Pacific Grove Golf Links: Introduction

General evaluation

Pacific Grove Golf Links has famously distinct nines. The front, built by H. Chandler Egan in 1932, traces a narrow figure eight through the cypress forest above Lovers Point; the back, added by Jack Neville in 1960, plunges into the dunes below the Point Pinos Lighthouse. The Neville nine gets all the attention. Its ocean views, rumpled fairways, and expanses of brambly sand are the main selling points of the course. The Egan nine, however, has its own aesthetic and strategic virtues, which not everyone appreciates the first time through. Vacationing golfers are sometimes disappointed to find themselves playing two-and-a-half hours of parkland golf before getting to the holes they saw on Google Images. Of course, the back nine is far superior; with its setting, it could hardly avoid being so. But the full eighteen has the narrative coherence of a great walk, one that starts peacefully in the forest and ends with a blast of the sublime by the sea.

I live in the Monterey area, and although the region is full of great courses, I play most of my non-vacation rounds at PG Golf Links. With my $120 annual membership card, I pay $15 for nine holes and $30 for eighteen. This course is a testament to the potential of municipal golf and the vigor of mid-century American public works.

Grade: A-

Looking down from the 16th tee box at the 11th (left) and 15th (right) greens


Scattered notes

  • Take a hole-by-hole Google Maps tour over at BlueGolf.
  • Local player Adam Clayman wrote an informative profile of PG Golf Links for the “In My Opinion” section of Golf Club Atlas.
  • On every tee at PG Golf Links, you need to think about club selection and shot shape. Most players should use driver sparingly — on the front nine in particular. Perhaps because the Egan holes were designed in the days of hickory shafts, a few of the fairways dogleg at 200-220 yards, creating a temptation to aim for the corners and try to launch big drives over the old-growth cypress. But this is rarely a wise tactic.
  • Sandy waste winds through the Neville holes, but artificial bunkering is minimal. I count 10 manmade bunkers on the front nine, seven on the back, and just one fairway bunker on the entire course. But the course still demands precise shotmaking. Almost every green-side bunker is intelligently placed and should influence strategy from the tee.
  • The greens are generally small, round, and free of gaudy shaping. They are tricky to read, though; most of them are canted, some severely, and the general slope of the land toward the ocean seems to affect a lot of putts.
  • The course has a stellar collection of short par 4s (3, 4, 11, 13, 14, and 16), but its par 3s are largely devoid of interest. The absence of a strategically rich par 3 is the major flaw of the current layout.

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