Absolutely walk Pebble and take a caddie. A cart is more a hinderance than an aid at PB since it is cart path only and the paths are located well away from the fairways, so one ends up walking almost just as much, with a lot more hassle. The caddies are usually pretty good and enhance the experience, and that stroll down the 18th fairway with a caddie lugging your bag, feeling like a tour pro, is absolutely worth it.
Be prepared that the caddie will double bag with your buddy; solo caddies just don't really happen there unless you're playing as a single. But they're very good at it and you'll still get plenty of special attention. It also helps increase the odds of getting a more experienced caddie, as they tend to assign the more junior ones to people playing as a single. Once I stopped by the pro shop the day before my round and asked if they could do me the favor of getting me an older, grizzled caddie, like someone right out of central casting. The guy behind the desk laughed and said he knew exactly what I meant, and sure enough the next day had an older guy who was outstanding, with a great sarcastic sense of humor, excellent knowledge of the course, and fun stories about past players and residents.
Spyglass is fairly hilly, but I'd also walk it, and taking a caddie is nice but not really needed. If you don't mind the cost, it certainly makes the round easier and adds to the special feel. Again, if you take a cart you end up walking almost as much anyway. Another reason I'd walk Spy is that to me, it is the most sensuous courses I've ever played, and walking only enhances that feeling, especially if you're lucky and the sun is out. The way the shadows dance across the fairways, combined with the ever-present smell of the sea air, the sounds of sea lions barking in the distance and the wind whispering through the trees, birds chirping everywhere, the sight of deer bounding across a fairway, and the constant feeling of slight slopes under your feet as you walk...they all combine to engage all your senses, not just those focused on golf. Spy is truly magical in the late afternoon when the light is getting golden and the shadows long.
I don't care much for Spanish Bay, but some love it. To me it tries too hard to be like a British Isles links course but misses the mark, and doesn't have the greens typical of a links design, so you want to play like a links course but it really requires a more typical American hit-it-high type of game. If you do play there, I wouldn't bother with a caddie. Not much hidden there, and it makes a good warm up round. Speaking of warm up, Spanish Bay doesn't have its own range, so you need to go up the hill to Spyglass which is closest to use their range first if you need it.
I like Poppy, both before and after the remodel, but I wouldn't place it above Spyglass. The course design and conditioning is nice, but I just like Spy a little better, especially because of its sensuous nature (more so than Poppy). Poppy is fully up in the forest and is lovely, but doesn't have views. While much of Spy is also in the forest, the first holes wander down the hill towards the water, then back up the hill into the trees, offering more design variety and different flow through the round.
If you're staying at either the Inn or the Lodge, they have handy shuttle that runs between the properties. It's nice to go to one of the other restaurants and enjoy adult beverages without having to worry about driving back on the twisty roads in the dark. One can also take a shuttle into Carmel which is nice for the wives if they don't want to deal with Carmel's notorious parking problems. And although the shuttle is convenient, I always use my own car to get around for golf as parking is plentiful at all the courses. First time I played Spanish Bay I warmed up at the range at Spyglass and then had to wait 15 minute for the shuttle back, which kind of negated the purpose of the warm up.
For food at the resorts, Tap Room is fun for the history and it's often a good spot to run into a celeb or two. One time I was there I ran into Condoleezza Rice while walking in and Roger Maltby was holding court at a big table in the middle, going through a bunch of wine bottles with a few couples (and all the wives were stunning). The food there is good but not spectacular, and I'd do it for lunch but wouldn't bother with dinner there. They do have a very proper, well stocked bar, though. Stillwater has pretty good food, and is nice upscale spot for dining if you don't want to into Carmel or Monterey. The Bench at the Lodge has become "the" spot for casual fare and drinks after a round at Pebble, served outside overlooking the 18th green. Over at the Inn at Spanish Bay, Roy's has pretty good Asian fusion food, but Roy's is a pretty big chain so if you're familiar with them on Hawaii or other locations it isn't that different. Peppoli's has very good Italian food, but the two times I've been there the service has been lacking.
I also like Passionfish. For other dining, I'd highly recommend Casanova in Carmel. It's one of our favorite restaurants anywhere. If you're into wine, ask the sommelier if you can get a tour of their cellar, and if he isn't too busy he'll gladly take you down. It was hand dug over years under the restaurant, extremely well stocked, and just feels like one of most interesting cellars you'll ever visit. The food is casual French, really good, with outstanding service (at least it has been every time I've been), and the interior is very quaint and romantic. Another nice thing is they have a large selection of very good wine half bottles, so it is easy to come up with interesting wine pairings for every course.
And I completely agree with the prior posts about driving around Big Sur and going to Point Lobos. Stunning scenery. Absolutely stunning. A nice lunch destination a bit over an hour south of Pebble in Big Sur is Sierra Mar, the restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn. Outstanding place, perched up high on the bluffs with amazing views of the coast line. Makes for a nice excursion to leisurely drive down the coast, stopping a few times to enjoy the sights, the relax with great food at the Post Ranch Inn, and either go further south or just return. I've always wanted to stay there, but at well over $1000 a night for a room that's never going to happen, but it's neat to eat there and experience a bit of it. Nepenthe is also a good lunch place, not quite as dramatic setting, and the food is pretty good but not up to the Post Ranch. But it is sort of a quintessential Big Sur experience, sort of bohemian, new age and quirky, with an interesting shop next door.
Damn, man, just typing this stuff has me wanting to get back there right away!!!
Edited by Clambake, 15 May 2018 - 07:50 PM.