Appeared in Summer 2014 LINKS
For a trip to Pebble Beach, most golfers stay at the resort and spend only an afternoon or two enjoying the art galleries, shops, and restaurants of Carmel-by-the-Sea. But this charming village has other wonderful accommodations, too, mostly cozy inns like La Playa, newly restored with 75 rooms overlooking a beautiful garden; Cypress Inn, co-owned by Doris Day and very dog friendly; and Tradewinds, upscale and luxurious with a tropical Asian theme.
The storybook town couldn’t be more welcoming: There are no chains (but plenty of great coffee shops and restaurants), no street addresses (homes have names rather than numbers), and high heels over two inches are illegal (the law isn’t enforced but don’t blame the city if you trip on the rustic sidewalks).
The only drawback to staying in town is that it complicates getting on Pebble: Reserving a tee time more than 24 hours in advance requires a two-night minimum stay at the resort. So spend a few leisurely days in Carmel for a delightful diversion, and then stay at the resort to check Pebble and Spyglass off your bucket list.
DAY 1 Morning: Poppy Hills—Just reopened after a top-to-bottom renovation by original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., this layout in the Del Monte Forest is now a must-play with wide-open fairways and thought-provoking greens. Afternoon: The Links at Spanish Bay—If you want ocean views with your golf, it’s tough to top this firm-and-fast design by RTJ II, Sandy Tatum, and Tom Watson. Afterward, have a drink on the outdoor patio at Roy’s while listening to the skirl of the Inn’s bagpiper that closes each day. Off-Course Option: One of the area’s top attractions is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Located on the water in Cannery Row, it’s a real undersea adventure with a number of fantastic tanks like Open Sea, where large tunas and hammerhead sharks whiz by. Evening: Carmel is a foodie’s delight with the top restaurants featuring the freshest farm-to-table ingredients. Recently remodeled with handset stonework and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Court of Fountains, Anton & Michel features European fare with spectacular flambé desserts.
DAY 2 Morning: Stop by a local favorite for breakfast, Katy’s Place, known for berry blintzes and Benedicts, before making the 20-minute drive up Pacific Coast Highway to the Bayonet & Black Horse golf courses in Seaside (check its website for online specials). A $13 million
renovation in 2008 dramatically improved site lines, bunkering, greens, and playing conditions on both courses; if you have time for only one round, opt for Black Horse, which has better ocean views and plays a little friendlier. Off-Course Option: The three-hour Carmel Downtown Food Tour is a great way to learn about the city’s history, culture, and culinary highlights. Evening: Stop by Vesuvio for a drink on its rooftop bar and stay for a wonderful Mediterranean meal. Or wander over to Le St. Tropez, which has a fun, French Riviera atmosphere with outdoor dining, crisp salads, and tasty tapas dishes.
Day 3 Morning: Spyglass Hill—Featuring two distinct terrains, this Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout, part of the AT&T rota, meanders through seaside dunes for the first five holes before turning into the Del Monte Forest, where elevated greens and deep bunkers make for one of the most difficult stretches on the PGA Tour. Afternoon: A short trip inland is the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley where it’s usually a lot sunnier. After being closed for four years, the lodge has reopened following a $28 million renovation and is now on par with the well-conditioned Robert Muir Graves parkland course. Off-Course Option: The Lodge is also home to the Land Rover Experience Driving School where you can make steep descents, log crossings, side-tilts, and rock crawls. Or get in touch with your inner Californian next door at Refuge, a co-ed spa with a totally refreshing hydrothermal circuit. Evening: Whether you’ve booked a room at Pebble Beach or not, a hearty meal at The Tap Room inside the Lodge is a must. The clubby confines feature treasured golf memorabilia, a wide selection of beers, and the best beef.
DAY 4 Morning: Pebble Beach Golf Links—Sure, it’s ridiculously expensive, but every golfer must play it once. Spring for a caddie to add to the experience and enjoy the walk even more.
Off-Course Option: For more cliffside beauty, head south about seven miles to Point Lobos State Reserve, one of the best state parks in a state known for them. In addition to the natural beauty of the rocky cliffs and hiking trails that follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves, the park is a scientific treasure, with rare plant communities and endangered archaeological sites. Since half the reserve is under water, it’s also a popular dive spot with one of the richest marine habitats in California. Evening: Relive your round on Pebble at the Stillwater Bar & Grill overlooking the 18th hole and the eponymous cove. It’s a seafood lover’s delight, particularly the overflowing shellfish bar.
Here's your complete four-day itinerary for enjoying one of golf's true meccas
By: Tom Cunneff