MONTEREY, Calif. -- Can you play three rounds of golf in the Monterey area for less than $200? Of course you can.
You have to be creative, however, and give up on the notion that you're playing anything at Pebble Beach. But there's golf to be had, and it's pretty good.
I should make this clear, though. If this is your first and perhaps only golf trip to Monterey, go ahead and splurge. Even if you don't play Pebble Beach Golf Links, you owe it to yourself to go there, walk around Pebble, have a drink in the famous Tap Room and experience one of the other courses. Spyglass Hill Golf Course, for example, is one of my favorites. The Links at Spanish Bay isn't too shabby, and the new and improved Poppy Hills Golf Course, which is owned and operated by the Northern California Golf Association, is worth checking out.
But any of those three will pretty much blow your $200 budget, so the following is either for folks just looking for an expensive couple of days of golf in the cool Monterey breezes or those who want to supplement their trip with two or three more days of inexpensive golf.
Start at Bayonet/Black Horse
In our budget, you can only play 18 of the 36 holes at historic Bayonet/Black Horse in Seaside if you want enough money left over for two other courses. With that said, however, the facility does offer 36-hole specials. So if we were to take the easy way out, you could do one of those for $150 or so and probably have enough money left over for a round at the next course I'm going to list.
But that's too easy. So let's pick one of these former Fort Ord courses. Both golf courses have the same green fees, but for my money I'd go with Black Horse, which is a little more player friendly. The fairways are a little wider and the bunkers may not be as difficult as Bayonet, but the greens have more undulation. And if you pick an afternoon twilight or book online during the week, you can play it for as little as $60 or $70, not including cart.
Both courses are generally in great shape. And yes, there are ocean views now that Gene Bates renovated these old military gems a few years ago. Bayonet has hosted many big events over the years, most recently U.S. Open qualifiers. Black Horse is worthy, too. At 7,024 yards, it's anything but a pushover. And like Bayonet, Black Horse is bentgrass from tee to green.
Don't miss Pacific Grove Golf Links
Often referred to as a "poor man's Pebble Beach," Pacific Grove Golf Links is one of the best values in the country with green fees at $45 or less on weekday afternoons. The back nine, much like Pebble Beach, offers stunning views of the Pacific, but it's really nothing like Pebble. It's more like links golf in Ireland or Scotland. No dramatic cliffs, just plenty of ocean breezes and serenity.
Chandler Egan designed the inland nine of this 1930s classic, while Jack Neville, the same architect who crafted Pebble Beach, laid out the back nine on the ocean. It may be less than 6,000 yards, but with its small greens, there's plenty of challenge to go with the views.
Head to the Ranch
By my calculations, we have $60 or $70 for our third course, which is plenty of money to cover Rancho Canada Golf Club in Carmel. There are no ocean views, but there are usually no clouds either. While fog often looms over the bay, the valley often has blue skies and is 10 or 20 degrees warmer. So if you're looking for some sunshine, this is a good place to find it.
There are two courses at Rancho Canada -- the East and the West. And while they're not world beaters, they're actually quite pretty. Plenty of rolling hills, trees and interesting layouts with elevated tees are all part of what used to be the 4,366-acre California Rancho "Canada de la Segunda." The golf runs alongside and over the Carmel River three times. I like the West best. Designed by Bob Putman, it meanders through gentle hills with the Santa Lucia Mountains in the background and no homes.
Online, I've seen green fees as low as $20, but you probably want to budget a little more. It's $40 or less after 2 p.m., for example, and there are times you can get competitive rates earlier, too, but it's generally in the $70 range during prime time. And no, the fees at any of these courses do not include carts, but most of us don't need them in Monterey. If you do, you might break the $200 budget by a little, but if you play nothing but twilight golf, you just might make it.