Pebble Beach conjures up an image in the mind but we suspect only a few people out there will know much about the private Monterey Peninsula Country Club which is also located close to 17-Mile Drive. There are two courses at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Dunes and Shore. The Dunes layout is the layout that once received the accolades but the Shore course is now considered the better of the two by those in the know.
Originally designed by Bob Baldock back in 1962 and host to the Bing Crosby Pro-Am in 1965 and 1966, the Shore course was always a decent track and it even made 13th in CA State in Golf Digest’s 1997-98 awards. But that was before the late Mike Strantz was commissioned to restore the course. All 18 holes were re-routed alongside the largest removal of non-indigenous vegetation that the West Coast had ever seen.
In 2004, the Strantz restoration was complete and the result has been said to represent “as close to pure artistry as he ever achieved on a golf course”. The fairways pitch and roll in a similar manner to a true seaside links but the magic is really the way in which the course blends into the topography. This is golf ‘au naturale’ and perhaps the finest architectural swan song.
In 2010, the Shore layout returned to the rotation of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (the successor to the Bing Crosby Pro-Am) and has become a firm favourite course for many Tour players.
As I am rating more courses on the Monterey Peninsula I realize that its pretty tough to imagine MPCC then leaving, but if you include the Dunes I see this being a Top 5 36 Hole Facility in the U.S. The golf around there is that good. For the course, I really enjoyed being able to see a Mike Strantz in person. Contrary to Pebble, I don't think the near the Ocean are better than the ones further inland. The visual elements, especially on the Par 3's, fit my eye very well and all seemed pretty unique. The greens are good but aren't particularly imaginative and decently simple to navigate. Clear strategic elements all over the course, but there isn't a hole to really point out in particular. The forgiving fairways allow the tour players to have unrestricted wedges/short irons in all-day, but in my opinion perfect for the average to great golfer.
I am a real fan of Mike Stranz's work. I first became aware of him with his design at Tobacco Road near Pinehurst - one of THE most fun courses I have ever played.
Unfortunately Mike Stranz died of tongue cancer and MPCC Shore course was his last project -but he leaves a legacy of spectacular, artistic golf courses.
Playing The Shore course for me was a real treat. The Shore course starts quietly with some elegant holes through the pine trees and housing estate heading toward the renowned Monterey coastline.
By hole 5 the ocean is in view, and you can hear the seals, birds and rolling surf. And this is where the Stranz influence really kicks in with a cluster of holes sculpted by a real artist.
Stranz uses dramatic bunkering to complement the rocky outcrops, cypress pines and huge marine backdrop...
MPCC is a private club, and a relatively busy one.
The course is not a championship course nor a resort course- as such it is not unnecessarily tricked up in any way.
It is challenging, strategic, gorgeously visual, and although the greens have plenty of movement and interest they are capable of being entirely fair to regular club competition players.
Unusually the configuration is five par 5's, five par 3's and eight par 4's. The par 3's were all completely different in look and feel- with up and downhill shots in different terrain, and different lengths. I thought they were particularly good.
Notable holes include:
- hole 5, a short beautifully bunkered par 4 with ocean backdrop
- hole 6, a strong uphill par 5 with green nestled in the rocks (see pic mid page)
- hole 7, a longish uphill par 3 to a tabletop green
- hole 8, a long par 4 to the sea- the hardest hole on the course
- hole 11, a remarkable par 3 with elevated tee nestled in the boulders. The view is sublime to a green which is shallow and wide and a tough target to hit!
- hole 12, a strong par 5 along the coast
- hole 13, an attractive, well bunkered par 4 running parallel to the beach
- hole 15, a nice par and the last coastal hole. It has a spectacular skyline green..
There were so many good holes I would hate to name a favourite - perhaps the long par 4, 15th with skyline green, or maybe the par 5, 6th with it's green sitting in a rocky promontory, or perhaps the dramatic eleventh?
Needless to say I rate MPCC Shore course highly, and enjoyed my day.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.