Owned and operated by the Northern California Golf Association, Poppy Hills Golf Course first opened for play in 1986. Five years after its inauguration, it was co-hosting the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am event on the PGA Tour and this arrangement lasted until 2009.
Robert Trent Jones Jnr originally designed the course and it underwent an extensive renovation in 2013 under the stewardship of RTJ II's project architect, Mike Gorman. When it re-opened the following year, its length had been increased by almost 150 yards but the par had been reduced from 72 to 71.
Located within a heavily wooded landscape, the fairways have all been sand capped to help foster permanent firm and fast conditions and the greens were redesigned to soften contours, with playing surfaces converted to bentgrass.
The renovation also involved reconfiguring some holes. For example, the direction of the 11th was reversed – changing it from the longest par three to the shortest – and the 12th was altered from a severe right doglegged par five to a straight par four which now offers spectacular Ocean views of Monterey Bay.
Another important aspect of the course refurbishment was the establishment of fairway waste and pine straw areas, which brings the trees more into play and reduces the acreage of irrigated turf by almost a quarter, further enhancing the course’s water conservation credentials.
The course has co-hosted the First Tee Open on the PGA Champions Tour since 2014. The format of this event is a little unusual, as every group competing comprises a senior player, a junior golfer and two amateurs.
I've played here five times and honestly like the course more each time. I'm not sure if it was a temporary thing, but five years ago the fairways were extremely soft and the greens were rock hard. Typically not very picky about conditioning but the disparity made it not very enjoyable to play. This time around, the fairways were nice and firm but the course still has the same hit or miss holes that were left from the original course. The course is pretty wide off the tee but a big miss usually takes par out of play, especially when the wind is involved. There are some very cool tee shots but find lots of the sloping on and around the greens to either be slightly off or bordering overkill.
To fully appreciate the Poppy Hills that exists today one needs to have played the original course. The original was overly produced and frankly looked it was mailed in from another location. Most people opted to play there because the costs and access to play the more renowned layouts in the immediate area were likely not doable.
The original was akin to having too much make-up used in order to pump up the design meter. Roughly half way into the round the most pressing thought entering the brain was how much longer for the round to conclude.
The updated course and the manner by which the grounds have since been transformed adds considerably to the feelings of being more connected to the experience. The overall "look" now keeps golfers engaged mentally.
The architecture is quality oriented, but Poppy Hills is still on the next rung down from its more storied neighbors.
Reducing the overall par was a very smart move. Generally, when courses have five par-5 holes it takes a big of keen imagination for each of them to be thought provoking. The rest of the design package is functional but hardly spellbinding.
In its original form -- Poppy Hills was the layout one was forced to play because your other golf options in the area were likely all booked. Now, the updated architectural elements are more striking because the presentation has been enhanced.
Make no mistake about it, Poppy Hills still is a cameo player on the golf scene in the Pebble neighborhood but there's enough now present to enjoy the much-improved layout.
M. James Ward
The only course on Monterey Peninsula where you can not see the sea but still a really great course. The track offers a nice variety of holes and the set up is very very good.
Played it in April 2019 on a very sunny day with no wind and really enjoyed every holes from the nice Par 5 #1 to the great finishing hole #18.
The main thing is there is no real signature hole to remember. But the full course is a great experience.
I had visited this course in 2011 but was not able to play it then. And it has changed a lot since its renovation, it has a deep Pinehurst #2 feeling and totally different from all the other courses in the area which have poa annua greens and fairways.
This one is totally different with firm and fast bermuda fairways and greens, with a play feel like the resort in North Carolina or some courses in Scotland. A driver may roll easily 30-40 yds if you hit the correct spot and also holding balls on the green needs very accurate approach shots.
There are some great holes: par 4 3rd dog leg left with fairway sloping from left to right, par 4 8th where a good carry will leave you a short and easy wedge, par 5 9th where a good driver will give you a chance to go in 2 over the stream, very nice par 5 10th with water into play for second shot, 15th Redan Hole Par 3 where holding ball on the green is really tough and very nice par 3 17th sorrounded by very tall pines.
It is a great experience, silent, pure golf, with course very well kept and manicured and where if you select the correct set of tees you can score. The toughest aspect as in the Pinehurst Course is to read the greens, they are very tricky. If you travel to Pebble, don't miss it!
One more things: Ravens will be ready to steal your food from the cart so be careful!