the card.” Flip it over – it’s the stats for the LPGA players. Understood.

Pine cured venison, tuna and sorrel

 

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