An introduction to Monterey

The Monterey Peninsula is a golf lover’s paradise. It has within it arguably one of the best golf courses in the world. But this is just one of a collection of outstanding golf courses.

The peninsula is half-way up California’s Pacific coastline and about a two-hour drive south of San Francisco. Three main cities form the bulk of the peninsula. Carmel by the Sea, Monterey and Pacific Grove, with some other smaller towns dotted here and there.

The northern part of the peninsula which comprises Pacific Grove and Monterey, is far more residential and built up. In contrast, the southern part is far greener. Here you have primarily golf courses and the western edge of Jacks Peak Park reaching in. 

See also: What are the best golf courses in California?

There are two superb beaches. To the north, Del Monte Beach, and the other just to the south, Carmel Beach. The coastline is so rugged, those are really the two main options. The only exception is the smaller Asilomar State Beach.

But it is one this rugged coastline that we have some of the most magnificent golf courses known to mankind. There is also a good mix of public and private courses. All this makes the Monterey Peninsula a popular destination for golfers.

The best golf courses in Monterey California

Cypress Point Golf Club

Cypress Point Golf Club, Monterey, California
Photo credit Tyson Mayers

Right, let’s not muck around. Let’s kick off this list with arguably the best golf course in the world, Cypress Point.

The course is positioned in the most westernly part of the peninsula towards the southern coastline. Since 1929, Cypress Point has entertained an exclusive group of individuals lucky enough to be a member…or know a member.

The acclaimed golf course architect Alister MacKenzie was hired to design this private course. The end result is simply outstanding with some of the holes hugging the coastline breathtaking.

The natural site lends itself nicely to building a golf course. Aside from the panoramic views, the golfer is taken through cypress groves and through a Monterey pine woodland. This is one of the few places in the U.S. where these types of pines exist.

The course continues to receive the highest of accolades. Depending on which golf course ranking you look at, Cypress Point is always in the Top 5 best golf courses in the world. So highly praised was Cypress Point after opening, Alister MacKenzie was then commissioned to design a new course called Augusta.

Pebble Beach Golf Links, Monterey, California - Photo credit Evan Schiller
Photo Credit Evan Schiller

And then arguably on to the second best golf course in Monterey, the superb Pebble Beach Golf Links. Unlike Cypress Point, Pebble Beach is open to the public, assuming you can get a tee time that is.

Literally less than a mile away from Cypress Point, Pebble Beach also hugs the dramatic and wild Monterey coastline. The course opened in 1919 and is one of the oldest within the state of California. It was designed by the relatively unknown Jack Neville.

Over the ensuing years there was design input from Henry Chandler Egan, Alister MacKenzie and others. The Golden Bear himself, Mr Jack Nicklaus, also left his mark on the design.

When we talk about coastal golf, Pebble Beach Golf Links is as good as it gets. The course has notoriety worldwide due to having hosted the US Open. It has also hosted a number of other golf tournaments including PGA Championships and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

This is without doubt one of the best golf courses in the world, let alone best golf courses in Monterey. 

Poppy Hills Golf Course

Poppy Hills Golf Course, Monterey, California

Just a stone’s throw from Spyglass, Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, is the superb Poppy Hills. It was named one of Golf Digest’s ‘Top 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses’.

Poppy Hills opened for play in 1986 under its original name Hilltop Course. The layout is sprawled over dramatic undulating hills hidden amongst the dense forest of the SFB Morse Botanical Reserve. 

The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr and over the years has hosted a number of tour events. This includes co-hosting the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as well as being the host venue for the Spalding Pebble Beach Invitational. 

In 2013 through to 2014, the course underwent significant remodelling. Trent Jones was again involved under the guise of his architectural firm. All eighteen greens were rebuilt and expansive areas of rough were removed and replaced instead by native waste areas.

This is a superb course and a popular option for groups staying in the Monterey area.

Del Monte Golf Course

Photo Credit Pebble Beach Company

Del Monte is the oldest golf course still in operation west of the Mississippi. It is a fabulous course incredibly popular with the locals. 

The first 9-holes were built way back in 1897 for the use of the Hotel Del Monte guests. This was one of the grandest hotels of its time. The second 9-holes were added just after the turn of the century in 1903. Although not officially confirmed, it is believed they were designed by the Englishman Charles E. Maud.

Over the years, the design has changed somewhat from its original design. The great Herbert Fowler made a number of dramatic changes in the 1920s.

Today the course remains in the same spot and is one of four 18-hole championship golf courses owned and operated under the Pebble Beach Golf banner. 

The course has a huge amount of classic charm. Accessible to most, drives are more often than not, ‘what you see is what you get’. Even if you spray it a little off the tee, you shouldn’t have too many issues. But it’s the small, sloping, classic greens which are the main challenge at Del Monte.

Monterey Peninsula Golf Club (Dunes)

This is another outstanding golf club on the Monterey Peninsula. There are two top class 18-hole golf courses, the Dunes and the Shore. But it is the Dunes course which earns most of the plaudits.

The plot of land is pretty special with both courses skirting the western coastline. They have stunning panoramic views over the Pacific. Dominating sand dunes, dense pine forest and jagged cliffs all come into play. This is the same stretch of coastline upon which you have the superb Spyglass Hills and of course Cypress Point. 

Seth Raynor was the man responsible for the original routing of the Dunes course. In later years the course was updated by both Rees Jones and subsequently in 2016 the Fazio Design firm.

The first few holes have you playing through the glorious sand dunes, hidden away from the world. After the halfway point, there are far more holes playing along the coastline, where beautiful views are juxtaposed by wicked coastal breezes. A superb course.

Spyglass Hill Golf Course

Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Monterey, California
Photo Credit Evan Schiller

Tucked away between the wonderful Monterey Peninsula Golf Club and the world-class Cypress Point, is yet another out-of-this-world golf course, Spyglass Hill.

With such a special plot of land, it was decided they needed a heavy-weight golf course architect. And that they did upon hiring Robert Trent Jones Sr to devise the routing.

Spyglass Hill eventually opened for play in 1966. Recognition for this great track swiftly followed, as did the acknowledgement the course was incredibly difficult. 

The first five holes play through dense pine woodland. Yet from the 6th hole onwards, it becomes the ultimate in target golf. Narrow rolling fairways with large sandy run-offs as well as small greens surrounded by bunkers.

So highly regarded, it was ranked in America’s Top 10 best public golf courses. It is also operated by the same management company who run Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Photo Credit Sherman Chu Photographer

Yet another course managed by the Pebble Beach management group, The Links at Spanish Bay is a spectacular example of seaside golf.

The brains behind the layout was Robert Trent Jones Jr. He was a huge admirer of the work his father had done down the coast at Spyglass Hill. So this was his opportunity to put a marker down on a links style layout.

Spanish Bay is partly reminiscent of the finest British and Irish golf links. The fairways meander through windswept sand dunes all the time enjoying eye-catching ocean views. If the course isn’t running through the gorgeous dunescape, it is instead weaving and rolling amongst towering Monterey pine trees.

Some of the par 3s here are top class. The fourth hole called ‘Shepherd’s Haven’ has a green tucked away into the sand dune and surrounded by pines. The eighth hole is just under 160 yards, but has an exposed green surrounded by glorious white sand bunkers. The thirteenth is called ‘Wee Precipice’ and has the golfer teeing off over a ravine. Fortunately it is just 130 yards.

This is a fantastic course and all the more enjoyable that it is open to the public.

The Club at Pasadera

The Club at Pasadera, Monterey, California

Within the sun-splashed hills of Monterey, just a 15 minute drive from the centre of the peninsula and overlooked by the Santa Lucia Mountains, is the formidable, yet secluded, Club at Pasadera. 

This is a gated private golfing community with a number of amenities including the outstanding Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, the centrepiece of the 575 acres. Infact, this is the only Jack Nicklaus signature course on the Monterey Peninsula and it is a beauty.

The location is wonderful, hidden away amongst the towering surrounding hills. The fairways climb and drop throughout the rolling terrain whilst on occasion being overlooked by smart luxury homes. 

The signature hole is the fourteenth, where from the tee you look over a ravine that separates you and the green just over 200 yards away. The fifthteenth hole was also at one point the longest par 4 in North America at 562 yards. This is a wonderful course but sadly reserved for members and their guests.

What is the best golf course in Monterey Peninsula?

The best golf course in Monterey Peninsula is without doubt Cypress Point Golf Club. It was designed by Alister MacKenzie and is considered one of the best golf courses in the world.

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