Appeared in January/February 2006 LINKS
Bob Zoller can still see Mike Strantz. When Zoller, the superintendent of Monterey Peninsula Country Club for almost 30 years, walks the Shore course, he sees the late architect sitting in his utility cart in the middle of an unfinished fairway, staring into the distance.
“He would be there just zoned out, looking at where a green would be,” says Zoller. “I realized right away that instead of talking to him, I should just leave him alone and not break his concentration.”
Strantz brought his unique brand of intensity to the course’s redesign even prior to being awarded the assignment. The six-person committee was enraptured by his presentation and his ideas for the layout, which Strantz had sketched in stunning detail. His drawings showed a complete rerouting, with most of the course facing south toward nearby Cypress Point and Spyglass Hill.
In January 2002 the Monterey Peninsula Country Club committee chose Strantz to renovate the course. Around that same time, he also was diagnosed with an aggressive form of tongue cancer. Nevertheless, a year later he moved into a rented house on what would become the 15th fairway.
While its sister course, Dunes, was built in 1926, the construction of the Shore came more than three decades later, after developer Samuel F.B. Morse turned the land over to Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s membership for $1—under the condition that a golf course be built on the site within two years. With a budget of $164,000, Bob Baldock and Jack Neville hurriedly built a straightforward layout with flat fairways.
Decades later, when the drainage needed improvement, the members seized the opportunity to make the layout as stunning as its site along the Pacific Ocean. Strantz fashioned 12 new holes and remodeled the other six, making ocean views as prevalent as they are at nearby Pebble Beach
Strantz worked while enduring chemotherapy treatments, losing close to 80 pounds and most of his hair. Occasionally, he would be bedridden for the entire day. Yet he still maintained his reputation as a hands-on designer, marking every nook of the course on his own.
“I couldn’t be in a much better place, and more excited about a design,” Strantz said during the project. “It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel it’s worth the battle. It’s the best medicine there is.”
Shore reopened in June 2004, just after Strantz underwent procedures to remove most of his tongue. But he didn’t have much time to enjoy his masterpiece: A year later, he passed away. Shore course would be his final design—and likely his best.