Review: Monterey Peninsula Country Club

The par-3 11th from the tee
January 17, 2013 11:41:36 AM PST
When the ATT Pebble Beach Pro-Am moved from Poppy Hills to the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in 2010, it was not without historical precedent. MPCC hosted the original gathering in 1947, back when it consisted of Bing Crosby and a few of his industry friends. They played MPCC's Dunes Course for eighteen consecutive years.

Now the ATT returns for a third year to the Shore Course, the newer, modern, more highly rated of MPCC's two 18's. Robert Baldock designed the original routing in 1960. Mike Strantz oversaw a redesign in 2003. Membership at this exclusive private club has it privileges, which include the sight, sound, and spray of pounding surf while playing a round.

The Shore is a links-style par-72 with five par-5's and five par 3's. It is rugged and always scenic, playing through forests, grasslands and sand dunes across firm, rolling fairways. Members describe The Shore as a windy course, which makes a good ground game both viable and valuable. Most American players have never learned a proper bump-and-run. The Shore Course often begs for it, at least in front of the greens.

The Shore appears regularly in Golf Digest's list of top 100 courses, and with good reason. It has all the elements of excellence---aesthetics, walkability, tradition, incredibly good conditioning, a strong resistance to par from the tips, and a fine variety of shot values. Every hole is picturesque and a little different, reflecting the changes in terrain. The course begins and ends in elevation-changing forestland, with the ocean holes in between.

The one-two punch of the par-5 10TH, and par-3 11th stand out in particular. In a word, WOW.

The par-5 10th plays 482 to 543 yards. It's a difficult dogleg left along the ocean to an elevated and steep green cut between hills and trees. The 10th is a relatively simple hole, except for a large waste bunker guarding much of the fairway's inner elbow. Play your second shot right of it or over it. Whatever you do, stay out of it, or abandon any realistic hope of a precise shot into the tricky and demanding green.

When you finish playing the 10th, make sure to turn around, look back, and admire the view. It's sensational, and about to get better as soon as you climb a rocky perch for your tee shot to the 11th.

This 170-181 yard par-3 is one of the special sites and holes in golf. It's a treacherous gem. It requires only a simple, downhill shot, but the green is so effectively and beautifully bunkered that the mere site of it, far below in the afternoon air, can intimidate a player into second-guessing his club selection. The hole is all visuals and execution.

If you are ever fortunate enough to be invited onto MPCC, jump at the opportunity. This is a quintessential private club experience. The staff is helpful and attentive without being obsequious. The wealthy members are comfortable in their own skins. The times I have played there, they made us feel welcome.

You will find one of my favorite touches in the snack shack (if you can call it that), behind the sixth green. It's perched on a hill overlooking golf course and ocean. They serve all the usual sandwiches and drinks, but to fully experience The Shore Course, order the signature beef chili. It's like that hamburger at the turn when you play Olympic, or the pimento sandwiches at Augusta. MPCC serves its chili in a coffee cup with onions and cheddar piled on top, if you desire. Delicious stuff.

One other warning. If you take that chili back outside, put a cover on the top. The birds like it, too.


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