17-Mile Drive is a spellbinding loop that features highlights like the Lone Cypress.  (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor) Owned by the NCGA, Poppy Hills was entirely rebuilt and reopened in 2014.  (Courtesy of Joann Dost/Poppy Hills G.C.) Pebble Beach is often a trip of a lifetime, so be sure to treat it as such, writes Jason Deegan.  (Chris Condon/Getty Images) A view on the 16th hole during round three of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at Spyglass Hill. (Getty Images) Pacific Grove Golf Links' back nine sits on sandy dunesland beside the ocean. (Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor)

Top 10 reasons for a golf trip to California's spellbinding Monterey Peninsula

The Monterey Peninsula is not just a paradise for golfers.

It is paradise, period. The rocky coastline, quaint towns and beaches along the Pacific Ocean attract virtually every type of tourist from families and couples to retirees and motorcyclists.

Here are the top 10 reasons for a golf trip to one of America's iconic destinations:

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10. Affordable ocean golf: Pacific Grove Golf Links, a municipal course overlooking Point Pinos, is often referred to as a "Poor Man's Pebble Beach," costing less than $60 to play. The unconventional routing by Jack Neville, of Pebble Beach fame, starts out with two par 3s, followed by two short par 4s and back-to-back par 5s. Pacific Grove crowds the shore on the back nine for a wonderful finish.

9. Carmel-by-the-Sea: Whether it's dining out or just strolling about, this European-style village nestled above a picturesque white-sand beach is the place where the rich and famous hang out to sip wine and look fabulous.

8. Life's a beach: The beaches aren't necessarily for sunbathers only (fog and thick sea air regularly block out the sun). They're for running, walking the dog, flying a kite or, in other words, anything to get outside and be active.

7. Cannery Row: The updated cannery buildings in the heart of Monterey house an eclectic blend of specialty shops, local art galleries and more than 25 restaurants and attractions headlined by its interactive aquarium where kids can pet stingrays and touch other marine life. Many local wineries have tasting rooms right on Cannery Row.

6. Play a brand "new" course: Original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. has reinvented Poppy Hills Golf Course, a part of the rotation of the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from 1991-2009. He altered several holes, rebuilt every green and replaced the rough with sandy waste areas. The end result created a firm-and-fast modern golf course that's fun to play.

5. Explore the ocean: Ninety-nine miles of coves, inlets and tide pools along the rocky coastline attract marine life of all kinds. Try surfing, swimming, fishing, diving, boating or kayaking for a close encounter with whales, sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, pelicans and more.

4. 17-Mile Drive: This scenic toll road hugs the ocean and winds through the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest, leading to Pebble Beach Resorts and the Lone Cypress landmark. Bring binoculars to watch sea lions jockey for position on Bird Rock.

3. The resort life: Since staying at The Lodge at Pebble Beach or the Inn at Spanish Bay will be the trip of a lifetime, treat it as such. Don't be shy about splurging on a spa treatment or at dinner. Not many people realize that in addition to golf, Pebble Beach offers kayaking in Stillwater Cove and horseback riding on the beach through its equestrian center.

2. Solid seconds: It seems so silly to talk about Spyglass Hill Golf Course and The Links at Spanish Bay as secondary courses. They've got all the characteristics of an alpha dog -- ranking among the top 60 public courses in the country by Golf Digest, holes along the beach, and service and conditioning to match their striking settings. Spyglass Hill regularly hosts one round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

1. Savor Pebble Beach Golf Links: Pebble Beach has its critics: Tiger Woods fears its bumpy greens; Architecture buffs don't like some of the inland holes; Five-hour rounds drive some players insane. Let me remind you there are few better experiences in golf. The holes along Stillwater Cove -- nos. 4-10 and 17-18 – will show up in your dreams. Drinks in the Tap Room complete the round in style.

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Feb 25, 2014

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Jason Scott Deegan

Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.