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Morning Drive: Matt Ginella's Travels

Monarch Beach
Getty Images

I can remember watching “Laguna Beach,” one of the original reality TV shows that shadowed a pack of rich high school kids and the dramas of narrow perspectives, dreamy aspirations and budding relationships. But I also remember the show unveiled the million-dollar views and opulent existence that is Orange County.

Other than watching the show, and the occasional drive through the area as I’ve gone to and from San Diego and San Francisco, The OC has flown below my radar. But a few weeks ago, to kick off Morning Drive’s 14-city destination review, I sampled some of what Orange Country had to offer. From the lodging, golf, sand, surf and seafood, I should’ve made it all a priority a long time ago.

So here’s my mini reality show, which widened my narrow perspective, inspired my own dreams and fostered some budding relationships.

And I’ve added some behind-the-scenes images, anecdotes and information on the golf.

While shooting the intro on a tarmac at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, I was photobombed by a Southwest bag guy:

Matt Ginella Southwest

I stayed at the St. Regis Monarch Beach, which offered this ridiculously sweet view from the lobby:

Monarch Beach

The golf course at Monarch Beach, built by Robert Trent Jones Jr., is only 6,600 yards from the back tees, but it’s tight, has some water hazards and small greens, so don’t hesitate to tee it forward. Everyone’s favorite hole is the 295-yard third, which doglegs a sharp left at the Pacific Ocean:

Monarch Beach

After golf I had lunch at the Monarch Beach Club, which is available to hotel guests:

Monarch Club

The kids from nearby St. Michael’s Prep, who graciously let me jump into their ultimate Frisbee game on the beach:

Orange County Frisbee Club

The pro told me they get 77,000 annual rounds at Tijeras Creek, where it’s $95 during the week; $120 on weekends. Juniors play free with one paid green fee anytime during the week, and after noon on the weekends. Notorious for the spectacular back nine, this is the 195-yard 14th:


And as I was leaving town, I parked, grabbed a coffee and walked down one of the many hidden stairways to a secluded public beach:

OC Beach

And here’s some current GolfNow deals for the courses I played along the way:

Tee times at Monarch Beach

Tee times at Oak Creek