Created by Robert Trent Jones Jnr (with input from Tom Watson and former USGA President Sandy Tatum), The Links at Spanish Bay is laid out on a sizeable area of sandy terrain that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The links-like layout opened in 1987 when it became the fourth 18-hole course to join the impressive Californian golf portfolio of the Pebble Beach Company, along with Del Monte, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach.
Occupying the oceanfront site of a former sand mine between the Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Asilomar State Beach, the fairways weave through a series of sand dunes, many of which were created during course construction. Consequently, golfers find there’s more than a hint of a Scottish links in the landscape as the round unfolds here. Indeed, Tom Watson’s been quoted as saying: “It’s so much like Scotland, you can almost hear the bagpipes playing.”
The 400-yard right doglegged 6th (“Sandy”) is a feature hole on the front nine and it’s aptly named because no fewer than nine bunkers guard the path to the raised green. On the back nine, the 520-yard 10th (“Half & Half”) is another highlight hole, with three pot bunkers splitting the fairway. The 200-yard 16th (“Dune Hollow”) is a fine par three where left is best to avoid a couple of pot bunkers that guard the green to the right front hand side.
It’s been a while since I played Spanish Bay, but my greatest memory is that of disappointment. Too many quirks from tee to green – forced layups, split fairways, centerline bunkers, artificial-looking mounding – confound what is a truly spectacular site for a golf course. That’s not to say there aren’t a few good holes, but the whole of it feels very artificial and contrived – completely unbefitting of such a magnificent property. The greens are pretty unimaginative and were particularly slow.
Too many holes (#2, #6, #7, #12, #15, #17) have fairways that run out before reaching the green, requiring quite a few forced layups off the tee depending on what the wind is doing. I liked #3, a dogleg par four set against the dunes, #14, an awesome downhill par five that takes you all the way from the inland part of the course to the beach, and #16, the best par three on the course (and the only one to play exclusively in the dunes).
I’d really be curious what a course on this site would have been like had it been built in 2017 as opposed to 1987. Could it be one of the best courses in the world? Possibly! Instead, it’s a monument to a time when target golf ruled and a course that looked great was considered an equal to one that truly played like a great course.
I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Spanish Bay when I visited Pebble Beach. Being right on the ocean, the views are tremendous. This also brings the added challenge of some strong winds into play. The course was interesting, with a good selection of varied holes. Strategy is important with some great shorter holes with forced carries, like on 15 and 17. While well bunkered, like it's sister courses, I found the greens far more comfortable than Pebble and Spyglass in terms of speed. For the first time in 3 days I could be fairly aggressive in my putting. The highlight for me was the par 3 8th ocean hole, with a carry over a bog to a green surrounded by bunkers. Overall, a very nice course which is rightly overshadowed by some of it's esteemed neighbours. However, you certainly won't be disappointed if you have time for a round here.
If you are playing the PB resort trio, would recommend Spanish Bay as a starter course to warm up before the test of PBGL and Spyglass. Many fantastic ocean views.
Favorite holes: #1 - great starter hole to ease you in, #4, #18
Spanish Bay is a great example of how bad greens can ruin an entire course. The greens are too small and overly undulated. There are some good holes on the property and some great views of the ocean. But likewise there are several holes that feel like they were shoehorned into a space not quite large enough. Not one of the resorts best efforts.
I was able to play Spanish Bay as part of a recent trip to the Pebble Beach resort. I played Pebble and Spyglass Hill on my last visit over 5 years ago so I decided to take on Spanish Bay on this trip. The course has a beautiful setting with magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean for the entire front nine as well as the last several holes. In general this is a difficult layout and the holes are somewhat narrow. There are a number of central line bunker complexes off the tee but the shorter lines were a bit narrow and this usually forced you to take the longer route. The greens were fairly typical Robert Trent Jones fare with a lot of very steep slopes and run offs to the side. The course was also very soft and had no real links like quality to it, at least when I played there in October.
Overall this is a decent course but not one I am dying to return to play. While a place like Bandon Dunes has four world class golf courses, Pebble only boasts of one great course (I"m not a big fan of Spyglass Hill). It's probably worth playing Spanish Bay once for the excellent views.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr, Sandy Tatum and Tom Watson. It opened in the fall of 1987. In the inaugural round, Tom Watson shot a 67 and that still stands as the course record. Spanish Bay is not a long course but it is scenic. It is located in a former sand mine and one can see the ocean from just about every hole. I enjoyed the fifth hole which has 3 pot bunkers back to back on the right hand side of the fairway. My playing partner did not enjoy it as much as his drive found the first one and his second shot ended up in the third one. The joke was on me; however, as the sixth hole has 10 bunkers and I hit .300. The 15th and 17th have island landing areas with bunkers protecting the attack corners of the fairway. As we were approaching the 18th green we heard and saw a neat Spanish Bay tradition of bagpipes at sunset. Overall, the culmination of a great day, Spyglass in the morning and Spanish Bay in the afternoon.
I played it in 2011 and am surprised I had not reviewd it. Now second visit 5 years later and the sensation is the same: it has stunning views, excellent maintenance, intimidating tee shots and very fast firm greens. They tried to make it like Scotland but they got not even close. Greens have a lot of slopes, sometimes bordering the ridiculous and they are so firm and fast that approach shots are sometimes almost impossible even to scratch golfers.
Please don't get me wrong: it is a very good course but IMO it shoud be softened and made a little bit easier as an average golfer here will not have an easy round and if wind blows it can turn into a real nightmare.
There are all the same some fantastic holes like island par 3 8th, small par 3 13th, great down hill par 5 14th and the very tough par 4s 15-17.
If I come back would I play it again? Of Course, but if she wants to match Spyglass there are some changes need to be made.
Final note for maintenance: perfect is not enough.
And one other point to remark: the car path only rule needs to change. I know it is due water issues, but this course cannot be played like that for golfers over 5 hcp.