Plan the perfect Monterey golf vacation for you

By Travel ArticlesJune 8, 2012, 4:00 am

MONTEREY, Calif. -- The Monterey Peninsula is, of course, known for Pebble Beach Golf Links. And while the course with the $495 green fee should be on every avid golfer's bucket list, a golf trip to the area is hardly lacking if you don't get to play the famous course above the bluffs.

The Monterey Peninsula, which includes Carmel-by-the-Sea, Seaside, Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach, offers some of the best golf, weather, things to do, dining and most of all scenery that you'll ever experience. If budget isn't a concern, there's no limit to the delights. But you might be surprised to find out that even on limited funds, this golf vacation can be affordable, and you'll create memories that will last a lifetime.

What follows are eight tips for a great Monterey Peninsula golf vacation, whether you play the 1919 Jack Neville/Douglas Grant design or not.

1. Don't have to stay there to play there

If you want to schedule an advance tee time at Pebble Beach Golf Links, you normally have to book two nights at the Lodge at Pebble Beach or Inn at Spanish Bay, which pushes your cost up considerably. But if you're willing to chance it, you can get a tee time the day before or the day of if there are any openings without staying at the resort. It will still cost $495, but it's a lot less than having to stay a couple of nights at several C-notes each night. Helpful hint: On many holidays, the course can be somewhat open. Last Memorial Day, the course had tee times open throughout the day, including early morning.

2. Accommodations run the gamut

Everything from the Marriott to bed and breakfasts and budget motels are available. It's typically a little pricier than most locations, but you can find cheap digs for less than $100 a night. And if you're only sleeping in your hotel room -- which is likely since there's so much to do in the day -- a night or two in the Motel 6 or Super 8 just might do the trick.

On the other hand, you might want to step it up a little. The Embassy Suites, for example, in Seaside offers great golf packages with Bayonet/Black Horse Golf Course, which was renovated a couple of years ago and is one of the best values in California. Together, packages can be had for less than $200 a night at times.

3. Check out other Pebble Beach golf courses

Pebble is just the beginning when it comes to golf on the Peninsula. The other Pebble Beach properties aren't too shabby either, don't take six hours to play and are considerably less expensive. Spyglass Hill, for example, has plenty of ocean views and is typically much less crowded. Same with the Links at Spanish Bay, which runs along the coast on the famous 17-Mile Drive. And if you're really looking for a gem, check out Del Monte Golf Course, one of the oldest courses in America. It's always in terrific shape, easily walkable and very affordable (about a fifth of what it costs to play Pebble).

4. Look to Seaside for affordable, spectacular golf

Bayonet and Black Horse are two other great picks, even if you don't book a package. They can be played for around $100 or less at times, especially if you book through the Internet. Both courses were completely renovated a couple of years ago by architect Gene Bates and provide some of the best tests of golf combined with ocean views. Bayonet, which has been the site of U.S. Open sectionals as well as the 2012 PGA Club Professional Championship, is particularly difficult, especially from the tips with a slope/rating of 141/74.8.

5. Play the 'other' Pebble Beach

If you really want to talk bargain, head over to Pacific Grove and play Pacific Grove Golf Links. This little gem was designed by the same guy who did Pebble beach -- Mr. Neville. And while the conditioning won't match Pebble, the views aren't too bad, especially on the back nine, which is mostly on the ocean.

6. Head to the Valley

Other recommendations include Rancho Canada, Quail Lodge and Carmel Valley Ranch. If you can afford it, stay at the peaceful Carmel Valley Ranch Resort -- you won't be disappointed. The course there is a really cool Pete Dye design that works its way around beautiful rolling hills, vineyards and lakes. And the rest of the resort is simply serene, with championship tennis, impeccable farm-to-table dining and some of the most comfortable suites in the country.

7. Great dining around the Peninsula

It's almost impossible to get a bad meal in Monterey, Carmel, at Pebble Beach or anywhere else in the area. And the offerings span every budget.

The real finds are often the beaten path, but there are some pretty good offerings along the well-traveled roads as well.

One recommendation is that even if you don't play Pebble Beach, have lunch or dinner at the famous Tap Room at the Lodge. The photographs and trophies alone are worth the visit, but when you step into the lodge and check out the view of the 18th and Carmel Bay below, you'll be glad you made the trip. The Tap Room isn't cheap -- a Guinness Draft is almost $10 -- but it's not overly pricey either. You can get great soups and appetizers that will certainly fill you up, but the best deal might be the authentic bratwurst, warm potatoes and sauerkraut for just $10.

The next morning, you might want to try breakfast at Em Le's in Carmel. Famous for its battered French toast that probably approaches 2,000 calories, everything on the menu is good, and there are healthier options. The seasonal fruit, picked from nearby farms, is particularly impressive, as is the homemade syrup for the above mentioned French toast, waffles and flapjacks.

And finally, if you're looking for a reasonable seafood dinner in a great atmosphere, you can't go wrong at Fisherman's Wharf in Carmel. The restaurants, which sit right on the water, compete with each other for customers, so the prices are kept down. They even tempt passers-by with free clam chowder samples. Gilbert's, for example, offers freshly caught snapper entrees for less than $13 as well as free calamari, and you won't be disappointed in the quality.

8. Plenty to do and see besides golf

Any first timer to the Peninsula needs to make the trip along the famous 17-Mile Drive. It costs about 10 bucks to get in (free with a tee time or dinner reservation), but it's well worth it. Along the way, you'll find several famous landmarks, including the Lone Cypress Tree near Cypress Point, with incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

The Monterey Aquarium, one of the best of its kind in the country, is a must. The aquarium is located at the end of the famous Cannery Row of author John Steinbeck fame. Not only is there a museum dedicated to the great author, but the area features scores of restaurants, shops and boutique hotels.

You'll also want to check out Fisherman's Wharf for more than just the food. It's a great spot to spy on sea lions and seals and you can also take a whale-watching cruise from the wharf.

Both Carmel and Monterey are also great communities for the arts. Galleries are everywhere, especially in Carmel. And speaking of Carmel, the shopping and people watching is some of the best in the West.

And be sure to work your way all the way down Ocean Street to the beach at Carmel Bay. The views, which include a panoramic picture of Pebble Beach Golf Links from below the bluffs, are breathtaking.

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Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 4:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.

If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.

“I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”

Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.

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“That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”

That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.

After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.

Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”

Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.

“It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”

Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.

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For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

“Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

“I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.

Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

“It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

“It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

“I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

“I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

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Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

“I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

“The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

“You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

“Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.

“For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

“It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

“And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

“And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

“Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

“The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

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Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!