The renovated Dunes Course gives Monterey Peninsula Country Club a dynamite 1-2 punch

July 25, 2019
The par-3 14th has long been the Monterey Peninsula Dunes Course's signature hole.

Welcome to our all-new “A Round At…” series, where a resident GOLF staffer runs through a recent day at a course you might see in your future. On this occasion, we’ve got the Dunes Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in California…

It’s no secret the Monterey Peninsula is oozing with phenomenal golf, and in the middle of all of it is the area’s most famous country club, MPCC, and its two 18-hole courses, the Dunes and Shore. Both have rich histories and stellar layouts intertwined in some of the best golf terrain in the world. A bad day can’t be had at either — especially after the Dunes’ recent redesign.

Course: Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Dunes Course, Pebble Beach, Calif.

My tee time: 7:54 a.m., Saturday, June 15

Course type: Private

How I got on: Guest of a member

The par-5 9th hole leads the Dunes Course back to the coast.
Chip Henderson

Difficulty: There are some tricky carries over dunes and wastelands, and if you get stuck in those dunes — good luck. I took a few mighty swings that hardly advanced the ball in that stuff. A few of the greens are absolutely diabolical if you miss in the wrong spot — and, sometimes, even if you don’t miss in the wrong spot — but overall the forgiving fairways and large greens make it enjoyable for all handicaps. The Black tees (6,559 yards) have a rating of 71.5 and slope of 132.

How to get there: Monterey Peninsula Country Club is in the middle of, well, the Monterey Peninsula, located next to several other drool-worthy courses: Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Poppy Hills, Del Monte and so much more. (And don’t forget budget-friendly Pacific Grove!) Out-of-towners can make the scenic drive to the Cali coast, otherwise the closest major airport is in San Jose (80 miles). San Francisco has more flight options but is slightly farther away (112 miles).

A look at the green on the 9th hole at the Dunes.
Chip Henderson

Fast Facts: The Dunes hosted the Crosby Clambake from 1947-64, but MPCC’s other course, the Shore, is now in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am rotation (although the Dunes is set for a triumphant return post-redesign). Seth Raynor was originally tapped to design the Dunes, which opened in 1925, but he died during construction and Dr. Alister MacKenzie and Robert Hunter, working on nearby Cypress Point at the time, took over. More recently Tom Fazio was called in for a redesign, and he brought in Tim Jackson and David Kahn to assist. They vamped up the dunes that now run seamlessly through the entire course, gave a facelift to the first several holes and expanded the greens. Our Alan Shipnuck went deep on the renovation here.

Notable/Favorite Holes: The 5th is an uphill and drivable par 4 with a back-to-front sloping green. A small bunker sits about 50 yards in front of the green in the middle of the fairway — making you think twice about your club choice — but even a good tee shot won’t be an easy birdie on one of the most difficult greens on the course that uses several tiers as the hole’s defense. The par-3 14th is the course’s signature hole and provides the most spectacular view, and the par-4 16th calls for a strategic tee shot into a long and narrow green with bunkers short and a bail-out area deep. The 18th is a par-5 with trouble around the green that’s sure to add excitement to the end of your round.

Another view of the 14th at the Dunes Course.
Josh Berhow

The par-4 16th at the Dunes Course has a long and narrow green with lots of trouble lurking.
Alan Shipnuck

I loved: The big fairways, expansive views and fun, playability factor for every hole. Oh, and of course the halfway house after the 11th hole, complete with grab-n-go gummy bears (it’s the little things).

I didn’t love: Some of the greens and their complexes seemed a touch extreme, and it led to a few pretty good shots getting penalized.

For a long time is was Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course that stole the headlines, but the redesigned Dunes gives MPCC a phenomenal 1-2 punch that’s hard to find. With the views you get in this part of the world, it’s not that difficult to create a memorable golf experience. The Dunes is that and more.