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 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!