3000 Club Road,
California (CA) 93953,
- +1 831 373 1556
4 miles W of Monterey
Members and their guests only
Michael J. Bowhay
Seth Raynor, Charles Banks, Robert Hunter, Rees Jones, Fazio Design with Jackson Kahn Design
The Dunes golf course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club is a 1926 Seth Raynor layout that was completed by Alister MacKenzie’s partner, Robert Hunter. Remodeled by Rees Jones in 1999 and renovated by Fazio Design in 2016, MPCC's jewel now provides a vastly improved challenge. Described by the club as occupying “sacred ground,” the fairways of the Dunes course are sympathetically routed through woodland, around sand hills then along the Californian coastline.
The par threes on the Dunes course comprise as fine a set of short holes as you could ever imagine on a golf course. The first of these, the 233-yard 4th, plays downhill to a “Biarritz” green, with sand protecting the right and left flanks of the putting surface. The 189-yard 7th also requires precision play off the tee to a plateau green that falls away on all sides.
Commencing the back nine, the 170-yard 10th brings golfers to the coastline in spectacular fashion as the hole drops downhill to a sand-fortified, raised green by the edge of the Ocean. Four holes later, the crowning glory of the Dunes course is revealed at the 176-yard 14th, where Rees Jones audaciously repositioned the green out on the rocks beside the Pacific.
The Dunes, for so long lying in the shadow of Mike Stranz’s redesigned Shore course, is now equal to, if not better than, its younger sibling after the fabulous 2017 remodel work carried out by Tom Fazio and his former associates at Jackson Kahn Design, bringing in new sand dunes, waste areas and bunkers, along with removing trees to open out the views.
I was able arrange a round at the Dunes course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club on a recent trip to the area. My wife and I played Pasatiempo, Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach and the Dunes course and I believe I enjoyed my round at the Dunes course above all the courses we played. This is a beautiful, tough but fair layout that encompasses all of the best aspects of golf on the spectacular Monterey peninsula. The history of the club is well laid out in the introduction, but the recent renovation by Tom Fazio and his team has taken this course to the next level.
The course begins on a high point of the property and plays away from the ocean for the first four holes. The holes have beautiful flow to them. The driving lines are defined by well placed fairway bunkers and each hole is framed by the sand dunes that give the course its name. Each green complex has been thoughtfully designed and the outstanding greenside bunkering is probably only second to Pasatiempo among courses I have played.
There are a number of outstanding holes but the par 3's are clearly the jewels of the course. Four is a long downhill par 3. The original biarritz design of Raynor has been replaced by a long, angled almost reverse Redan green. With a back right pin placement the hole is almost a dogleg! Seven is beautiful short par 3 over a valley with a deep hazard to the right and a severely sloped green. Ten plays 165 yards directly towards the ocean and is exposed to the winds off the Pacific Ocean. Fourteen is probably the most famous hole on the course. The tee lays back in the rocks and the tee shot boldly crosses the ocean to a green protected by a large bunker left and the rocks and ocean on the right. My favorite par 4's were the downhill 8th which crosses over a creek on the second shot and the long uphill 17th with an angled fairway and perfectly placed fairway bunkers.
Every hole is thoughtfully laid out and requires strategy as well as strength to play well. Raynor purists may resent some of the new changes, but I could find little fault with the design. I believe that as more golfers and raters play this course it will skyrocket up the rankings. It has all the makings of a top 50 USA course at the least. The club was very warm and welcoming and I would love to play here again.
Magnificent upgrades to the Dunes course have made it the superior of the two layouts at MPCC. The Shore and Dunes courses were routed by Seth Raynor, but his contributions ended there. There is a similar flow to its nearby illustrious neighbor at Cypress Point, whereby it starts off in the forest and then routes you to the spectacular coastline.
Prior to this most recent renovation, the “Dunes” course didn’t have any significant Dunes that came into play. This was one of the areas of focus during the renovation so that the true spirit of the sand dunes comes into play with complimentary visuals.
Along with widespread improvements to drainage and irrigation across the course, the layout has fabulous changes in elevation, much-improved bunkering and a long list of signature holes. The par 3 14th along 17-mile-drive playing to an infinity green surrounded by jagged coastline and endless ocean is honestly one of the most intimidating and breathtaking experience you’ll have.
The closing stretch brings you back into the forest, but you’ll be left with countless memories due to the excellent design variety and aesthetics. Its sister course just doesn’t pack the same punch and lacks variety that makes each hole as memorable and unique.
In October the completely renovated Dunes course at MPCC finally opened for member’s guest play. As this is still limited, the fact that we even had the opportunity to be among the first guests to see it was amazing. I had played the Dunes course about 5 years ago pre-renovations. I didn’t recognize all but a couple holes, amazing! This is an incredible example of what happens when new talented eyes get a chance to redo an entire course and remove thousands of trees. The Dunes course now starts with a gentle par 4 before players are faced with two more solid holes running through the coastal pine forest before the course literally explodes in the eyes of the author. The long and quirky par 3 4th hole plays 210 yards downhill to a reverse Redan type green that can be approached from the ground allowing the ball to feed down and around the corner to the right to semi blind pin positions. Add an idyllic setting, open waste areas from the natural dunes land and what a great hole this is.
The best part is that this hole is just a start of a great run of wonderful holes that work their way out to the ocean. With the removal of so many trees vistas have been opened up all the way out.
The short par 4 5th hole is a drivable quite risky 2 shotter with a wonderful small tricky raised green.
From here the course heads back down through the dunes land out to the ocean where a couple holes play to and from the ocean working their way up to a wonderful half way house before making a final and dramatic return to the ocean requiring the players to cross 17 mile drive for one of the most spectacular and beautiful par 3’s in the world. (see photo) Hard to focus here with waves crashing in the line of play and on our day a solid on shore wind forcing us to aim well out into the ocean to allow the ball to drift back in towards the green.
From here a solid stretch of holes including two reachable par 5’s take the players back up to the clubhouse.
Any absolutely wonderful renovation that most certainly has MPCC Dunes course vying for the position as the second best course on the peninsula, I might just put it above the far more famous Pebble Beach.