By Robert Farmer
Pebble Beach is a special golf course built on a special piece of earth – pushed up against the edge of the continent on a dramatic stretch of coastline that would inspire awe whether it was manicured to within an inch of its life, or left to evolve in its own natural course. It was the most impossibly beautiful setting for the 2010 U.S. Open where Graeme McDowell claimed victory. The golf course is hallowed ground for golfers. Pros aim to tame it, amateurs endeavor to experience it. Tales of lore and weekend warrior stretch as far out as the great Pacific Ocean along the 18th fairway. Alas, not everyone has $500 in green fees burning a hole in the pocket of their golf pants to play at Pebble Beach. If you fall into that category, read through my suggestions for golf clubs and courses along the coast or in Carmel/Monterey.
Rancho Canada Golf Club
Is it on the coast? No. Does it have the majesty and history of Pebble Beach or Spyglass? Decidedly not. But if you want a solid, fun tester to address your golf fix before you head out to watch the Open, the courses at Rancho Canada are a great option. Featuring two 18-hole championship courses laid out on the rolling hills of the western Carmel Valley, this is one of the more under-appreciated facilities in the region. Typically in well-above-average shape and with a nice mix hole types tee-box placements, the Canada courses are a reliable, affordable option on the Peninsula. The East Course is 6,125 yards that places an emphasis on shot making rather than showmanship with the driver. The 6,357-yard West Course is only slightly longer and a bit more challenging, with plenty of opportunities to go OB or to knock your ball into the Carmel River, which the course crosses three times. It’s a far cry from its coastal neighbor Pebble Beach, but a delightful option for squeezing in a round without leaving the area – or breaking the bank.!www.ranchocanada.com
4860 Carmel Valley Road
Carmel, CA 93923-7936
(831) 624-0111Bayonet Blackhorse Golf Course
On the northern edge of the Monterey Peninsula along the coast is the quiet, unassuming town of Seaside. It came of age as the home to the Fort Ord Army base, and has come into its own as an attractive golf destination, nicely supplementing the plethora of world-caliber courses for which the Peninsula has become famous. The advent of these two fine facilities is actually a recent thing, having for years lived their lives as military-only course. And talk about military secrets! The “decommissioning” of the courses came in 1997 when city of Seaside purchased them and handed them over to private operation. Word spread quickly of the two public championship courses on the coast offering great value and fantastic golf. Bayonet, named for the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, is 7100 yards of tough (141 slope) golf, designed to reward good shots and demand every club in the bag. The 7000-yard Black Horse, named for the 11th Calvary Regiment, is also very challenging, with thick fescue-flanked fairways and plenty of sand. The beautiful panoramic views of Monterey Bay, however, can easily alleviate the anguish of an errant shot. Both courses are typically immaculate, and there can be no better testament to their playability than the one provided by the presence of Gary McCord and the rest of his CBS golf announcing crew who teed it up in the group behind me during a recent round – much to my intimidated consternation!www.bayonetblackhorse.com
1 McClure Way
Seaside, CA 93955-7100
(831) 899-7271Half Moon Bay Golf Links
Call it Pebble Beach’s cousin to the north – though it’s not too far north and by no means a distant cousin. The Half Moon Bay Golf Links is arguably the next best thing to playing Pebble, with its dramatic, sweeping ocean views, challenging links style layout and immaculate year-round playing conditions. And while the relatively new (opened in 1997) Ocean Course gets all the publicity, the 30-year-old Old Course remains quietly among the best courses in Northern California. The two combine to make Half Moon Bay Golf links a worthy destination for a stay-and-play weekend. It doesn’t hurt that the prime option for staying is the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. The two courses on the property are remarkably different given their proximity to each other and location in common. Playing about 7000-feet from the tips, Old is laid out among mature trees, with protected fairways and plenty of traditional trouble for errant shots. Meanwhile, the Ocean, at just about 6,650 at the longest, is open and rolling, with a genuine link layout and trouble of the incredibly thick fescue variety. Whichever you play, your game will be tested and your senses will be brightened. The golf facility overall is top-notch and the level of service and attention to detail is as you’d expect from courses commanding green fees approaching $200. My guess is you’ll agree it’s worth every penny once your eyes fill up with the great blue expanse of the Pacific. www.halfmoonbaygolf.com
Two Miramontes Point Road
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
(650) 726-1800A few notes on Eating & Drinking
The beauty of the California Coast and its golf courses is matched only by the bevy of excellent places to eat and drink. Of course, Wine Country is alive and well in these areas, with Monterey’s vineyard acreage expanding with each passing vintage. Quality restaurants, too, are abundant, and the fare reaches well beyond the reputation for fresh seafood. Following a round in Half Moon Bay, an easy and can’t-miss option is the restaurant at the onsite restaurant, Navio, serving signature coastal cuisine and fresh seafood in a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pacific. Also at the Ritz is the casual, elegant wine bar, Eno, where you can unwind after your round with a tasting flight paired with artisan cheeses and chocolates. In Monterey and Carmel, the choices range from honky-tonk charm on the Wharf, to upscale and elegant in Carmel Village. For seafood in the Village, don’t miss the popular oyster bar and seafood grill Flaherty’s. In Monterey, the lively and tasty Tarpy’s Roadhouse has great steaks and even better cocktails.