Pacific Grove Golf Links Pacific Grove, Calif.
5,727 yards, par 70
Green fees: $46-$68
SERVICE Sure, the guy in the pro shop will smile at you, and the starter gives friendly waves. But this isn't nearby Pebble Beach — it's a muni, stripped of resort frills. Princely types who demand pampering should look elsewhere on the Monterey Peninsula.
PACE OF PLAY Whether it's the short rough, moderate length, [under 6,000 yards], or bare-bones ethos of the place, play moves faster here than at most munis. Our spy tapped in on No. 18 at 3 hours, 45 minutes! The ocean views almost make you want to play slower.
QUALITY Filled with quirky charm, the two nines are polar opposites. The tight, tree-lined front side opens with back-to-back par 3s, giving way to a back nine that sweeps through a dunescape like some ancient links. The two halves are greater than the sum of their parts.
VALUE In this upscale part of northern California, $46 can get you a tank of gas, a couple of entrees in Pebble Beach's Tap Room — or four hours of enjoyable golf and Pacific panoramas on prized real estate. This little muni is arguably the best bargain course in America.
VERDICT If you're a trophy hunter trekking to this golf-rich region, Pacific Grove will hardly top your hit list. But once you've played the likes of Spyglass and Spanish Bay, you can't beat the fun and affordability of the course that's rightly called the Poor Man's Pebble.
(Photo: Joann Dost)