Every golfer has heard of the famous, fabled, gorgeous golf course that is Pebble Beach Golf Links. It’s a bucket list for many, having played host to almost six U.S. Opens and, finally, adding a U.S. Women’s Open to its calendar for 2023.

But Pebble Beach is also a community, unincorporated but highly exclusive, secured by staffed gates with a $10.25 entry fee. Visitors from around the world eagerly pay the fee to meander along the 17-Mile-Drive and gawk at the regal mansions, the rugged Pacific coastline, and the eight golf courses (five of them open to the public) that lie inside its boundaries.

That $10.25 represents a bargain compared to the $500 (plus cart or caddie) it costs to actually play Pebble Beach. To ensure a tee time in advance, you’ll have to book a room for at least two nights at either the Lodge at Pebble Beach or the Inn at Spanish Bay, starting at around $700 nightly and quickly escalating. Play the Links at Spanish Bay or, the toughest of them all in my opinion, Spyglass Hill, and two will spend $3,000 or more.

But to enjoy yourself on this tough, ocean-hugging course, which was not designed with the short hitter in mind, the average golfer should be able to break 100 at home. You also might consider a few of the other non-resort golf options in the vicinity.

You certainly ought to venture outside the Pebble Beach gates to explore adjacent Pacific Grove, Monterey, and, especially cobblestone-paved Carmel-By-The-Sea. After all, one can stay in these Monterey Peninsula towns and still putt on the practice green at Pebble, sip a Manhattan at the Lodge’s Tap Room, and enjoy the bagpiper at sunset outside the Inn at Spanish Bay.


Poppy Hills ($$$)

Inside the gates of Pebble Beach is not just a dramatic coastline, but also the ancient Del Monte Forest. If you play Spyglass, you’ll feel the forest on the back nine, but at serene Poppy Hills, the forest is everywhere. At one tee you might glimpse the ocean on a clear day; at others, you’ll know you’re near the sea from the barking seals. Somehow, the fickle fog still finds its way here. The course, characterized by un-Pebble-like mega-greens, was completely redone in 2014 to be more friendly to the members of the Northern California Golf Association. Their green fees are so discounted for those members, you might consider joining in advance of your visit.

Bayonet and Blackhorse ($$)

These two courses, formerly the property of the Fort Ord military base, should call your name when the rest of the peninsula is soggy. Set on the hill above Monterey, their soil quickly drains in all but the worst storms. As well-maintained as the Pebble Beach courses, Bayonet and Blackhorse have their own spectacular views at below-$100 greens fees, and I don’t have a favorite. They’re also great courses to walk when you’re planning a high-calorie dinner.

Pacific Grove ($)

If you’re doing the Pebble Beach Resorts package, you probably needn’t play Pacific Grove. Known at one time as the poor woman’s Pebble Beach (okay, so I take a poetic license on the gender), Pacific Grove tickles visitors with its back nine along the dunes. You can get a feel here for Pebble Beach golf, especially in a six-club wind, yet, it’s a muni!


Quail Lodge & Golf Club ($$)

Just five miles inland from Carmel-By-The-Sea, this flower-filled, garden-style resort abuts one of the region’s most underrated and well-kept golf courses. The resort itself has a long history, but the rooms have undergone extensive updates in recent years and feel much more luxurious than what you’ll find in town for the same price. If you don’t have time for 18 holes, be sure to test the nine-hole putting course near the accommodations.

Briarwood Inn ($$)

Carmel-by-the-Sea has so many quaint (yes, old) bed-and-breakfasts that run the gamut in quality, you’ll want to inspect the reviews if you’re considering going this route and aren’t fond of knotty pine. I recommend the Briarwood for its comfortable beds, a wide variety of room layouts, fresh (not packaged) continental breakfast offerings, and evening sherry hour. Its location, a few blocks off Ocean Avenue, works for exploring the town, and if you open your windows at night you just might hear the surf.

Carmel Mission Inn ($)

The best bargain on the Peninsula markets itself as a boutique hotel. Well, okay. It’s a renovated chain hotel with a small pool and a restaurant, but the rooms are comfortable and the location at the mouth of Carmel Valley is convenient to the village of Carmel. Just across the street is a fancy shopping center with some fine dining. Get the bed-and-breakfast package for a full breakfast buffet.


Roy’s at Pebble Beach ($$$$)

There are wonderful restaurants at the Lodge, but for my money, I’m having dinner at glass-enclosed Roy’s at the Inn at Spanish Bay, which is set right next to the ocean and the links, so it’s never a chore to dine alone here. Although there are now many Roy’s restaurants, I think each one has unique specialties and a uniformly tremendous mai tai on the menu. This one would be my favorite.
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