While the Spanish Bay golf course is not as well known as its sister course, Pebble Beach, it still offer a formidable challenge to any golfer. Actually, it borders on being too difficult for the beginner, as evidenced by the slope of 137 from the gold tees (the intermediate men’s tees). The course opened in 1988 and is owned by the same company that operates Pebble Beach and Spyglass. They allow non-playing spouses to ride with you, which allow you to capture everything via camera. However, don’t spend too much time checking out the scenery, because the marshals will be on you in a flash to make sure you are keeping time. So long as you keep the round to 4 1/2 to 5 hours, they will leave you alone. After all, you will want to slow down some from your normal golfing pace to enjoy yourself and get your money's worth, but hopefully not through additional stokes.
The difficulty of the course is not in the distance of the holes, but rather the fact that the high grass and environmental areas, which will result in a firm tongue-lashing by the marshals if you dare walk into them, make it tough to deal with any wayward balls. I am a 12 handicapper and lost 8 balls. The high winds also contribute to golf balls flying off the playable field as well. You can almost bank on a two or three club wind most of the time. If you incur anything else, consider yourself lucky. Trees are not an issue, and while visible, water is not a major incumbent either. The lack of those two items is more than made up by the undulation of the fairways and numerous sand traps, as well as the high grass and environmental areas previously mentioned. The undulation of the greens can also result in some tricky putts, which results in the dreaded three-putt.
1) Start your day with breakfast at Sticks, located next to the Spanish Bay Pro Shop, and enjoy the scenery of the 1st hole and the rugged coastline.. It’s a rather pricey meal, but well worth the price of admission to enjoy the scenery.
2) While there is a practice putting green and chipping green there is not a driving range available, so be sure to sharpen your swing up prior to arrival.
3) The Pro Shop is well stocked with all kinds of memorabilia for you to show off to your buddies back home.
4) If possible, hang around outside on the patio of the Spanish Bay Inn until dusk and listen for the bagpipes, a great ending to a memorable day.
The price of the round is a $230 as of April 1st, 2005. I took advantage of their Winter Special, which is viewable on the Pebble Beach website and available through April 30, 2005. The Winter Special includes two nights of accommodations at either the Pebble Beach Lodge or the Inn at Spanish Bay and two rounds of golf at Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay/or Spyglass (all of which are owned by the same company). The rates for the special are stated on the website.
If you only want to play Spanish Bay and stay at a more affordable lodging alternative, I would suggest staying in Monterey or Carmel, which are just a few miles from Pebble Beach. Monterey offers more family-oriented activities, while Carmel is a heaven for the true shopper, especially someone shopping for original paintings and other artwork. I can’t remember ever seeing so many galleries crammed into such a small area. Monterey includes more traditional hotel and motel alternatives and Carmel is loaded with bed-and-breakfasts, with more interesting restaurant alternatives than Monterey. If you have time, don’t miss taking the 17 mile drive around Pebble Beach or going 30 minutes south of Carmel on Highway 1 to see Big Sur. Big Sur is loaded with great views and the opportunity to drive over the bridges you see in all the automobile commercials.
The Pebble Beach website offers great directions to get there from either the Monterey or San Jose airports. From the San Jose airport, Pebble Beach is approximately a 1 1/2-hour drive.