The 12 Best California Oceanside Courses You Can Play

Nothing stirs the golfer’s soul quite like playing alongside the ocean. Each year, we watch as the PGA Tour journeys along the California coastline; first dueling with Torrey Pines, then taking on another one of golf’s greatest seaside championship tests, Pebble Beach. There’s no red-blooded golfer alive that wouldn’t relish a round at Pebble, but those coveted tee times are scarce. Fortunately, if you crave seaside golf on the left coast, there are many options.

Some superb ocean-view layouts have been omitted, such as Pasatiempo, that enjoy handsome vistas, but not the prospect of finding the water with a tee shot. We awarded bonus points for proximity to the Pacific.

Here are the 12 best public-access oceanside courses on the California coast.

Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach

Host to six U.S. Opens, more than 70 PGA Tour events, and countless photos of the Pacific Ocean, Pebble is oft-changed since its 1919 debut—yet even today, no more thrilling, spectacular stretch of holes exists anywhere than holes 5 through 10. And is there anything in golf that can compare with that final stroll up the par-five 18th as it curves to the left around Carmel Bay?

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Pebble Beach (photo by Evan Schiller)

Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach

Part of the rotation for the PGA Tour’s Bing Crosby (now AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) since 1967, this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design has been one of the tour’s hardest layouts for nearly 50 years. Holes 2 through 5 at Spyglass Hill make up one of the best stretches of golf on the planet. A short uphill par four; a shortish, downhill par three; a short, level par four; and a mid-length par three; these four holes zigzag through beachside dunes and feature full-frontal ocean panoramas.

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Spyglass Hill (photo courtesy Pebble Beach Company)

Torrey Pines Golf Course (South), La Jolla

The most celebrated municipal layout west of the Mississippi has played host to the PGA Tour for 56 years, with winners that include Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods. It was Woods that cemented Torrey’s reputation for tournament drama with his heroics at the 2008 U.S. Open—nearly matched by Jon Rahm’s performance in 2021. Stretched by Rees Jones to 7,800 yards, Torrey South is without a hole that plays over or around the Pacific, but you’ll never forget the downhill par-three 3rd with the waves crashing in the backdrop or the long par-four 4th, perched atop a bluff with the ocean on the left.

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Torrey Pines South, 4th hole (photo courtesy Torrey Pines Golf Club)

Links at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach

This undeniably gorgeous layout from Robert Trent Jones Jr. (with Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum) begins at the Pacific Ocean, eases through marshes and dunes, climbs into the forest and finally returns to the sea. The green at the par-five 1st affords a sweeping panorama of the waters of Spanish Bay, clear out to the spit of land known as Point Joe, which serves as home to the Restless Sea, where ocean and bay currents collide, creating a tumult of foamy, white sea spray.

Pelican Hill Resort (Ocean South), Newport Coast

Dating to 1991, the elder of the Tom Fazio courses here features wide fairways, coastal breezes, and landscaping and the usual artful Fazio shaping. Most memorable are the back-to-back oceanside par threes at 12 and 13, the latter a two-green setup with the putting surfaces separated by an enormous sand feature. Stick around for a stellar finish, highlighted by a double canyon crossing at the 453-yard par-four 18th.

Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles, Rancho Palos Verdes

One of Southern California’s bucket list courses for connoisseurs of seaside golf, the 7,242-yard par-71 Trump L.A. layout enjoys a spectacular bluff-top setting above the Pacific, some 40 minutes south of LAX. Draped atop cliffs amid the rolling horse country of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, few courses in America offer so many ocean vistas for four and a half hours. Pete Dye created the original design and Trump, Tom Fazio, and Gil Hanse have provided tweaks over the past 25 years. The bunker-strewn, 512-yard par-four 18th with the Pacific on the left is a drama-splashed closer.

Half Moon Bay Golf Links (Ocean), Half Moon Bay

Located 23 miles south of the San Francisco Airport, this 1997 Arthur Hills design was tweaked 15 years later to deliver links-like playing conditions to pair with its seaside setting. The front nine offers several glimpses of the ocean, but it’s the back nine that gets the pulse racing and the cameras ready. The spectacular par-four 16th and par-three 17th scoot along the cliff edge above the Pacific, with the handsome Ritz-Carlton in the backdrop.

Torrey Pines Golf Course (North), La Jolla

Torrey Pines North has long served as co-host for rounds one and two at the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open, but generally took a backseat to its beefier, more prominent sibling, even as it was the more scenic of the two. Following a 2016 Tom Weiskopf renovation, however, the North shines with new luster. All 18 greens were rebuilt, all fairway bunkers were reconstructed, and more tee boxes were established for more variety. The stellar ocean views remain intact, though Weiskopf reversed the nines, so you’ll have to wait until the 15th hole for the jaw-dropping par three that goes full frontal with the Pacific.

Sandpiper Golf Club, Goleta

A renovation 10 years ago enhanced the character of this 1972 Billy Bell Jr. design, though some critics have sniped that the layout never did take full advantage of its remarkable clifftop setting. Holes that have always fulfilled expectations, however, are the six that practically touch the Pacific Ocean. Most memorable are the 224-yard par-three 11th, with its downhill, head-on view of the water and the 532-yard par-five 13th, provided you get to play to the precipice green to the right, with the churning ocean below, rather than the alternate green to the left.

Monarch Beach Golf Links, Dana Point

Robert Trent Jones Jr. put extra effort into designing Monarch Beach in 1984, stating at the time that “…after all, this may be the last ocean course built in the United States…” It wasn’t, but credit Jones for installing sufficient bite and strategic interest into the 6,645-yard par-70 layout—and credit mother nature for its early crescendo, the 315-yard par-four 3rd. Pacific surf splashes at the fairway’s right edge on this dogleg left; smartly placed bunkers and trees demand that you attack prudently, whether laying up or going for the (semi-blind) green.

Pacific Grove Golf Links, Pacific Grove

Locals call it the “Poor man’s Pebble Beach”—an apt description, given its oceanside back nine, its proximity to Pebble and its price tag under $100, even if you decide to ride on this easily walkable layout. Pacific Grove’s parkland front nine isn’t especially memorable, but it gives way to a stirring seaside back nine that includes ocean views, sand dunes, and a lighthouse. The oceanside, 513-yard par-five 12th is a risk/reward treat: With the Pacific Ocean on the left, the fairway boomerangs around dunes to the right. Amid typical crosswinds, how much corner do you dare to cut?

Half Moon Bay Golf Links (Old), Half Moon Bay

A 1973 Arnold Palmer/Frank Duane design, the Old meanders unmemorably through parkland neighborhoods for most of its journey. Improbably, however, the layout closes with an absolute jaw-dropper, a 405-yard par-four that slopes downhill toward a wetland that bisects the fairway, eventually ending at a green cocooned by the stunning Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. To the right of the entire hole is the gigantic water hazard known as the Pacific Ocean. Tom Doak once called the first 17 holes, “mostly Hamburger Helper,” but the ocean encounter at the finale ultimately makes the meal very satisfying.

What is your favorite oceanside golf course?

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