Punch Shots: What's the best splurge on golf in northern California?


The Frys.com Open of the PGA Tour will shine the spotlight on Northern California this week, visiting CordeValle Golf Resort, an elegant Rosewood Resort property with a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design nestled among the hills of San Martin. So we asked Jason Deegan and Mike Bailey what their favorite places to splurge on golf are in NoCal.

Jason Deegan: Pebble Beach Golf Links 

If a meteor hurtled toward earth like one of those really bad movies, allowing only days of life left for all of us, I’d probably head straight for Pebble Beach Golf Links. If I’m going to go, I’m going to go down swinging at a place many of us consider paradise. Staying and playing at Pebble Beach is the ultimate golf splurge.

People complain about how expensive a golf vacation can be at the Monterey Peninsula’s signature resort, but I look at it from a different point of view. The cost of the experience makes Pebble Beach a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It’s something to be cherished. Not everybody gets to do it. Not everybody can afford it or not everybody loves golf enough to justify the cost. That exclusive feel makes Pebble Beach special. You won’t find Joe Muni there, just serious fans of the game.

There’s a lot to love about Pebble Beach. A perfect day might start with a morning round, followed by lunch at The Tap Room, the historic tavern in the Lodge. I’ve never seen inside the Spa at Pebble Beach, but I’m imagining a glorious massage that afternoon with the grand finale a night out for dinner in charming Carmel-by-the-Sea.

As for the other courses at the resort, call me a rebel, but I actually prefer the Links at Spanish Bay to Spyglass Hill. The first five holes at Spyglass are awe-inspiring, but I’d rather stay by the shore at Spanish Bay and take my chances with the target golf of Robert Trent Jones Jr. than head inland at Spyglass and get my ego handed to me by RTJ Sr. Spyglass ranks among the toughest courses in the world. I don’t want my precious few hours left on earth trying to break 100. I’d rather be staring out at the Pacific Ocean, daydreaming that heaven looks this good.

Mike Bailey: Carmel Valley Ranch

I've always said that there are three courses that should be on every avid golfer's bucket list, and Pebble Beach would be one of the three (the other two are the Old Course at St. Andrews and Augusta National). But in northern California, there is resort life other than Pebble Beach, and it's pretty good. One that shouldn't be overlooked is Carmel Valley Ranch. The Pete Dye design-golf course there won't make you forget Pebble, but it's not too shabby.

But what really makes Carmel Valley Ranch special is the overall experience. It's nothing like Pebble Beach. CMV is secluded, tranquil and incredibly therapeutic. It's been defined as summer camp for adults, but it's so much more.

The 500-acre resort is covered with lavender, which attracts deer as well as bees, which means the resort harvests its own honey and lavender, the latter of which is used in the spa and other applications.

The spa is world class as is the food, which takes the farm to table concept to the highest levels. There is also great hiking, bocce ball, swimming, a terrific tennis program (with hard courts and clay), two outstanding workout facilities, basketball courts and fire pits for conversation and S’mores at night. And the accommodations – all suites – feature fireplaces, huge tubs and great views of the hillsides, which are covered with vineyards.

And when the weather is dreary at Pebble Beach, chances are it's sunny and warm at Carmel Valley Ranch, which is set in the sunny foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains of Carmel Valley.

As for the golf course, the recently renovated layout might not be what you call championship at 6,100 yards, but it’s anything but easy or boring. It’s in great shape, and there are great views everywhere, especially on the back nine, which features several elevated tees. Dye integrated water hazards, unusual angles and doglegs to create a collection of holes that both challenging and memorable – just like the resort.