With three world-renowned, oceanfront courses at Pebble Beach alone, Monterey County has long been a desirable golf destination — and thanks to inland links, you can play almost any day in winter, too.
“One of the great benefits about playing golf in the valley and off the coast is that most days it’s usually at least 5 to 10 degrees warmer. It makes a huge difference — especially on days when it’s breezy and foggy, as the coastal wind is quite cold and will cut right through you,” notes Aaron Hartesveldt, director of golf at Carmel Valley Ranch. “On top of this, warmer weather inland helps with great turf conditions year-round.”
Of course, both seaside and valley courses provide opportunities to warm up or cool down with locally sourced food and drinks — nearby, distinctive lodgings often offer special golf packages for a convenient getaway.
Here are five 18-hole courses where you can take a swing at improving your game before splurging on a round at Pebble Beach.
Note: Golf prices reflect current, seasonal rates for morning tee times for 18 holes — afternoon rates may be significantly lower.
Featured Photo: Carmel Valley Ranch courtesy of Carley Rudd Photography
Carmel Valley Ranch
Backstory: Pete Dye, designer of the original 18-hole course in 1981, came back in 2007 for a renovation of his only Northern California creation, a valley-to-hill, par-70 adventure where wild turkey and deer roam amid oaks and vineyards.
Pay to play: $165 resort guests, $210 non-guests.
Watering hole: Updated in 2019, the casual-chic golf clubhouse features a large patio with fire pits and sweeping views from inside and out. The Clubhouse Grill specializes in burgers, beer on tap and a convivial weekday happy hour (3 to 6:30pm) highlighting Carmel Valley wines. The 500-acre resort, now part of the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, also hosts three other restaurants, including Valley Kitchen, showcasing organic produce grown onsite.
Stay to play: The 181 roomy, rustic-chic suites come with decks (some with soaking tubs), fireplaces and access to numerous outdoor activities. Among them are beekeeping, hilltop yoga, stargazing, falconry, swimming and horseback riding. Midweek rates start at $585, weekend from $670. carmelvalleyranch.com
Quail Lodge & Golf Club
Backstory: The Carmel River and many ponds provide the water views at this highly walkable course on the west end of scenic Carmel Valley, designed by Robert Muir Graves in 1964. Refined in 2015, the tree-lined, par-71 links have since been regularly cited by Greenskeeper.org as having the best playing conditions in Central California.
Pay to play: $145 – $259
Watering hole: Edgar’s Restaurant recently returned to the Clubhouse with casual California fare and drinks for indoor-outdoor lunch or early dinner. Overlooking Mallard Lake, Covey Grill debuted August 1 as an upscale dinner spot with steak specials and an automotive-themed bar.
Stay to play: Through December, rates for a one-night stay with a round of golf for two, including shared cart and practice balls, start at $395 Sunday – Thursday and $495 Friday – Saturday. quaillodge.com
Bayonet and Black Horse
Backstory: The site of the 2018 PGA Professional Championship, these former Fort Ord fairways reflect military heritage in their names. The Bayonet course, created in 1954 by Gen. Robert B. McClure, took the nickname of the 7th Infantry Light Fighter Division. Ten years later, McClure also honored the 11th Cavalry Regiment, then stationed at Monterey’s Presidio, by giving its nickname to his new Black Horse course. Renovated in 2007 – 2008, both courses are par 72.
Pay to play: $170 – $235; 36-hole special $260.
Watering hole: The casual, moderately priced Bayonet Grill features local microbrews on tap along with gourmet burgers and tasty breakfast options like huevos rancheros, best savored on sunny days from the patio.
Stay to play: Ask the pro shop about special rates at the nearby Embassy Suites by Hilton Monterey Bay Seaside that include 36 holes of golf and 20 percent off apparel. Regular weekend rates start at $206. bayonetblackhorse.com
Del Monte Golf Course
Backstory: The first nine holes of this par-72 challenging course in Monterey opened in 1897, making it the oldest course in continuous use west of the Mississippi. Fringed with cypress, oak and pine, the links were built for the guests of the nearby Hotel del Monte, a luxurious resort that later became the Naval Postgraduate School. The Pebble Beach Company now operates the course.
Pay to play: $110
Watering hole: The clubhouse Del Monte Bar & Grill, which typically offers hearty American fare, remained temporarily closed at press time. However, the new, Mediterranean-inspired Seat Root restaurant and bar at the adjacent Hyatt Regency overlooks the course, serving breakfast daily and dinner (with an all-local wine list) Thursday through Saturday.
Stay to play: Officially named the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, this resort also includes one of the region’s top spas, Spa Adeline, plus spacious grounds with two heated outdoor pools. Weekend rates start at $279, plus a daily $29 resort fee that includes tennis time, use of the fitness center and other amenities. pebblebeach.com
Pacific Grove Golf Links
Backstory: This compact municipal course, now par 70, opened its original nine holes in an oceanfront forest in 1932, with another nine added through the windswept dunes around Point Pinos Lighthouse in 1960. When the city took ownership of the stubby beacon and back nine from the Coast Guard in 2006, it agreed to reintroduce native and endangered species to the dunes, which also adds to its wilderness appeal.
Pay to play: $56 – $70
Watering hole: Between the ninth and 10th holes, the Grill at Point Pinos poses a dilemma — sit on the glass-enclosed ocean-view patio with heaters and fire pits or the sunny course-view patio? Verve Coffee Roasters provide the beans for the espresso bar and cafe, open 7am to 3pm daily, with “19th Hole” drinks like a bloody Mary with fried chicken and bacon available till 7pm Friday and Saturday.
Stay to play: Lighthouse Lodge & Cottages is one of several moderately priced inns within a block or so of the course. Weekday rates start at $219 for the simpler, pet-friendly lodge rooms, $279 for the larger cottages with kitchenettes; weekends from $369 and $429, respectively. playpacificgrove.com