Carmel Valley Ranch Golf Course

During a recent bucket list trip to play Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, we wanted to play a few other local courses. The caddie at Spyglass recommended Carmel Valley Ranch. It’s located in a resort community and is a beautiful and challenging course.

When you arrive at the gate the guard tells you to follow the road to the pyramid club house. It is a beautiful clubhouse and clearly an upscale resort. The carts have water and towels for your use and golf balls are provided on the driving range conveniently located by the club house.

We played from the Lavender tees (5230 yards) to challenge ourselves but the forward tees are 4433 and would be challenging and fun too! It’s interesting that the forward tees are white (not red), I think this is a very clever move on the part of the golf course. Red tees have such a “stigma” as “ladies tees.” We played with an older gentlemen who played from the white tees and had no issue with the tees being forward.

The photo slideshow below displays the view from the first tee, the cute “tree with swing” logo of the club, the 13th hole (downhill par 3), Vineyard views, deer watching us hit our drivers, wild turkeys ignoring us, and a view of the beautiful pyramid club house from the 18th tee box.

The golf rates on the website are high $210 for “outside guests” but go to GolfNow for a great deal. We booked with GolfNow for $98.00 (included cart, etc.). So if plan a trip to play golf in the Carmel area, look for the deals and play Carmel Valley Ranch.

One and Done: DeLaveaga Golf Course

One of the things I love about playing golf is meeting other golfers. While at Pacific Grove we played with two local golfers and they shared their opinions on other golf courses in the area. They recommended we play DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz. My expectations were that it would be a great course based on their comments. DeLaveaga is a nice municipal course but not a good value at over $100 (Green fee $80, cart $20, and tax) on a Saturday. The greens were in good shape but there were a lot of bare spots in others areas from tee to green. I have a great comparison for “value golf” in the area because we just played Pacific Grove which was in much better condition, a more interesting layout and half the price of DeLaveaga.

We arrived early and wanted to warm up but although they have a two-tier driving range, it was packed with locals and folks waiting to hit off the mats. So no warmup for us. The pace of play was a bit slow but I wasn’t surprised since it was a Saturday.

The staff was friendly and when I asked for tips they gave us a yardage book and said (1) on front nine, all the trouble is in the right side and (2) on the back nine all the trouble is in the left. This is a good tip because it’s correct! There are some interesting holes, doglegs, blind shots of the tees and tricky slopes based on the position of the flag but overall many of the holes felt similar and I found myself a bit bored.

If you are in the area and can get a good deal on GolfNow or perhaps play during the week when fees are lower, give DeLaveaga a try; but for me playing it once was enough and not a course I’ll go out of my way to play again when I am in the area.

Pacific Grove – “Poor Man’s Pebble” is a Great Value

Pacific Grove – Hole 16 Green – Wind Blowing, Waves Crashing on Rock in the Distance

When you arrive at Pacific Grove it appears to be like any other municipal course. The Pro Shop staff if friendly, the driving range is actually pretty small and you hit off mats, the putting and chipping area is conveniently located by the first tee. It’s when you get on the course you realize what a great value it is to play because you have the front nine in the forest and the back nine on the ocean.

They call Pacific Grove “the poor man’s pebble” but I would say it is more like Spyglass Hill which has a portion of the course on the ocean and other holes in the forest. As of this writing the green fee (with cart) during the week is $56 and on the weekends/Holidays $70 (after 1 p.m $50).

You will see a lot of deer on the front nine. They are clearly not worried about golfers and won’t move out of the way as you come up the fairway to hit your ball. I must admit that I did hit a deer with my approach shot on the fourth hole and the deer just hopped (because he was startled) and then just kept eating. I joked with my golf partner that I would have been on the green in regulation had the deer not interfered. (Note: click on images below to enlarge).

A few notes on holes: The front nine did not really have any tricky holes but there were some elevation changes (Hole 7 is 170 yards uphill off the tee) and fairways sloping left to right or visa versa. The back nine is more challenging with the wind off the ocean. I suppose if you spray you drives you would have more trouble on the front nine. A few specific points…

  • The fairway grass is Kikuyu. I have never played on this type of grass and noticed it was hard to delineate the fairway from the rough on many holes.
  • The grass on the greens is Poa Annua so they are spongy or a bit bumpy. If you are not used to playing on Poa Annua it will take a few holes to get use to the greens.
  • The course starts with two par 3 holes. They are long par 3 holes – 146 from back tees, 141 from forward tees. Hole 2 – 199 from back tees, 187 from forward tees. The holes are all named. The first two holes are “Little Tombstone” and “Big Tombstone” which refers to the old cemetery on the right side (of course, it’s out-of-bounds).
  • Two par 5 holes were over 500 yards from the forward tees – Hole 6 “Long Tom”, 521 yards, the longest – that’s just too long for shorter hitters to get on the green in regulation.
  • Pace of Play – It was slow (at first) they don’t appear to have a ranger. The issue for us was that they let a foursome out in front of us who were sharing clubs and it really slowed them down. One of the men in our group hit into them on the seventh hole (by accident) and so lucky for us on the next hole they let us play through otherwise it could have been a five hour plus round.
  • Also for anyone that misses their drives left, the main street is along the 18th fairway. One man in our foursome almost hit two cars and some pedestrians as his wayward shot went to the road and bounced on the pavement and on the sidewalk a few times.

The best compliment I can give Pacific Grove is that if I were a local I would be thrilled to have this course as an affordable place to play every week; and as a visitor, it is on my list next time I am back in the area.

Pebble Beach Lives Up to the Hype

My friend and I were both having a “milestone” birthday in 2021 so we decided a little over a year ago to plan a bucket list trip to Pebble Beach Golf Resorts. Lucky for us that we did early planning and were not impacted by the pandemic.

Spending a large sum of money on a bucket list trip brings on the feeling of “boy, I hope it is worth it.” I really wasn’t sure what to expect but it was an amazing trip. You must stay at the resort to play the courses but it is so much part of the experience that at the end of the trip you don’t mind. We played Pebble Beach, Spyglass and The Hay. We also played a few local courses, Pacific Grove, DeLaveaga Golf Course, and Carmel Valley Ranch. I will write seperate blog posts on the non-Pebble Beach courses.

We also took time to enjoy the surrounding area including Carmel-By-The-Sea, Pacific Grove, Monterey, and Big Sur. Our first day we arrived and traveled the 17 mile drive. So beautiful and lots of photo ops. The funny thing is we traveled the 17 mile drive many times during our stay at the resort going between The Inn at Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach Resort.

My first photo of the trip – 17 Mile Drive – Lone Cyprus Tree

So that is the only photo of me I will bore my readers with in this blog post. As I said it is a “milestone birthday” – O.K., I’ll share, I turned 60 the day this photo was taken of me. Now for the main event – our experience with the courses at Pebble Beach Resorts.

Pebble Beach

The iconic 7th Hole at Pebble Beach

The views are stunning and there are some hard holes (especially if the wind is up). I’m like everyone that visits and loved the 7th hole. Now mentally, for me, I found the most intimidating hole to be #6 because it is a crazy uphill hole. Here is the description – “The second shot of this iconic par five climbs nearly four stories to an elevated green.” I was thrilled to par the sixth hole.

The other hole that was a challenge because of the carry on the second shot was Hole 8, Par 4, 349 yards from the forward tees. It is the #2 handicap hole for women. The drive is easy with a big fairway, but you must be on the left side because the second shot is all carry and if you are on the right side of the fairway the carry is over the ocean. Even on the left side you have a lot of carry (over the hazard of rocks and bushes on the side of the cliff) but a better chance at hitting the fairway; and I’m happy to say I did hit the fairway!

So The holes that I felt were the most challenging were 6, (because of the uphill challenge), 7 (just because it’s in your head that you want a good score on the iconic hole), 8 (because of the forced carry, and 18 (because it seemed very long in the wind). I will say we were lucky with good weather, I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if the wind was really up or you had to play in dense fog.

We played the course the Tuesday after the PGA Champions Tour “Pure Insurance Championship” so the rough was really hard. I quickly learned that I had to really tighten my grip and use all the strength I had to advance the ball. Other than that and some wind on the back nine, we had amazing weather – sunny and in the 60s when we started and low 70s when we finished. Our round was a little over five hours. The caddies said it was a bit slower than normal but we were a foursome that got put in the middle of a “company outing.” My guess, we booked a year in advance and they had to fit the “outing” in around tee times; but we didn’t care because we really don’t want the round to end.

I would recommend a caddie for your first time at Pebble. They really can help with targets off the tees and placement of second shots on the par five holes to give you good approach shots. I also think some caddies are good at reading greens. I felt our caddie was a bit off on his reads (this is a reasonable comments after having a caddie at Spyglass that was awesome at green reading). And the greens were super fast!!

Later in the week, my golf buddy and I discussed the fact that we wished we had booked two rounds at Pebble Beach because after getting some course knowledge you really want to play again to see if you can better your first score. And because the views are amazing and it’s a beautiful walk. We actually did check to see if we could get another round but the only tee time was 2:40 p.m. and that meant we might not finish the round due to darkness.

I will share that while we were eating dinner at Stillwater (which overlooks the 18th green) you could see golfers finishing in the dark and a single light from a tree lit the green.

Spyglass Hill

Spyglass Hill, Hole 12, Par 3

Everyone I spoke with before my trip said Spyglass was the harder course but their favorite course. Now, I loved Pebble for the uniqueness of the ocean views and I found Spyglass easier than Pebble Beach. I did notice that Pebble’s slope rating was a bit higher than Spyglass from the forward tees. I also wonder the men that said it was harder would all be hitting from the back tees so they would have a different experience with the course. Or it could be because, normally, I am a fairly straight hitter so I was in the fairway a large percent of the time at Spyglass (vs the day before at Pebble). Or I was just playing well that day. I’m not saying Spyglass is easy but for me it felt familiar (more like the courses I play back home — see Hole 12 in the photo, a par 3 with water on the side of the green — my golf eye was used to this type of hole) so I was relaxed and played well. Between the two courses, Spyglass was great but I would say Pebble is the course I want to play again because of it’s ocean views.

I will note that the men in our foursome at Spyglass, were really struggling with the tree lined part of the course (Holes 7 – 18).

How Did I play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill? First let me share my handicap which is 18.5 right now. Course Handicap Calculator gave me “21” for both courses. So, Pebble Beach (71.7/132): Shot a 107. Spyglass Hill (72.6/130): Shot a 95. My GHIN Differential for Pebble was 30.3 and for Spyglass 19.5 which basically means I played Pebble Beach like a golfer with a 30 handicap and Spyglass like a golfer with a 19 handicap so you get the gist with a course handicap of 21 as the comparison. Bottom line, I was really happy with my Spyglass round.

The Hay (Tiger Woods Short Course)

The Hay Short Course, Hole 2 – the most scenic and interesting hole on The Hay

The Hay is located at the Pebble Beach Practice and Learning Center. The resort guests have free use of the practice center (expect for The Hay, you must pay to play). The Hay was a disappointment for both me and my golf buddy . The Hay was the only course that did not live up to the hype. It is a fine short course but it is not any nicer than the short practice courses at home. The two interesting holes were #2 which is “described” as a “replica” of the 7th at Pebble. And I thought the 4th was interesting because it was an uphill blind tee shot to the green.

Bottom line, it’s not worth paying $65 to play. And a tip, don’t play on Monday – they make you hit off a mat because they are trying to save the tee boxes from those golfers (not me) that take big divots. We paid $65 to play off mats, really? It really was the only disappointing part of the Pebble Beach Resort experience. The one thing I loved was the cute logo of The Hay which is the sea lion Cynthia. So of course I did buy a golf cap.

Caps of All the Courses Played at Pebble Beach Resort

I could write pages about Pebble Beach but it would never give you the true feeling of experiencing it yourself. So if you have not gone to Pebble Beach Golf Resorts, save your money and go!

Focusing on Greens in Regulation is a Game Changer for Me

I play in three ladies leagues and one league I specifically selected for the course. It’s not a long course for me because, in this particular league, the ladies play from the forward tees (4495 yards). I picked the course because of the topography which really makes the game “target golf.” You must know where to land it to take advantage of the slopes and stay out of trouble. And, the greens are very fast and very tricky (it really tests your putting).

When I first joined the league, I was playing well but then I hit a slump and over the weeks of frustrating play I just started to “hate” the course. One day I was playing with a golfer I really respect and trust, Nancy. I quietly admitted to her I was beginning to hate playing this course and could not understand why I went from playing well to so poorly on this track. She asked if I had the same issue at my other leagues and I said “No, not really.”

I told her I was stressing over approach shots and felt my putting was just awful and I never has so many swing thoughts in my head. She said “You have a great putting stroke, I love it when I can get the line off you because your stroke is so pure.” Wow, what a nice complement!! I was so surprised. She said to me “Let’s play a game on the back nine. I said “Oh great, I’m playing crappy and you want to add the stress of a side game.” Nancy said “It’s fun, all we are going to do is focus on getting on the green in regulation. You have the length to get on every green in regulation.” This was true, because as I mentioned it is not a long course.

So on the back nine all I did was focus on GIR and it was a game changer for me. What it did for me was to get all the bad thoughts out of my head. I wasn’t frustrated on every hole or thinking I must put the ball close to the hole to avoid three-putts. I just relaxed and had fun. My only thought was GIR and it got me just focused on one shot at a time. The proof was in the scores between the front and back nine – seven strokes better on the back nine with a 40. I thanked Nancy for her great advice. She said “Well, with your game I think you should easily break 80 on this course.” I love her positive spirit!!

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve made GIR my main focus and I still have off days like any golfer but the focus on GIR has helped me mentally more than I could imagine. When I feel like things are going off track, I just remind myself to focus on getting on the green.

Watch College Golf

If you love to watch golf but don’t watch college golf, you are missing out. If you like watching stroke play – it’s got it. If you like watching match play – it’s got it. If you like team sports – yup, college golf is all about “the team.”

The other reasons I love college golf:

  1. Future Stars of Professional golf: It’s fun to see the up and coming golfers and then follow their careers in the top amateur events and then see who makes it on the professional tours.
  2. Relating to the College Golfers: Yes, their games are well beyond my skill set but they are still learning and I find I can relate to the ups and downs they have in their rounds. And they let you know how they are feeling because they are so expressive with their emotions.
  3. Big Moments: It never seems to fail that there is a big moment or a moment that you can tell changes a golfer’s life. One example, Haley Moore, playing for University of Arizona made the winning putt for the 2018 NCAA Women’s National Championship. That moment changed her life not only because of the winning putt but also because of the focused on her compelling “backstory” which was the focus of many articles, etc. She made it to the LPGA tour because of her talent but I doubt she would have PXG as a sponsor or be well known by LPGA fans if not for the moment created by that final putt at the NCAA championship and the focus on her personal story.

The college golf event that gets all the attention is NCAA Championship in the spring but thanks to Golf Channel’s commitment to college golf, you can watch the Maridoe Invitational (Men’s golf) today thru Wednesday (September 13 – September 15) on Golf Channel (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST). Maridoe is a course in Texas – side note: my favorite PGA Tour Player Jordan Speith is a member.

You can also read interesting articles at College Central on the Golf Channel Website. Also, Golf Week has a good college golf section. And I like to follow Julie Williams of GolfWeek on Twitter. I think one of the best college golf geeks is on Golf Channel, Steve Burkowski and he’s also on Twitter.

In 2021, Pepperdine won the NCAA for the men and Ole Miss won for the women. Both were a surprise. For me, especially Ole Miss because Stanford has an amazing women’s team. In fact, in 2022, I would be shocked if Stanford doesn’t win because they now have Rose Zhang as a freshman (#1 Amateur in the world rankings) and Rachel Heck is a sophmore (and as a freshman won the 2021 Individual NCAA women’s champion and is the #2 Amateur in the world rankings).

At a minimum you should watch the NCAA in the spring on Golf Channel. They televise both the men and women’s championships!

Unsolicited Advice on the Practice Range – Don’t Give It!

Recently I was practicing my bunker game and a gentlemen came up to me and asked what I was working on. Well, it is good I have a filter between my brain and my lips because my first thought was to reply sarcastically, “My putting game” but instead I told him I was working on being more consistent with my bunker shots.

Without asking me if I want help, he proceeds to give me tips (all the things he works on) including open your stance, open your club face, don’t forget to accelerate. I told him I am just practicing and work on all the same things he does (hoping he will get the hint and leave me alone). Finally he ends with this winner “Maybe your eyes are closed.” I was really not sure how to respond to that comment but I just said “Thanks and you have a great day.”

Now this experience is not the first time a guy has interrupted my practice to give me tips and it makes me wonder “Do men practicing have other golfers come up and give unsolicited advice?” It seems so odd because I would never give unsolicited advice to anyone. I actually have good fundamentals and my goal at the range or practice area is to work on my weaknesses, try new shots, etc.

There are times I have had guys just talk to me and say “great swing” (as an ice breaker) and we have a nice chat for a few minutes. But you’d be surprised how often unsolicited advice is the way a guy engages with me. Generally, I take the high-road, I give the “advice giver” the benefit of the doubt and assume that he just wants to engage in conversation and he is clueless that implying I need help is not a great conversation starter. In my mind I’m thinking “What the heck, who does this guy think he is giving me advice. I mean I understand there is a stereotype that men like to fix things but I’m not broken. He needs to work on his own game.”

So what do I do in these situations? Well, I’m try to always be a nice person and would never choose to make someone feel bad so I just spend the few minutes of time and try to not let it bother me. I suppose some women might put a guy in his place with a clever response but life is to short to be cruel.

In closing, I am writing this post to give my own advice – guys, don’t assume a women wants your tips on the range. If you really want to talk to her, just say “hello” and if you really can’t resist the urge to “help” — ask the women first if she’d like a few tips. At least that way, you are giving her the choice.

September 2021 is Match Play Month – Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup!

Last week the Curtis Cup, the amateur competition between USA and GB&I (conducted by the USA and R&A), took place. If you missed it and want to watch, it was streamed live on YouTube and is still available. The USA started out poorly but came back with a furry and won seven of the eight singles matches the last day to retain the cup. This is the first time the USA Curtis Cup team has won on European soil since 2008. As a person that enjoys watching match play, this got me really excited for the professional match play events coming in September.

In September we will be treated with The Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup. Normally theses events do not fall in the same year, but because of the COVID-19 Pandemic the Ryder Cup did not take place in 2020.

September 4 – 6: The Solheim Cup – How to Watch

There may be ways to stream the coverage online but I could not find it so I am sharing the broadcast information. The Solheim Cup can be viewed (in the USA) on Golf Channel (GC) and NBC. Here is the schedule from the Golf Channel website.

TV schedule: Saturday, Day 1 foursomes and fourballs: 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (GC), 12:30-2:30 p.m. (NBC), 2:30-6 p.m. (GC); Sunday, Day 2 foursomes and fourballs: 7:30 a.m. – noon (GC), noon-1:30 p.m. (NBC), 1:30-6 p.m. (GC); Sunday, Day 3 singles: noon-6 p.m. (GC)

Will the USA Win?

In 2017 it was an exciting cup in Scotland at Gleneagles, it appeared the USA was going to win until Suzanne Peterson made a memorable putt and won the cup for Europe (and then announced her retirement on the green as she celebrated.) Europe won 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.

The USA has a strong team! The number one player in the women’s game, Nelly Korda is playing well and her sister is back too. In 2017 Nelly and her sister Jessica won both their matches so I assume we will see that winning duo again. Overall, with great players and a home field advantage the USA are heavy favorites to win at Inverness in Ohio.

September 24 – 26: The Ryder Cup – How to Watch

According to the Ryder Cup Website, featured matches will be streamed live on the site. The broadcast schedule listed on the Ryder Cup site is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 24GOLF8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 25GOLF8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 25NBC9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 26NBCNoon to 6 p.m.

In 2018 the Ryder Cup was in France and Europe beat the USA 17 1/2 to 10 1/2. Who will win in 2021at Whistling Straits? On paper the USA has the edge but golf analyst’s are questioning if the USA can come together as a “team” given the personality issues (e.g., Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau). I think the men should be able to put aside their egos for one week for the good of the team. The big question, will team Europe do as they have in the past and rise to the occasion and win on US soil?

As they say in broadcasting “stay tuned!”

Favorite Golf Instructors and Rules Expert on YouTube

Over the years I have watched a lot of golf videos for game improvement tips or to understand the rules of golf. In the past year I have found that I go to three YouTube contributors over and over again. Two are focused on swing and game improvement and one is a rules guru.

Danny Maude

I was introduced to Danny Maude via a Facebook post (you know when they push content they think you might like and most times the content push is completely off the mark but this time it was actually relevant). Over time I have found Maude to be a favorite video instructor because he has helped me focus on making my swing more fluid. It is so easy to get too mechanical with your swing and he reminds us with his videos that it is a golf “swing” and to use the club momentum.

Danny Maude YouTube Channel

Get More Pars with Christina Ricci

I’ve have followed Ricci on and off for years. She’s a new englander and I lived in the Boston area for years. I tend to watch her when I want to get back to basics. Plus as a female golfer I do like to watch a female instructor because I’m curious if they have tips that are specific to women. But overall, her videos will help any golfer because they are not gender specific but focus on basic tips all golfers can use in their game.

Get More Pars with Christina Ricci YouTube Channel

GolfRules Questions (David Blake)

Blake is a golf rules expert located in Australia and I find his YouTube site a great source of Rules videos. I’m a visual person so I find it easier to understand the Rules of Golf by watching videos versus reading the USGA Rules of Golf book. I like the fact that he is on the golf course when he is demonstrating a golf rule. Blake also reviews rules issues from recent televised professional golf tournaments.

GolfRules Questions YouTube Channel

Side note: If you like to listen to podcasts, David Blake’s podcast can be found on his website. The website is golf is an attitude. The website also has a rules quiz section.

These three favorites of mine may or may not be your cup of tea. Obviously, we all “click” with something or someone because how we learn is as unique as our golf swings. I do follow other golf YouTube channels but there are too many to list.

If you have favorite YouTube instructors, let me know in a comment below and I’ll go check them out.

AIG Women’s British Open Purse Increase

AIG and The R&A “put their money where they mouth is” with a new record overall purse for a women’s golf major. The purse total is $5.8 million with $870,000 for the winner. And they announced they are committed to raising the 2022 purse by a million to $6.8 million. The purse increase announced by AIG and The R&A is great news for women’s professional golf.

At least for the majors, I’m happy to see in 2021 things are moving in the right direction. For example, back in 2012 the USGA’s purse for the U.S. Women’s Open was $3.25 million with $585K going to the winner and in 2021, the U.S. Women’s Open purse total was $5.5 million with $1 million to the winner.

I do find it interesting that sponsors for the women’s majors get to associate their name with the major. For example the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship versus the men’s PGA Championship. But if that is the price to pay for higher pay for the women the so be it.

The USGA has a history of having the highest purses for the majors and with Mike Whan, former commissioner of the LPGA as the new CEO of the USGA, I’m hoping that he makes a big statement for women’s golf in 2022. I would love to see the governing body be the first golf organization to have the men’s and women’s purses be the same amount — a girl can dream!

The chart below lists the purses for both the women’s and men’s majors for 2021. I do care about pay equity and wrote about it in my 2012 blog “The Gender Gap in Golf Prize Money”. I’m not going to go in to deep comparison because that would require looking at regular season tour events (as I did in 2012). My hope would be that perhaps one day sponsors will see the value of women’s golf equal to men’s golf and the money will follow.

I am providing a chart because I know readers (as I did) will wonder what the payouts were in 2021 so I did the research for anyone taking the time to read my blog.

Women’s MajorsTotal PurseWinner’s ShareMen’s MajorsTotal PurseWinner’s Share
U.S. Women’s Open$5.5 Million$1 MillionU.S. Open$12.5 Million$2.25 Million
AIG Women’s British Open$5,8 Million$870KBritish Open$11.5 Million$2.07 Million
KPMG PGA Championship$4,5 Million$675KPGA Championship$12 Million$2.16 Million
ANA Inspiration$3.1 Million$465KThe Masters$11.5 Million$2.07 Million
Evian Championship$4.5 Million$675K