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!