Insider Info: Great tips for planning the perfect golf trip to the Monterey Peninsula

Spyglass Hill
Joann Dost
Spyglass Hill is one of the most underrated courses in the country.

Insider Info
* Construction has begun on a new practice facility at Pebble Beach, located a short shuttle ride from the famed layout's first tee. It is scheduled to be ready when the PGA Tour returns next February. The resort's golf academy, led by Golf Magazine Top 100 Teachers Laird Small and Dan Pasquariello, will move there from its current facilities at Spyglass Hill.

* Ultra-private Cypress Point gets all the attention, as befits a layout ranked second on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in the World. But you may hear equally hushed whispers about a private Tom Fazio design in nearby Carmel called The Preserve.

Part of a 20,000-acre luxury community in the Santa Lucia Preserve, Fazio made the most of a stunning landscape and created this, one of his best layouts, in 2000. The course hosts the annual Stocker Cup Invitational, a premier amateur event held in October. If you get an invite here do not turn it down.

* Poppy Hills, a course inside the Del Monte Forest and owned by the Northern California Golf Association, is currently closed for a thorough and much needed renovation from original designer Robert Trent Jones Jr. The course is expected to reopen next Spring. For the latest updates go to renovation.poppyhillsgolf.com.

* Why sign up for associate membership in the Northern California Golf Association (ncga.org) if you already belong to another golf association at home? Because for the annual $60 fee you get discounts on green fees and/or merchandise at numerous NCGA courses in the region, including Poppy Hills, Bayonet/Blackhorse and Pasadera, a private Jack Nicklaus design where weekday tee times can be booked.

* Quail Lodge Resort & Golf Club (quaillodge.com) in nearby Carmel Valley reopened this past March after being closed for almost four years. Both the Robert Muir Graves-designed course and 90-room lodge have been renovated.

Travelin' Joe Says
"I've long contended that Spyglass Hill is one of the most underrated courses in golf, knocked down a few pegs only because of its close proximity to higher-ranked neighbors Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.

"True, its $370 price tag is formidable, but Spyglass offers a Twilight rate of $195. Unfortunately, Twilight doesn't begin until 5 p.m., but if you tee off near then, you'll come close to finishing at the height of the summer.

"Even if you don't finish, the 17th and 18th holes are pretty anticlimactic, and no matter what time you start, you'll encounter the best that Spyglass has to offer, holes 1 through 5, one of the greatest opening stretches in golf. To play most of Spyglass for under $200? That's a deal in my book."

From the Expert
"Golf brings a lot of people here, but there is so much more to do. Monterey County was just named one of 2013's Top Ten Wine Travel Destinations in the world by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Carmel Valley Village has some of the quaintest wineries and at least a dozen excellent restaurants. It's just a whole other world that most people who come to the area don't even know exists, and it is only 30 minutes inland from Pebble Beach. "When it's foggy in the summer on the coast, it's usually 20 degrees warmer and sunny there. Our most consistently good weather is usually September through December. Then there's Fort Ord Dunes State Park that runs along Monterey Bay with hiking and biking trails. "The world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium is incredible. Point Lobos, just south of Pebble Beach, is the most amazing state park you will ever see. The rocky, craggy coastline there reminds me of New Zealand. It's amazing that we have all this right here, in addition to some of the world's best golf courses." -- Former LPGA professional Joann Dost is a fine art golf landscape photographer (joanndost.com) who has lived in the Monterey area since 1976.

Top 100 Teacher Tip
"All players, even the best in the world, experience first tee jitters. That's especially true here at Pebble Beach. I encourage any visiting golfer to be NATO -- Not Attached To the Outcome.

"Focus on the present and not what may occur. Forget who is watching. Your fellow players are thinking about their own shots, not whether you top your tee shot. Find a quiet zone by turning off the chatter and negative thoughts in your head.

"Take a deep breath, hold it and count to six, then let it out slowly. That will help slow down the adrenaline in your body. You might end up doing that on every tee at Pebble. Also, slow down your practice swings. How many o's can you put in your 'smooth' swing?

"Finally, the best players are defensive rather than aggressive. Use a 3-wood on the first tee and get the ball in play. Successful second shots start with a good tee shot. All of that will help you enjoy the natural beauty of Pebble Beach and other area courses." -- Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Laird Small is director of the Pebble Beach Golf Academy (pebblebeach.com/golf-instruction-and-services/pebble-beach-golf-academy)

TOP 100 TEACHER: Need a lesson from one of the country's best teachers while in the Monterey Peninsula area? Then contact Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Laird Small at the Pebble Beach Golf Academy (831-622-8650).

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