Ranked No. 51 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s Greatest Courses, Spyglass Hill opens with breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean. From there, the Robert Trent Jones-designed course challenges golfers to navigate the trees and hills of the Del Monte Forest. Set to co-host the 2018 US Amateur with Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill is a test but also a joy. PGA Tour players competing in the AT&T Pro-Am regularly call it a favorite.
Home to the Northern California Golf Association, the largest regional golf association in the country, Poppy Hills was part of the AT&T Pro-Am course rotation from 1991 to 2009. In 2007, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout was named one of the Most Popular Courses in a Zagat Survey. A gut check is the par-4 fifth hole, which statistically in 2006 was the No.1 most difficult hole PGA Tour pros faced that year. Amenities include Poppy’s golf shop, which has routinely been ranked among the Top 100 shops in the nation by Golf World.
Five-time British Open winner Tom Watson brought a taste of Scottish-style golf to the Monterey region in 1987 when he helped codesign Spanish Bay. Wind can be a factor on the course, situated along the coast, when deciding which club to use and whether to hit it high or run it low under the breeze. If you’re playing near sunset, keep your ears open for the sounds of a bagpiper who closes the course in Scottish tradition.
The former US Army-owned courses underwent major renovations in 2008. The Gene Bates-designed layouts, which originally opened in 1954 (Bayonet) and 1963 (Black Horse), remain home to 2 of the toughest tracks in the area. The lengthy Bayonet course hosted a US Open qualifier and PGA Tour Stage II Q-School. Black Horse offers panoramic vistas of Monterey Bay.
At 114 years old, Del Monte is the oldest course in continuous operation west of the Mississippi River and remains a favorite of locals. The original host of the California State Amateur, the short course remains a test due to its deceiving greens.
Affectionately known locally as the “poor man’s Pebble Beach” for its more reasonable rates, Pacific Grove GL is 2 courses in 1. The front-9 weaves through the forest. The back-9 offers terrific links-style play near the coast. If it’s windy, the back can be a severe test.
Another Robert Trent Jones design, Laguna Seca sits in a sunbelt between Monterey and Salinas. Hugely underrated, the course can be a test due to deceptive greens. Locals know that everything breaks towards adjacent Highway 68.
The 36-hole layout rests near the mouth of sunny Carmel Valley. The West Course features the Carmel River and a number of tree-lined holes putting a premium on accuracy. The East Course also features the Carmel River but plays more open. The tip on both is to not read too much into the greens.
The Navy-owned Monterey Pines has been called “Bayonet Lite.” At a modest 5.629 yards (par 69), the recently renovated course is great for players of all abilities and features excellent greens.
Jerry Stewart, a native of Monterey, has been a contributing golf writer for
The Monterey County Herald since 1999. He authored the book
Pebble Beach: Golf and the Forgotten Men, about the history of caddies at the course.