Unless you are 12 years old the “Happiest Place on Earth” is not situated in Anaheim, California or Orlando, Florida. No, this moniker is more aptly applied to that slice of heaven located within the confines of a 17 mile drive; just north of Carmel, California. Within this wonderland are several of the most magnificent golf courses on the planet. Golf Magazine notwithstanding, the best golf course you can play is Pebble Beach. This perfect 18 holes are situated along the Pacific Ocean, heavily influenced by coves that attract more sea life than the nearby Monterrey Bay Aquarium. During previous tours of the course I have regularly seen whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters and pelicans. As the course turns away from the water and into the Del Monte Forest, deer are usually present munching on the local flora. The fabulous photo opportunities on this course are innumerable.
Just down the road, Spyglass Hill beckons the golf lover with an amazing array of holes. Number one is a long par 5, dogleg left that begins in the forest and emerges next to the dunes along the water. The next several holes are influenced by the Pacific, with Number 4 offering the most unique green on the planet. Two holes later and you are back in the forest facing a series of challenging uphill approach shots and a variety of ponds. Although lacking the history of Pebble Beach, Spyglass is, nevertheless, one of the “must play” venues.
Two other excellent public courses are located within 17 mile Drive. The top 100 rated Links at Spanish Bay and the popular Poppy Hills layout. Spanish Bay also offers a mix of ocean oriented and forest influenced holes, with the final five heavily influenced by their exposure to the winds coming off the water. Poppy Hills is the most affordable option, with a course that meanders through the local forest.
Perhaps the most compelling golf course within the area is the uber exclusive Cypress Point Club. This Mackenzie designed track is rated Number 3 by Golf Digest of all courses in the United States. Yours truly is still waiting for his invitation to test this “supposedly” great golf experience. (If you are a member please feel free to contact me if you need to fill out a foursome.)
A second top 100 private course, Monterrey Peninsula at 66, occupies a terrific location just south of Spanish Bay and north of Spyglass Hill. This ocean links facility was redesigned by Mike Strantz who created two of my favorite venues (Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and Tobacco Road). I am also accepting invitations to play this course the next time I am in the area.
Playing golf within 17 mile drive is not without a cost…literally. The golf is expensive, reservations are difficult on most courses if you are not staying in the expensive Lodge at Pebble Beach or Inn at Spanish Bay and the exceptional local cuisine, including the restaurants in Carmel (just outside the gate) will set you back few bucks…especially if you start digging into the amazing wine cellars. Is it worth it? Absolutely! The most difficult part of the excursion is returning to the real world.
In following posts, I will provide insights based upon my recent trip to Nirvana.
Image of Spyglass Hill Golf Course from: http://www.pebblebeach.com/golf/spyglass-hill-golf-course/photo-gallery
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He is in the process of completing the story of his journey to play America’s top 100 courses. Please visit this website regularly for more (im)practical information.