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Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links Review

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With nearly 20 golf courses to choose from, Monterey California is a golf destination second to none.

When you think of Monterey there are the typical suspects that come to mind, Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, and Spanish Bay. But Cypress is not accessible to the mere mortal and the others are quite expensive and can have access restrictions. But fear not, some of the other contenders in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Fort Ord, and Del Monte are fantastic golf courses in their own right, they just happen to have some of the best golf courses in the world as their neighbor.

I recently had the opportunity to play Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links and would consider it one of the best municipal golf courses in the country. The Pacific Grove Golf Links may not be the most well known, most publicized, or the typical destination spot of golfers that head to Monterey, but it is a gem. Unlike Pebble, Poppy, or Spanish Bay, Pacific Grove is a hidden favorite of the locals. It is fairly priced, in good shape, and provides a nice challenge. It is not the longest course in Monterey, nor is it the hardest. The greatest part of the Pacific Grove experience for me was the fact that the back nine is almost directly on the ocean. For a municipal golf course and paying $62 dollars on a Friday morning, with a golf cart, I was treated to an amazing golf experience.

Pacific Grove tips out at almost 6,000 yards. Although very short by today’s standards, it played much harder than the scorecard would infer. The front nine is a par 35 and starts out with two par threes. There are a few shorter holes scattered in there, and there are two back to back 530-550 yard par fives. Add in a 420 yard par four and you have the idea of the front nine. Some short, some long, some easy, some hard.

The real fun starts on the back nine. This is where the course turns from an inland style golf course, to a links style. The back nine is primarily on the water and there are sand dunes, and some ice plant, both dead and alive, scattered throughout the nine holes. The coastal commission decided that the ice plant is harmful and is on a mission to rid the course of the offensive plant. Anyone that has ever tried to hit out of the ice plant knows its absence allows the back nine to play slightly easier. The wind was fresh off the ocean and affects the play on this nine much more than on the front. The back side is more of a traditional nine holes playing to a par 36: two par threes, two par fives, and five par fours. If the wind is up, the back nine will present more than a fair challenge for even the best of golfers. The design of the course is well thought out and it is obvious the wind patterns are incorporated into the design. The views on the back nine were nothing short of spectacular. It is sometimes hard to focus on the golf game at hand because you are looking at the ocean views, the deer promenading, and the $60 steal on golf you got. There is a reason why this place is often referred to as the poor mans pebble beach, you don’t need to pay a lot to be enriched by this amazing experience.

I would highly recommend Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links. As a former golf professional, I have had the privilege to play some of the greatest golf courses in the world. The experience I had at Pacific Grove is one that I will remember. It is not about the length of the course, or the condition (even though it was in good shape), it was about the experience. The pro shop staff were nice and accommodating, and the shop was very well stocked and in good order. They had a driving range where you could warm up, and even though it only goes to about 200 yards uphill, it was nice to be able to a few shots before heading out to the course. Not to mention the Point Pinos Grill, a pleasant surprise. The staff were on top of their game, the menu was excellent, and the food quality did not disappoint. If you are in the Monterey area and are looking for a great experience, I would suggest Pacific Grove Golf Links. I don’t think you will be disappointed, I wasn’t.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kennet

    Oct 6, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Even while playing it seems as tguhoh you’re taking your time and explaining the concepts just for me. You’re an amazing instructor. I wish you were located in San Antonio, TX. Your techniques have improved my game drastically. Getting closer and closer to breaking 100 without do-overs and I use to play about 125 golf with do-overs. Thanks a million

  2. Dan

    Mar 6, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Oops. Just looked at the last picture in the article and there is one of the pictures of the lighthouse that I took. So it is there after all!!! That is great.

    Dan

  3. Dan

    Mar 6, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for the response. I do have pictures of the lighthouse, they just did not make it into the final cut of the article. Sorry about that….and yes, the back nine on that golf course is amazing.

  4. Jim McDonough

    Mar 6, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Nice report on PG GC. I was formerly stationed in Monterey while serving in the US Coast Guard. Too bad you didn’t get a photo of the lighthouse on the course it adds to the character of the course. And the back 9 is Pebble Beach for 1/10 the cost.

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Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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