Napa’s New Vintage

Courtesy Silverado Resort & Spa

The iconic Silverado Resort & Spa undergoes a substantial transformation.

By Tom Mackin

The annual “Crush” season in Napa Valley—when grapes are harvested to make wine—can last from the early days of August into the waning moments of October. The work is hard and the hours long, and the fruits of that labor won’t be tasted for years to come. Golfers visiting the famed Northern California wine region can get more immediate gratification, however—the kind that can be found in ample servings across 36 holes at Silverado Resort & Spa just east of Napa’s bustling downtown. Not only can they catch the PGA TOUR there during its annual stop in the middle of the “Crush” (2022 tournament dates are Sept. 14-18), but new resort ownership is making significant investments in a property that provides golfers, guests, and members with a memorable taste of Napa.

Courtesy Silverado Resort & Spa

After acquiring the resort this past February from a group that included former Silverado resident and World Golf Hall of Famer Johnny Miller—who deftly renovated the North Course in 2011 and enhanced the South Course in recent years—Denver-based KSL Capital Partners LLC and Arcade Capital LLC (with an office in Boulder) are determined to elevate the overall experience to a new level at Silverado, now managed by KSL Resorts.

“Our company has this great history of owning and managing iconic resorts, whether it be La Quinta, La Costa, Doral, or more recently Monarch Beach,” says Ian Pullan, KSL Resorts’ vice president of asset performance for the West. “Silverado really fits that bill. The Napa Valley location, the significant roles it plays in the Silverado community, the potential for it to go to just whole new heights with a different level of support. It’s an exciting new chapter, given our track record of running these types of resorts and particularly with a longstanding partnership with the PGA TOUR. It just makes perfect sense.”

Courtesy Silverado Resort & Spa

Investments already underway include new outdoor furniture, resurfacing of tennis courts, new agronomic equipment, and enhancements of outdoor event spaces. Coming soon is a new golf cart fleet, improved signage throughout the resort and on both golf courses (much needed, especially on the South Course; head left, not right, after playing the fifth green there!), an upgraded practice facility, and enhancement of the spa facility. “A lot of it is really bringing the resort back to its full potential and making investments in the physical infrastructure, Pullan says.

Only fine-tuning is in store for the resort’s two stellar courses, where professional golf roots run deep, starting in the 1960s and continuing today with the PGA TOUR’s Fortinet Championship. The latter is contested on the North Course, which can extend to more than 7,100 yards for the pros.

“Everything is right out in front of you on the North,” say Cody Sherill, the director of club operations. “The South Course is where everyone seems to enjoy the character of the course. There are more unique holes, and you have to think a little bit more on shots, typically. Maybe not use driver off the tee as much. From a distance standpoint, the courses are quite equivalent from the middle tees (6,302 yards for the North and 6,207 yards for the South).” Both are walkable, too, but holes 3 through 8 on the South do involve some pulse elevating uphill hikes, particularly the par-3 third.

While the South may be overshadowed by the more high-profile North (the latter, where virtually every hole is lined by towering oaks, hosts approximately 55 percent of the resort’s rounds), the gulf in playing conditions between the two has been narrowed considerably in recent years.

Courtesy Silverado Resort & Spa

“From a turf condition standpoint, we have been able to get the South Course to the point where from tee to green, you’re playing off the same grass types and solid conditions as on the North Course,” Sherrill says. “Our members have really appreciated the extra efforts we have been putting into the South Course over time. Four years ago, we were doing about 50 percent of the same agronomic practices as on the North Course. In 2021, we did about 95 percent of the same practices, and really the only difference left was work required by the PGA TOUR on the North Course.”

In recent years that event at Silverado has kicked off the PGA TOUR’s annual wraparound season, but how a return to a calendar season in 2024 might affect the tournament’s annual September date remains unknown.

One tradition not likely to change is the famous Burgerdog, available only at stands on both courses (you’ll pass the North Course stand twice, at holes 7 and 14, but just once on the South at the 10th tee). The lore of this menu item, which celebrates its 50th anniversary of being served at Silverado next year, is not derived from a fancy presentation: it’s simply a hamburger shaped to fit in a hot dog bun. But it’s highly exclusive: the official version is only available here and at The Olympic Club in San Francisco (where it first appeared in the 1950s), making it all the more desirable.

Other resort dining options include The Grill in the clubhouse and the Silverado Market & Bakery, just off the main entrance drive, where pizza made in an outdoor wood-fired oven is a popular choice. Off-property, a myriad of dining choices await in the greater Napa region, from the world-famous French Laundry in Yountville (reservations are tougher than an Augusta National tee time) to more casual options in nearby downtown Napa, like the Oxbow Public Market on 1st Street or the roof deck bar at AVOW on Main Street. Local winegrower and artist Elana Hill, whose family runs the intimate and well-worth-visiting Napa Valley Tasting Barn (appointment-only tastings feature wines from Prime Solum, Expression 38° & Tetra) just down the road from Silverado, also recommends bar seating for dinner in downtown Napa at Angèle, Oenotri or La Taberna.

Courtesy Tom Mackin

In addition to members and their guests, both resort courses at Silverado Country Club are open to visitors staying at the resort. Comfortable accommodations are spread out (study the property map closely for the quickest route to your room) in clusters around the historic Mansion, the erstwhile home of prominent resident General John Franklin Miller, which dates to 1870. There, just beyond the lobby check-in area and a bar, is the Mansion Terrace, a perfect site for an outdoor drink or two while taking in an elevated view of the 18th green of the South Course and the Napa hills.

Sherrill is among many excited to see what’s now happening at the resort. “We always used the word potential, but we never really had the backing of investment into reaching that potential,” he says. “Where we are today with KSL, you can just see things happening already. And as we develop a really thorough master plan for the property, with input from associates, members, the local community, past resort guests, and wedding visitors, it will be something that the property has never had. That step in itself will give everyone a sense of what’s to come at Silverado for the next 30 to 50 years, not just the next couple of years.”

“We consider it a national destination,” Pullan says. “If you take all of thepieces, the historic Mansion, the quality of the golf, and the diversity of all the other offerings, it absolutely is national. We will also focus on making sure that internationally it becomes well positioned, too, through our network.”

This article can also be found in the August/September Issue of Colorado AvidGolfer.

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