PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Forget Cypress Point.
I know it's every golfer's dream to play the legendary private club, but let's focus on reality. You ain't gettin' on. Golfers need to realize there is more to golf on the Monterey Peninsula than just Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point.
Until I moved to California in 2014, I had never heard of many of the public choices beyond the big names on 17-Mile Drive. There are 25 18-hole courses -- plus two nine-holers -- on or very near the peninsula. They offer plenty of variety and price points. Some are priced dynamically online and you can find some great bargains. This doesn't include such prestigious courses you know about like Pasatiempo and CordeValle, which we've kept off this top 10.
Thanks to a mild year-round climate, evidenced by Pebble's February placement on the PGA Tour calendar, golf is never out of season. In honor of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am, we've chosen the 10 best public-access places to play in arguably America's premier golf mecca.
My top 10 courses you can play on the Monterey Peninsula
10. Del Monte Golf Course, Monterey
Owned by Pebble Beach Resorts, this 6,365-yard classic parkland course adjacent to the Hyatt Regency is the oldest continually operating course west of the Mississippi. It isn't as lush, as scenic or as challenging as Pebble's famous threesome, although it's a fun, more affordable alternative.
9. Carmel Valley Ranch Golf Club, Carmel
This par-70 resort course, the only Pete Dye-designed course in northern California, rides the charismatic hills of the Carmel Valley, playing through vineyards and over water hazards. The resort recently unveiled new updates to make a stay-and-play more attractive.
8. Pacific Grove Golf Links, Pacific Grove
Shorter than 6,000 yards long, Pacific Grove doesn't have the chops to host the pros, but it's got something every course desires – an extended view of the ocean. The back nine, built in 1960, explores the shore near the Point Pinon lighthouse. Its nickname, based on its $50 dollar green fee, is the "Poor Man's Pebble Beach".
7. Black Horse at Bayonet/Black Horse, Seaside
The 2008 redesign by Gene Bates transformed the two aging Fort Ord courses into two premier championship tracks that have hosted the 2012 PGA National Championship and 2015 Senior PGA National Championship. The 7,024-yard Black Horse is a bit easier than its sister course thanks to wider fairways. The new par-3 15th hole probably offers the property's best views of the Monterey Bay. The jagged-edge bunkering looks cool until you get stuck in an awkward lie.
6. Quail Lodge & Golf Club, Carmel
Todd Echenrode of Origins Golf Design revitalized an aging 6,464-yard course by Robert Muir Graves with a renovation completed last year. He created eye-catching new bunkers lined with tufts of fescue, carved fairway swales on the first three holes to spice up previously flat land and added more contour to the 16th and 17th holes. Drought-tolerant landscaping replaced several ponds to make the course more player-friendly.
5. Poppy Hills Golf Course, Pebble Beach
Original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. revived this once-proud course owned by the Northern California Golf Association with a renovation completed in 2014. He created a more environmentally responsible course that uses less water, looks more aesthetically pleasing and plays more interesting. New sandy waste areas replaced the rough. The only new hole is the par-3 11th, part of a three-hole stretch from nos. 10-12 that Jones calls an "Amen Corner."
4. Bayonet at Bayonet/Black Horse, Seaside
Bayonet became the area's best value after the Bates redesign. Golf Channel travel guru Matt Ginella recently named the 7,104-yard course no. 48 on his Top 50 Public Courses in the U.S. list. Holes 11-15 are widely known as 'combat corner," but there's plenty of other tough holes on this demanding layout. Is your game ready for a fight?
3. The Links at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach
The wetlands and natural areas don't let Spanish Bay live up to the word "links" in its name. The ocean breezes and stunning coastal views do, however. Tom Watson, Sandy Tatum and Robert Trent Jones Jr. collaborated on the 6,821-yard design in 1987. It's a tough test with so many cross hazards and such extreme green complexes. Golfers who finish near dusk are entertained by the sounds of the bagpiper who plays every night.
2. Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach
Some golfers actually favor this 6,960-yard design by Robert Trent Jones Sr. over Pebble Beach. The first five holes dive into dunes of white sand and tangled ice plant. The rest of the round disappears into the Del Monte Forest with ponds lurking on two short par 3s (nos. 12 and 15) and two par 5s (nos. 7 and 14). Even pros have to respect the uphill climbs and elevated greens of one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour.
1. Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach
What else is there to write about Pebble Beach? Besides its annual celebrity-laden PGA Tour event every winter, Pebble Beach has hosted five U.S. Opens with a historic sixth on tap for its centennial anniversary in 2019. No course in America uses its coastal cliffs better. Its $495 greens fee is certainly a lightning rod. Would you pay it to play? I have.