Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes)
California, United States of America
Eighth hole, 400 yards; This downhiller was once a standout. Little was done to it during the renovation, and yet it no longer seems to be clearly better than the other holes featured in this Holes to Note section. The conclusion? Jones did a fine job of raising the overall standard of these other holes, and thus the course in general.
Ninth hole, 480 yards; None too taxing unless you give the green a go in two shots. In that case, the golfer must cross a natural sand ridge that juts into the fairway some thirty yards shy of the green. The contrast of the sand, ice plant, cypress trees and fairway is invigorating and signals one’s proximity to the Ocean, which the golfer now hears for the first time.
Tenth hole, 165 yards; The tee is perched on top of a sand dune with the green below and the Pacific beyond. To one’s right is Spanish Bay. To one’s left is the stunning coastline heading toward Cypress Point. This Short is simple enough except for that other dimension: The wind, which plays havoc with the best laid plans. Placing his Short on the windest spot on the course was a shrewd move by Raynor as few Americans properly control their ball flight, and this hole ruthlessly exposes that flaw.
Thirteenth hole, 505 yards; The original green complex was devoid of interest and big hitters often got the ball up and down from any area around the green for an easy birdie. Jones created a tightly mown chipping area to the left of the green that changed all that.
Fourteenth hole, 175 yards; The nearby on-lookers from a State coastal lookout point guarantee the golfer an audience as he flights his tee ball over the rocks and crashing surf to the distant green.
Sixteenth hole, 380 yards; Holes that feature some bend or curve are obviously desirable for windy sites as in that manner, the golfer is always caught second guessing himself on the exact affect the wind will have on any particular shot. Yet, many links in the United Kingdom lack such holes. Indeed, Old Tom Morris preferred straight holes such as those found at Lundin Golf Club. Thankfully, Raynor did not and the Dunes course is more engaging for it, especially as one approaches the Pacific with curving holes such as the eighth, ninth, thirteenth, and fifteenth. Interestingly enough, Raynor’s routing had the sixteenth as a straightaway 340 yard hole. Ray Leach, who Johnny Miller claimed in Golf Digest was the finest striker of a golf ball he ever encountered, once drove the fifth, eleventh and sixteenth greens of the Dunes in a round in 1982. The current dog-leg left hole was suggested by Bill Brandt and Andy Nottenkamper, a five time club champion, in the early 1990s. John Zoller, the father of the current Green Keeper for both courses at MPCC, created this clever dogleg shortly thereafter when he was the Green Keeper here (and before he went onto become the General Manager, then a head figure for the Pebble Beach Corp, then General Manager of the Northern California Golf Association and finally running Tehama for Clint Eastwood before passing away in early 2007).
Though Raynor died before the Dunes Course was completed, his exemplary routing remains the highlight as it takes full advantage of the property’s natural beauty. Indeed, Raynor historian George Bahto considers Raynor’s ‘routing skills as his strongest asset.’
In the case of the Dunes course, the first three holes go uphill and away from the ocean. These holes were never going to make the course but individually, they are each fine holes (in fact, Rees’s bold contouring back left on the second green makes for an inspiring hole location). Having rid himself of the least appealing land at the start, Raynor turns things up a notch with the downhill Bairritz fourth and the golf stays exciting through at least the sixteenth hole. The last two holes again head away from the Ocean and toward the clubhouse. The golfer can’t help but appreciate how much more appealing such a sequence is than the one at nearby Spyglass Hill, where its blazing start fizzles out in a series of fine – but uninspired – holes.
The Board at Monterey Peninsula Country Club had no easy decision. To renovate rather than restore a Raynor course was a difficult decision, especially given the current euphoria that surrounds Raynor courses. However, for drainage reasons, coupled with the fact that Raynor never saw this design through himself, the Board made the right decision. The course plays faster and firmer than it ever has and the golfer delights in having all options available to him.
In summary, the golf on offer here today is the best it has ever been – surely, that is what matters the most?