Hole 13: Par 4, 316 Yards
This is the heart of Pacific Grove Golf Links. The 13th through the 15th holes are all par 4s, and they occupy the finest property on the course — an expanse of natural, rolling duneland that, among the courses in the area, only certain stretches of Cypress Point and Spyglass Hill can rival. But these holes are more than pretty. They are also supremely well designed, tempting the golfer on every shot to play dangerously close to the dunes.
Your strategy on the short par-4 13th should first take into account the peculiarities of the green complex. Surrounded by dunes and obscured by a fronting mound, the green can be difficult to see from too far back in the fairway. The longer you hit your tee shot, the less blind your approach will be.
But an aggressive drive could land you into trouble. If your ball carries more than 250 yards down the middle, it may run through the dogleg and into the environmentally protected area beyond. Longer players may therefore aim left and attempt to carry the dune that defends the inside of the dogleg — a play that requires a firm strike and no hint of a hook.
Most will take a less daring tack. If you go with a 200-yard long iron or hybrid, you will have plenty of fairway to work with, but you will not have a complete view of the green. A fairway wood down the left-center will entail more risk but will probably stay short of the trouble and, if well executed, will set up a simple pitch to an almost fully visible green.
The green itself is one of the most intricate on the course. A pushed approach will kick into a swale on the right, whereas a shot that lands in the front left quadrant of the green will filter toward the center and probably leave an uphill putt. Of course, this target is likely to be blocked from your view by the front-left mound.
At 316 yards, the 13th is a birdie opportunity, but only if you think your way through each shot.
Hole 14: Par 4, 356 Yards
Since the 13th and 14th fairways join about 220 yards from the 14th tee, the landing area here will strike you as wide open, especially compared to the narrow parkland corridors of the front nine. But this is actually a tricky drive.
If you aim at the widest and most visible part of the fairway (straight over the dirt cart path in the photo above), you will not find much trouble, but your approach will be uphill and blind.
If, on the other hand, you take a bold line over the dunes, toward the smokestack in the distance, you will have a straight-on view of the green on your second shot.
While this aggressive play from the tee could result in a simple pitch-and-putt birdie, it could also put you in some of the gnarliest duneland on the course.
Hole 15: Par 4, 397 Yards
The dilemma from the 15th tee is similar to the one from the 14th, except now you are driving uphill and dealing with a significantly longer hole.
If you go at the section of the fairway that you can see — between the Point Pinos Lighthouse and the blue NOAA Fisheries building in the distance — you will have a long, uphill approach from an awkward angle. Played in this way, the 397-yard 15th hole feels more like 450. But if you hit it solidly over the left shoulder of the dunes, to the right of the NOAA building, your second shot will likely be a mid to short iron from high ground straight down the length of the green.
The 15th green site is austere and, to my eye, arresting. Bunkerless and bordered on the right by tall dunes, the green simply sits on the land. There is bail-out room to the left, but a chip from here will have to contend first with subtle green-side mounding and then with the back-to-front cant of the putting surface.
When playing the middle stretch of Pacific Grove’s back nine, I have frequently felt that there is nowhere I would rather be. This is public golf at its best.