Courses and Travel

Beyond Pebble Beach

Photo: Taku Myamoto

The 407-yard, par-4 fourth hole at Spanish Bay.

The ultimate golf dream today is the same as it was 25 years ago — win the lottery, move to Monterey and play every day at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and, in the fantasy sequence, the very private Cypress Point.

You need serious coin and connections to access that triumvirate regularly. The question is, can regular guys enjoy a golf vacation on the Monterey Peninsula and still have money left over?

Absolutely. Save Pebble for special occasions. Here's where else you should play in Monterey.

The Links at Spanish Bay
6,821 yards, par 72 Greens fee: $250-$280
800-654-9300, pebblebeach.com
Architects: Robert Trent Jones Jr./Tom Watson/Sandy Tatum

Yes, it's expensive, but it's also roughly half the price of Pebble Beach. This gorgeous layout begins at the sea, eases through marshes and dunes, climbs into the forest and finally returns to the sea. A superb opening par 5 sets the pace; the green affords a panorama of Spanish Bay. Purists say there are too many woods, wetlands and forced carries to call it a true links, but with the breeze, the firm turf and a bagpiper sounding his tune along the first fairway at dusk, this could pass for Scotland — except that the Scots never had it so cushy.

Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course
5,727 yards, par 70 Greens fee: $35-$57
831-648-5777, ci.pg.ca.us
Architects: Chandler Egan/Jack Neville

For years, Pacific Grove was known as the poor man's Pebble Beach. The unique setting and undersized greens fee make it one of golf's great values. Pacific Grove is as close to a seaside British Isles experience as you'll find in the United States. Chandler Egan's wooded front nine dates to 1932 and while only a couple of holes there offer memorable challenge or terrain, the back nine is scenic and fun, characterized by ocean views, a lighthouse and some of the tallest dunes this side of Ballybunion.

Bayonet Black Horse Bayonet Course
7,133 yards, par 72 Greens fee: $77-$128;
831-899-7271, bayonetblackhorse.com
Architects: Gen. Robert McClure/Gene Bates

Once the property of the Army's Fort Ord, the Bayonet will slice you to ribbons, especially if you play military golf (left, right, left, right). Bayonet torments players with an inordinate number of uphill doglegs, all hemmed in with cypresses, pines and damp rough. The golf is honest — if difficult — and thankfully, on a sunny day, ocean views are not scarce.

Poppy Hills Golf Course
6,857 yards, par 72 Greens fee: $195-$212; 831-625-2035, poppyhillsgolf.com
Architects: Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Poppy Hills is an exceptional course that's lacking in drama compared to its neighbors. The course is framed by pines, which, while attractive, block out ocean views. But sharp-eyed golfers will relish the strategy demands. With its huge, wildly heaving greens and clever fairway bunkering, Poppy Hills is worthy of its status as co-host to the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach event.

Where to stay
The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach is worth every penny. Rooms start at $565 (800-654-9300, pebblebeach.com). If you need to be in the heart of Monterey, the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is your best bet. Rooms start at $190 per night (831-646-1700, montereyplazahotel.com).

What to see
Carmel's Ocean Avenue is home to a splendid collection of shops, restaurants and art galleries. Monterey offers Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck, Fisherman's Wharf, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (831-648-4800).

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