Friday, July 1, 2011
Mecca is an overused descriptor. Around here, however, there’s no better word to describe the preponderance of world-class courses, for this Mecca of manicured grass includes far more than the most famous courses this side of Augusta. Spyglass Hill, Poppy Hills and the freshly renovated (and devilishly difficult) powerhouses Bayonet and Black Horse await. For a taste of Pebble Beach ocean-links style without the price tag, Pacific Grove Golf Links, designed by Jack Neville (who also designed Pebble Beach), boasts a back nine beautiful enough to make Arnold Palmer blush.
After a round at Pebble, what better way to work out the kinks than at the internationally ranked Spa at Pebble Beach? Or, for those who don’t need any more initiative to relax, skip the links altogether and head straight for the 22,000-square-foot, full service spa and salon.
As with golf, Pebble’s not the only game in town. From Vista Blue Spa’s rooftop views – it’s located on the top floor of the Monterey Plaza Hotel perched over the bay – to Ventana Inn and Spa’s Allegria Spa, which looks out on glorious views of the Big Sur coast, Monterey County spas soothe body, mind and soul.
The Monterey Peninsula is synonymous with world-class golfing, but you don’t have to be a pro or obsessed with your handicap to enjoy the area’s superb golf links. There are numerous courses to choose from – beyond the private Preserves and Cypress Points of the world – that are well-suited to all levels of play.
Bayonet and Black Horse | Set amid the fragrant chaparral of old Fort Ord, these two courses offer challenges for all skill levels. Bayonet – rated #11 public course in California – is a PGA tour qualification course whose front nine just received a gorgeous remodel, and is the tougher of the two, with tight doglegs and tricky elevated greens. Black Horse – rated #14 public course in California – offers more scenic views and is generally more open, with live oaks surrounding the fairways instead of those daunting cypress trees. Bayonet: 7094 yards, slope 139. Black Horse: 7009 yards, slope 135. Designed by Gen. Glen McClure and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Restaurant, driving range. 1 McClure Way, Seaside. 899-7271.
Del Monte Golf Course | The Peninsula is home to a rich golfing tradition, and this is where it all started back in 1897. Old Del Monte may also have been the first in the world to feature green fairways year-round and is also the oldest running golf course west of the Mississippi. A pretty course, and more forgiving than most, it is the cheapest of the Pebble Beach Resorts courses at $110/round. 6365 yards, slope 127. Designed by Charles Maud. Full-service restaurant and bar. 1300 Sylvan Road, Monterey. 373-2700.
Del Rey Oaks Driving Range | Located just a few blocks from the Weekly’s offices, this is the place where our staff goes to fine-tune our driving skills or simply blow off a little deadline-induced steam. 899 Rosita Road, Del Rey Oaks. 394-8736.
Laguna Seca Golf Ranch | A challenging course noted for its majestic oaks, numerous bunkers and elevated tees. Its generous inland microclimate inspires locals to call it “The Sunshine Course.” Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Sr. teamed up to design Laguna Seca and, unfortunately for hackers, a tough 15th hole featuring two water hazards and demanding a technical drive and a couple of long irons just to hit the dance floor. 6157 yards, slope 127. Restaurant (breakfast and lunch), natural grass practice facility. 10520 York Road, off Highway 68, Monterey. 373-3701.
Links at Spanish Bay | Nestled among impressive sand dunes near Asilomar State Beach, the Links are patterned after an authentic Scottish course, requiring a low punch shot to counter the high winds. “You can almost hear the bagpipes,” says golf great Tom Watson, who helped design the course. And you literally can; a bagpiper finishes the day with a tune to follow Scottish tradition. The northwest coastal winds can play havoc with your drives – and watch out for that treacherous ice plant. 6821 yards, slope 146. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Tom Watson and Frank Sandy Tatum. Full-service restaurant. 2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach. 647-7495.
Monterey Pines Golf Course | Located next to the Monterey County Fairgrounds, the recently remodeled Monterey Pines features equitable fairways, a sprinkling of trees, four small lakes and affordable greens fees. Manageable par-fours and unique par threes provide scoring opps for skilled players and comfortable space for beginners to get swinging. Locals refer to this one-time military course simply as the “Navy Course.” Great for beginners, and affordable too. 5629 yards, slope 114. Driving range. Garden and Fairground roads, Monterey. 656-2167.
Pacific Grove Golf Links | Local golf patriarch Sam Morse sold this spectacular hunk of real estate for close to nothing, strongly suggesting they develop a golf course on it. Pacific Grove followed Morse’s advice, and the result is a great public course – the “Poor Man’s Pebble Beach” – and the best bargain on the Peninsula. The front nine weaves its way through cypress trees and the back nine is built like a Scottish links course, playing like two completely different courses for the low price of one. 5553 yards, slope 117. Full-service restaurant, driving range. 77 Asilomar Blvd., Pacific Grove. 648-5775.
Pebble Beach Golf Links | This legendary golf course is one of the most scenic and demanding in the world and was recently ranked the best public course in the U.S. by Golf Digest. Pebble Beach is expensive, and it plays slow because every golfer seems to look over every shot twice, but it’s well worth the time and money. Site of 1972, ’82, ’92, 2000 and 2010 U.S. Opens, the course that opened in 1919 will host its sixth in 2019 to celebrate 100 years of double-bogeys. 6828 yards, slope 144. Designed by Jack Neville. Full-service restaurant, driving range. 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach. 624-3811, 622-8723.
Poppy Hills Golf Course | Though not as well known as its glittering Pebble Beach neighbors, this hidden gem is located deep in the heart of the Del Monte Forest and is the home of the Northern California Golf Association (which means big discounts for members). It’s a long course that places a premium on accuracy – don’t get discouraged too soon, as the first hole plays as the toughest on the course. 6833 yards, slope 144. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Practice range, bar and grill. 3200 Lopez Road, Pebble Beach. 622-8239.
Rancho Cañada Golf Club | Rancho Cañada’s two courses are set among rolling hills and majestic oaks of pastoral Carmel Valley, but picking which one to take on isn’t the only choice: Upon entering the course, the decision, given the adjacent church, is “Play or Pray,” with arrows in their respective directions. But hey – most pray either way. In the summer, the fog line creeps up and sometimes over the courses, but can give way to some of the Peninsula’s sunniest weather, providing a great setting for two narrow but dramatic courses. West Course, 6357 yards, slope 125. East Course, 6125 yards, slope 122. Designed by Robert Dean Putnam. Driving range, putting and chipping greens, restaurant. 4860 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. 624-0111, (800) 536-9459.
Salinas Fairways Golf Course | This mostly level course is straightforward, well-maintained and features large and fair greens, which means reaching par isn’t out of reach. A recent renovation has the course at the level of most country clubs at much more affordable rates. If you happen to be flying into Salinas, this course is located right next to the municipal airport. 6479 yards, slope 115. Snack bar, driving range. Salinas Airport, 45 Skyway Blvd., Salinas. 758-7300.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course | The toughest on the Peninsula and one of the most difficult on the planet, this AT&T Pro-Am course humbles even the best golfers. Yet they keep coming back for more, partly due to the sweeping views. The first five holes share their fairways with the Pacific Ocean while the finishing 13 holes weave through the dense Del Monte forest, navigating tight doglegs and a natural flowing terrain. 6938 yards, slope 147. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Restaurant, driving range. Spyglass Hill Road and Stevenson Drive, Pebble Beach. 625-8563.
Oceans 18 Black Light Miniature Golf | OK, so it’s not what most people have in mind when they think of a public course. But this fanciful, nautical-themed miniature golf course is perfect for a rainy day. That hole with the fluorescent orange octopus looks pretty tough. American Tin Cannery, 125 Ocean Drive, Pacific Grove. 643-9215.
Carmel Valley Ranch | A newly renovated course that meanders along the Carmel River and climbs through forested elevation changes, offering stunning panoramas, fog-free weather and glimpses of local wildlife. Carts required (you’ll see why). 6117 yards, slope 131. Designed by Pete Dye. Open to members of any private club. Full-service restaurant, driving range. 1 Old Ranch Road, Carmel. 626-6406.
Quail Lodge Golf Club | This course wanders along the lush banks of the Carmel River, where fast greens, fog-free summer weather, sunny meadows, and numerous lakes combine to create an alluring golf setting. It’s a pretty course, with hawks flying overhead and great Carmel Valley vistas. The course isn’t as difficult as others on the Peninsula, but watch out for the water hazards. Driving range. 8000 Valley Greens Dr, Carmel Valley. 620-8866.