Trip Dispatch: NoCal golf from CordeValle to the Monterey Peninsula

By Brandon TuckerJune 26, 2013, 3:58 pm

MONTEREY, Calif. -- No humidity, gorgeous coastal and mountain scenery, an array of top 100 layouts new and old ... and did I mention no humidity?

That's the allure of NoCal golf in a nutshell and why it's a particularly refreshing escape from Texas in June, when temps are inching towards 100 degrees, and you can wring out buckets of sweat from your socks after 18 holes.

My route this week would be from the hills of San Martin to the coast: starting at CordeValle and making my way to the Monterey Peninsula.CordeValle is about 30 minutes from San Jose and attracts droves of Silicon Valley corporate groups who like to rent out the whole 45-room resort for brainstorming retreats. But despite its urban proximity, it feels far more remote, as if it could be in some far corner of wine country, whether it was Napa or somewhere near the Mediterranean. 


The par-5 6th hole plays up the hill beside a winery at CordeValle. (Courtesy of CordeValle)

The resort has momentum at the moment. Not only will the field be stronger than usual this fall for the Open, thanks to the PGA Tour's new calendar that marks this fall event as the 2013-14 season opener, it was also just announced that the U.S. Women's Open will be held here in 2016. The layout's wide fairways and elevated tees satisfy the resort player. The green complexes, tough to read and well-defended, are for the pro game. 

It's hard to believe the grounds will need much if any special prep for either event. Conditions, overseen by Superintendent Tom Gray, feature greens that are lightning fast, which accentuate the already difficult surfaces. His team manages the off-course grounds, too, such as the hiking trail running along the mountainside overlooking the course and wineries, as well as some enormous rose blooms by the clubhouse and restaurants.

On a hill a couple of minutes from the clubhouse is the Clos Lachance Winery, which offers free tastings to resort guests all day. I'm normally a 'beer guy,' but when you're golfing alongside vineyards all morning, and the air is so crisp, it's quite easy to get in a red-wine-blend mood by happy hour.

Golf, finally, on the Monterey Peninsula

Black Horse

The par-5 opener on Black Horse at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside. 

For me, it'd been a long time coming: 500-plus golf courses in two dozen countries, and I'd yet to make it to the Monterey Peninsula. It's less than an hour from CordeValle, so guests can easily tack on a couple rounds of oceanside golf if they want to include more courses.

A round at Pebble Beach would have to wait on my first trip. After all, I'm only 30 years old, and enough gets scribbled about it, right?

Instead, I looked towards two of the area's other great word-of-mouth options: Bayonet and Black Horse, a 36-hole facility that hosts two U.S. Open qualifiers and is one of the best bang-for-your-buck options around. In a land of $200-plus golf, green fees hover around $80-$110.

If this facility were located anywhere else, it'd likely be the destination's go-to course. On cypress-filled slopes high above the ocean, the side-by-side courses deliver two fairly different-yet-equal plays. I favored Black Horse by a nose, thanks to what felt like a little more consistent feel (there are corridors on Bayonet that are opening up to some residential development) and craftier bunker stylings by Gene Bates.

Pacific Grove

The Back nine at Pacific Grove Golf Links has an unobstructed ocean view at every turn. 

As good as the elevated vantage point is at Bayonet and Black Horse, the best way to play coastal golf (and not go broke doing it) is at Pacific Grove Golf Links, a historic and affordable muni located on the northern tip of the peninsula.

The front side, built in 1932, is a traditional out-and-back routing through cypress trees. After a little chip shot of a par-3 10th, the back side delivers sandy, rolling links turf with constant ocean scenery.

Adding to the charm is Point Pinon Lighthouse, a neat little building that is one of the seven original lighthouses on the west coast. No. 12, a par 5 that runs parallel to the beach, feels like a pure links hole with a rippling, firm and sun-scorched fairway. 

After golf, I ponied up $9.75 and spent the afternoon soaking up the gorgeous sites of 17-Mile Drive, which included a brief glimpse of Cypress Point, plus a walk around the Lodge at Pebble Beach.  

Stopping off for a nearby Mackenzie classic: Pasatiempo


Pasatiempo Golf Club's 2nd and 3rd holes in Santa Cruz. 

About halfway between San Francisco and the Monterey Peninsula is Santa Cruz. Somehow (I'll never understand the microclimates of California) this sunny college town is usually 10-15 degrees warmer than both places.

Should you be flying in and out of San Jose or San Francisco, don't board the plane before making a quick detour here for a round at Pasatiempo Golf Club, a restored Alister Mackenzie design and a real treat to cap off a trip to NoCal. Nearby Cordevalle offers a 'Top 10' package that lets golfers play both Cordevalle and Pasatiempo in one trip.

A semi-private club that has a steady spot in Golf Digest's 'Top 100 Courses You Can Play,' Pasatiempo is conditioned immaculately. (I had a first-hand look at the elaborate greens-keeping operation since I had the first tee time in the morning in order to make my flight home).

Fairways, in Golden-Era fashion, are normally quite generous. The bunkers are treacherous works of art, while the variety of green complexes make the course simply one-of-a-kind, and I sure putted as many times as possible on them.

Golf course raters often talk about the 'walk in the park test' and Pasatiempo, at under 6,600 yards, has to score a '10.' With mature trees and rolling hills that give the round a mix of shade and sun, plus ocean views from its high points, it explains in part why the club's logo is of a man with a tipped cap, contently taking a siesta under a tree.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."