The ultimate American public-access tee time for history, drama, and scenery, Pebble Beach Golf Links never fails to enchant our senses. Every red-blooded golfer alive yearns to play Pebble—but high demand and a special occasion green fee mean that not everybody can.
Fortunately, Pebble Beach Resorts serves up a collection of sibling courses that are drenched in appeal of their own. You simply must play Pebble Beach at least once—but here’s where to play when you’re not playing Pebble.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course—7,026 yards, par 72
How can a course that invariably gets ranked in America’s top 10 public-access tracks be labeled “underrated?” That’s what happens when your neighbors are Pebble Beach and Cypress Point. Yet, Spyglass Hill would be a headliner nearly everywhere else.
Part of the rotation for the PGA Tour’s Bing Crosby (now AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) since 1967, this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design has been one of the tour’s toughest layouts for more than 50 years. Holes 2 through 5 at Spyglass 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. The quirky 376-yard 4th is one of Jones’s most unforgettable creations, thanks to a progressively narrow fairway that slopes toward the Pacific and a long, slender diagonal green tucked into flora-topped dunes.
Holes 6 through 18 are densely forested and mostly play uphill but are gorgeous and testing. And the unique par-five 1st hole encompasses both dunes and forest. At 597 yards, with a sharp dogleg left, it’s where most people board the bogey train at Spyglass. Sure, it’s the kid brother in Pebble Beach Resorts’ family, but it can hold its own by any measure.
The Links at Spanish Bay—6,739 yards, par 72
The youngest sibling among championship courses in the Pebble Beach Resorts’ family is now a 37-year-old adult, but it too has established its own identity. Ranked among America’s top 100 public courses, this undeniably stunning layout from Robert Trent Jones Jr. (with Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum consulting) begins at the Pacific Ocean, eases through marshes and dunes, climbs into the forest, and finally returns to the sea. The green at the 500-yard 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.
Contrast the tiny, 308-yard par-four 2nd, its lumpy green backdropped by the handsome Inn at Spanish Bay, with the meaty, 454-yard par-four 5th that heads straight out to the ocean, and you get a whiff of the variety that unfolds here. Purists pout that there are too many trees, wetlands, and forced carries to call it a true links, but with reliable breezes, firm turf, and a lone bagpiper sounding his tune along the first fairway at dusk, you realize that this could easily pass for Scotland. In September of 2023, Pebble Beach Resorts announced a partnership with Gil Hanse to redesign the course. While specific plans have yet to be released, it’s clear that there’s another chapter or two in Spanish Bay’s storybook.
Del Monte Golf Course—6,356 yards, par 72
Touted as the oldest course in continuous play west of the Mississippi, Del Monte, located east of the main resort property in Monterey, isn’t a must-play, but it’s surely a fun play. Originally designed by Charles Maud in 1897 and expanded to 18 holes in 1902, Pebble’s “original” course was host to the very first California State Amateur in 1912. The tournament winner was Jack Neville, who would go on to design the Pebble Beach Golf Links six years later.
Befitting a layout of its time, Del Monte is shoehorned into a pint-sized tract, its slender fairways bracketed by oaks. Bereft of water hazards, its defenses come from small greens, overhanging tree branches, coastal breezes, and a minefield of bunkers. Its old-fashioned virtues were sufficient to test the PGA Tour Champions in the First Tee Open from 2004 through 2013.
The crowned green at the 215-yard par-three 14th makes this the toughest hole at Del Monte to par, but high-handicappers sweat a bit more at the 376-yard par-four 7th, which asks for a tee shot to carry a mature oak tree in the fairway center, with OB edging uncomfortably close on the left side. For those who reach in regulation, a three-tiered green can thwart any chances at birdie—or par.
The Hay—670 yards, par 27
Originally designed in 1957 by Pebble Beach head professional Peter Hay, with help from Jack Neville and General Robert McClure, this 9-hole short course is situated right across the street from the Pebble Beach pro shop and first tee. It was completely reimagined by TGR Design (Tiger Woods and Beau Welling) in 2021.
Pebble Beach Resorts recognized the fun factor injected into every short par-3 course by Woods and Welling and hired them to transform Peter Hay into The Hay. Measuring a petite 670 yards, holes range from 47 to 106 yards. Eight of the nine holes feature a precise yardage tied to a historical event at Pebble Beach, including the 106-yard 2nd hole, a replica of the stunning downhill par-three 7th on Pebble Beach’s championship course.
Crafted on a sloping hillside, the reoriented layout features four holes that play directly at Carmel Bay. Other holes of note include the 92-yard 8th, 1992 being the year Tom Kite won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and the 100-yard 9th, signifying Tiger’s own U.S. Open win there in 2000 at the 100th playing of the championship.
“We know not everyone who comes to Pebble Beach will have a chance to play the U.S. Open course,” says Woods, “so we wanted to create the opportunity for all visitors to experience one of its most famous holes.”
Neighbors, Not Siblings
Practically kinfolk due to their locations—but not formally part of the Pebble Beach Resorts family—are Poppy Hills Golf Course and Pacific Grove Golf Links.
Poppy Hills Golf Course—6,730 yards, par 71
Owned and operated by the Northern California Golf Association, Poppy Hills is a 1986 Robert Trent Jones Jr. design located in the middle of the Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach. Praised upon opening, it earned a slot as a co-host to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am from 1991–2009. Over time, however, it was evident tweaks were in order. In 2013–14, the Jones team returned and performed a makeover.
They sand-capped the entire course, providing bouncy fairways and eliminated traditional rough, utilizing just one fairway-height cut of grass. Native sandy areas now linked fairway to forest; 1980s-style mounds were eliminated; and the old roller coaster greens were softened and re-grassed.
Among the design changes were the creation of a new par-five 9th hole, a par-three 11th that now heads in the opposite direction, and a transformation of the dogleg par-five 12th to a straightaway par four that yields a stunning ocean view. In 2016, they flipped the nines, so the superb risk/reward 9th now plays as the 18th. Once a “should-play,” Poppy Hills is now a must-play.
Pacific Grove Golf Links—5,727 yards, par 70
Pacific Grove is in the coastal town of the same name, adjacent to Spanish Bay. 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 92-year-old parkland front nine isn’t especially memorable, but it gives way to a stirring seaside back nine, created in 1960 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?
What’s the best budget golf course in the USA?
Let’s start the talk with Pacific Grove in Monterey.
For $64 on a weekday you can walk a golf course sitting on probably a billion dollars worth of land.
What’s your nomination? pic.twitter.com/Rb0rB6VBJA
— Rick Golfs (@Top100Rick) January 24, 2024
Have you visited Pebble Beach and played any of these courses? Tell us about your experience in the comment section.