Best Golf Courses on the Monterey Peninsula

Best Golf Courses on the Monterey Peninsula

Picture of Robert Kaufman

Robert Kaufman

Robert Kaufman is an internationally published golf & travel writer and award-winning photographer with an observant eye and insightful journalistic style that has guided him around the world, including all 50 states...and playing golf in 24 countries! During his entrepreneurial career, Robert founded Northern California’s first monthly golf publication and was instrumental in directing Visit California’s golf marketing initiative to raise global awareness for the state as a top-tier golf destination. His work can be viewed at Picture PARfect.

From John Steinbeck country on the Monterey Peninsula to the popular surf town of Ventura, a drive through California’s picturesque Central Coast will steer past numerous charming small communities complete with coastal roads, national and state parks, rolling wine country with boutique tasting rooms, and world-class golf. Time permitting, do not miss an adventure on Highway One along the coastal jagged cliffs. Whether teeing it up at the ultimate public golf quest of Pebble Beach Golf Links or any of the generous collection of affordable and challenging courses in this region, be sure to pause for a Pacific golden sunset. 

Feature photo: Pebble Beach by Robert Kaufman
Photo: Robert Kaufman

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort


Accentuated by panoramic views of the Santa Ynez River and Santa Ynez Mountains, the secluded luxury dude ranch is home to two 18-hole championship courses that are routed around ancient oaks and native sycamores. The 6,550-yard Ranch Course (1956) designed by legendary Billy Bell, Jr. is open exclusively to guests and members while the public can enjoy the challenging, but not punishing, 6,830-yard River Course (1992) featuring four lakes.

Photo: Robert Kaufman

Bayonet/Black Horse Golf Courses


Yielding captivating views of Monterey Bay, former military post Fort Ord is headquarters for two championship 18-hole courses, each designed by the Commanding General during their respective reign. Bayonet GC (1954) tests golfers with 7,104 yards of tree-lined narrow fairways, including a series of sharp doglegs (holes #11-15), known as “Combat Corner.” The 7,024-yard Black Horse GC (1964), with a more open flow is highlighted by fescue-framed fairways, bunkers with distinctive, serrated edges and contoured greens.

Photo: Courtesy of Hunter Ranch Golf Course

Hunter Ranch Golf Course


Hunter Ranch (1994) is a California hidden gem that mixes the small-town charm of Paso Robles with a world-class golf experience in San Luis Obispo County. Playing to 6,744 yards, the rolling wooded-hill’s layout with no homes offers smooth fast greens, pristine fairways lined with century-old oak trees, natural lakes, native grasses along and beautiful wine country scenery. Also onsite is a large practice area including a three-hole par 3 warm-up course.

Photo: Courtesy of La Purisima Golf Course

La Purisima Golf Course


Planted within the Santa Ynez Valley wine growing region over 300 acres of gently rolling, oak studded, ancient sand hills 30 miles north of Santa Barbara, La Purisima GC (1986), designed by Robert Muir Graves, is a pure test of golf that distinguished itself on GOLF Magazine’s “Top 100 Public Golf Courses in America” (1996-2004). With no housing surrounding the 7,105-yard layout has played host to the PGA TOUR and LPGA.

Photo: Courtesy of Maderas Golf Club

Monarch Dunes Golf Club


Situated just south of San Luis Obispo in Nipomo, Monarch Dunes features two golf courses, both designed by architect Damian Pascuzzo & PGA Tour Pro Steve Pate. The 18-hole, 6,810-yard Old Course (2006) provides a links-style experience surrounded by windswept dunes, coastal vistas and amber-colored hillsides. Unique to the Central Coast, the Challenge Course is a 12-hole, par-3 course with holes ranging from 82 to 198 yards and very large undulating greens rarely found on modern courses.

Photo: Courtesy of Olivas Links

Olivas Links


Overlooking the Santa Clarita River, Olivas Links, one hour north of Los Angeles, showcases views of the Ventura Harbor, Ventura hillside, and the Channel Islands while treating golfers to a rustic and tranquil playing experience. Course architect Forrest Richardson took advantage of the natural swales and curves of the landscape and coastal breezes in designing a 6,818-yard layout that encourages a variety of shot options and club selections for players of all skill levels.

Photo: Robert Kaufman

Pebble Beach Golf Links


Along the storied Monterey Peninsula, there are few golf thrills like teeing up for the first on Pebble Beach Golf Links, ranked No. 1 on Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses.” With nine holes edging the Pacific surf (#4-10, 17, 18), the Jack Neville/Douglas Grant design (1919), is often called the greatest meeting of land and sea in American golf and where golfers can feel the presence of the game’s legends to have competed in the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and six U.S Open Championships.

Photo: Robert Kaufman

Quail Lodge Golf Club


At this getaway resort located in the Carmel Valley and close to a variety of wine tasting rooms, the player-friendly 18-hole Quail Lodge GC has been awarded annually “Best Playing Conditions” for all of Central California by since 2016. Designed by Robert Muir Graves (1964) and refined by Todd Eckenrode (2015), the walkable 6,500-yard layout features 10 lakes, the scenic Carmel River and sunny skies nearly year-round.

Photo: Robert Kaufman

Sandpiper Golf Club


With breathtaking views of Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara Mountain from every hole, Sandpiper GC (1972) is a seaside links-style layout designed by William F. Bell. Purchased in 2003 by Ty “Beanie Baby” Warner, the 7,159-yard course features rolling fairways and challenging greens, the course’s main defense against wide-open fairways. With a championship rating of 75.1, it has hosted several professional tournaments, such as the final stage of PGA TOUR Qualifying and the LPGA Santa Barbara Women’s Open.

Photo: Robert Kaufman

Spyglass Hill Golf Links


Taking its theme from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, hole names such as “Black Dog” and “Billy Bones” are telltale clues for the demanding 7,029-yard layout designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1966). Featuring two distinctly different types of terrain, the first five holes roll through sandy seaside dunes and ball-eating ice plant, whereas the remaining 13 holes cut through majestic pines with elevated greens and strategically placed bunkers and lakes to grab errant shots.

Looking for more things to do in the area?
Visit our Central Coast page for travel inspiration and local tips!

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