US Amateur Champion Chandler Egan, having redesigned nearby Pebble Beach with Alister Mackenzie in 1929, returned to Monteray soon after to set out the first nine holes of the Pacific Grove Golf Links and the new course duly opened for play on 9th May 1932.
Jack Neville, another great amateur golfer - who originally designed Pebble Beach along with Douglas Grant in 1919 - extended the course to a full 18-hole layout some twenty eight years after it first opened, using land around the base of the Point Pinos Lighthouse leased from the US Coast Guard.
Because the routing of the Egan Nine was changed to accommodate the new clubhouse in 1960, a round at Pacific Grove begins most unusually with a pair of par three holes - named “Little Tombstone” and “Big Tombstone” - and back to back par fives follow shortly after at holes 5 and 6.
On the Neville Nine, where the fairways tumble into the dunes, only one of the half dozen par fours on the card (“Beacon View,” the 383-yard 15th) measures in excess of 350 yards. Indeed, short par fours at 11, 13 and 18 are three of the most interesting holes on the property.
Steven originally nominated Pacific Grove as a Gem back in November 2006; he also sent us the deer photo. Steven’s original comments are as follows: “Five miles from Pebble Beach on the same coastline – front nine gardens, back nine ocean (the back was designed by Jack Neville the original designer of Pebble Beach!). You can walk – it only costs $35/40 weekday/weekend, there’s a brand new clubhouse and you can always get on. It is stunning.”
It’s been quite a long time since I visited the Pacific Grove municipal course, but playing it on a surprisingly beautiful and calm December day definitely struck a chord with a younger me. Having played Pebble Beach the day before, I came in expecting to be underwhelmed by a course that was only about 5,700 yards from the tips.
The outward nine is an odd routing to say the least, with its consecutive par three opening holes and consecutive par fives later on - followed by another set of consecutive par threes as players make the turn. I don’t remember much detail of it, other than it being somewhat hilly and particularly tight with smallish greens. The best part of the course is when you head out towards the Pacific, namely holes #11-#15. A series of par fours, along with the par five #12, that meander out along the end of 17 Mile Drive and take full advantage of the rippling dune topography, the scenery and landforms on this stretch are unmatched nearly anywhere in the world. Since Pacific Grove is only a simple muni, these duneland holes aren’t as refined as Cypress Point a few miles down the road or even its closer neighbor Spanish Bay, but for a naive Midwestern college kid, it might as well be the same thing.
Sadly, the final three holes are also a bit underwhelming, which in consort with the front nine provides me enough ammunition to defend the overall ranking I give the course. It doesn’t appear to have changed much in the nearly twenty years since I played it; I returned a couple of years ago to stay at a historic former YWCA lodge complex nearby (Asilomar – look it up, it’s awesome) for a night on my honeymoon and walked a few holes at twilight. With its charm and uniqueness, it may not be world-class, but it’s definitely worth it for the seaside holes alone.
Played December 28, 2000
During this year's US Open at Pebble Beach I had the good fortune in returning to Pacific Grove. The comments that have already been provided are spot on. The most interesting aspect is the juxtaposition between what one pays at Pacific Grove and what one must mortgage to play Pebble.
Just getting the valet to handle one's car at Pebble can equate to the costs of a round at Pacific Grove!
The main gripe I have with both Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach is the usage of the word "links" in their respective names. Nothing further from the truth exists. The turf at both courses gives a bit of roll, however, it's nowhere near what a legitimate links provides. The outward side at Pacific Grove is also wedged in - literally - with the local neighborhood and is quickly forgotten once you get to the inward side.
You can't beat the ocean views on the back side -- most notably holes 12-16 -- and the crowd that inhabits Pacific Grove demonstrates a serious but also fun side.
If you keep one's expectations in check you're sure to enjoy the time there. My suspicion is that if greens fees were much higher the overall fanfare Pacific Groves receives would be far different. Thankfully, there's still a golf option that the masses can enjoy in one of the most scenic locations in America.
M. James Ward
The back nine at Pacific Grove will give you everything you want out of a golf trip to Monterey for a fraction of the price compared to the neighboring courses. Lighthouses and the Pacific frame even the weaker holes on the back nine, like 10 and 17, which will more than make up for the rather straight ahead routing.
The superstars of this course run 12-16 and I was entranced by the fantastic routing through the dunes which offers up killer views of the sea. There are great risk/reward strategies depending on how much you want to challenge the dunes and the greens are small, firm and fast which encourages a real bump and run style.
The course plays short but fun and I imagine if the wind is up, can provide a real test to any golfer. If you are having so much fun with the views, who cares about length?
This course doesn't strike me so much as a "poor man's Pebble" as it does a "poor man's MPCC" but no matter how you label it, the back nine is worth the price of admission and then some.
Played Pacific Grove three times last week while visiting the Monterey area. The links is located on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula and the location by the picturesque Pacific Ocean is stunning. Nearby courses include world-class venues Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. Walking rates were outstanding as the standard18 hole fee is $53 and $27 for the twilight rate. The 2 nines had differing features as the front nine is in a parkland setting with the fairways framed by eucalyptus and cypress trees. The back nine is similar to links in Scotland and Ireland. US Amateur Champion H. Chandler Egan was selected as the architect of the original nine holes and opened for play in 1932. After property was deeded to Pacific Grove by the US Coast Guard, well known California golf course architect and accomplished amateur golfer Jack Neville created the back nine and opened for play in 1960. Neville also famously paired with Douglas Grant to create the Pebble Beach Golf Links in 1919. The Point Pinos Lighthouse is located next to the 10th tee and can be seen on several of the holes on the back nine. The course measures 5,727 yards from the blue tees and plays to a par 70 and was fun to play. I thought the course played longer than the distance due to elevation changes and the front nine played about 1-2 shots harder than the back. Wildlife were abundant and deer were everywhere including the putting green. John Denver died after his plane crashed off the coast of Pacific Grove in 1997 and Eddie Lowery, caddie for Francis Ouimet is buried in the cemetery next to the sixth fairway. The course was in very good shape and the staff in the pro shop were excellent. The greens were about 80 percent poa annua and 20 percent bent grass. The course has only 20 bunkers.
The front nine plays in a traditional out and back Scottish like design and starts with 2 par 3s measuring 146 and 199 yards. The third and fourth holes are par 4s that measure 312 yards and 265 yards. The 3rd green can be reached by long hitters going over the trees on the left. The 5th and 6th holes are both par 5s that measure 520 and 533 yards and are good birdie opportunities. The original clubhouse is located behind the 5th green and after this hole golfers go back to the new clubhouse. Glimpses of the Monterey Bay can be seen on this seen on these holes. The 7th is as uphill 310 yard par 4 with a relatively narrow fairway. I thought the last 2 holes on the front were the most difficult as the 7th is a 424-yard dogleg par 4 and the 9th is a 218-yard par 3.
The back nine starts out with a relatively easy downhill 109-yard par 3 with the lighthouse to the right of the tee. The 11th is where the Pacific Ocean is straight ahead and is a 303-yard par 4 with a false front. The 12th is a 513-yard par 5 with the Pacific Ocean on the entire left side and sand dunes on the right. The 13th and 14th are both par 4s that measure 316 and 356 yards. The 15th is 397-yard par 4 that played into the prevailing wind and I thought was the most difficult on the back nine. The 16th is a downhill 355-yard par 4 with the green measuring about 90 feet from the front to the back. The 17th is a 153-yard par 3 that plays over a water hazard. The uphill 18th goes back to the clubhouse and is a 298-yard par 4. The driving range is located to the right of the fairway and is out of bounds. The green has a false front so make sure to hit your shot to the green.
Pacific Grove Golf Links was a pleasure to play and would highly recommend it to any golfer visiting the Monterey area. Click to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit. Jim Brady