Monterey Golf and Auto Week
I just returned from a four-day trip to Monterey Bay, California. What was originally planned as a vacation to attend the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with a little golf thrown in turned into a legitimate golf vacation with a quick drive-by to check out the Concours.
And I have to say it was a near-perfect vacation.
The Town, The Inn and The Cars
On Thursday morning, I hopped in the car with Tom from ConcoursBlog en route to Carmel-by-the-Sea. We stayed at The Colonial Terrace Inn, a neat little bed and breakfast located less than a mile from Ocean Avenue, the main business district street of Carmel. Like most inns in Carmel, the Colonial Terrace was quaint, homey, a little dated but people-friendly. The beds were very comfortable, which for me is the most important aspect of an inn and probably the best feature of this one. The staff was quite friendly, happily offering me bandages (for a golfing toe injury) and wine glasses (for some vino to soothe my golfing toe injury).
The town of Carmel is extremely quiet, hands-down the most quiet town I’ve ever visited (and a far cry from the traffic-laden streets of Los Angeles). Walking down the street you can hear the ocean waves from pretty much any street, regardless of whether it’s night or during the day. The town was ‘bustling’ which for Carmel standards meant one couple quietly walking down every block; however, on Ocean Avenue which is near all of the businesses, many people were out in force to soak up the fine automobile glory that is the Concours week. You see, once a year this town of about 14,000 people gets infiltrated with car-lovers during Monterey Auto Week. Car aficionados rev up their babies and take to the streets to show off and congregate for their collective automotive passion.
While I’m far from a car aficionado, I did at least appreciate the passion with which these car owners treat their fine automobiles. And the cars were quite attractive as well. Thankfully my travel companion Tom has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of cars, so I could ask him my favorite question: “how much is this car worth?”
And the top car for auction this year was auctioned off for $16.39 million. That’s million. Seriously.
We ate out every meal, and the restaurants ranged from okay to fantastic. On the fantastic end of the spectrum was our favorite restaurant, an Italian restaurant called Il Fornaio. While most Carmel restaurants are very small and dated, Il Fornaio was not only spacious but had a contemporary flair. The restaurant was filled with people which gave it a great energy, and the food was fantastic, especially the pasta dishes which seemed to be completely homemade. As an added bonus, we were randomly selected to be Il Fiornio’s “Table of Honor” for the night. One table is selected for this honor and given VIP treatment, including complimentary bottled water, a tasting of appetizers and dessert. Needless to say this solidified our choice of Il Fornaio as our favorite restaurant in Carmel.
Our most-frequented restaurant was The Gallery Cafe at Pebble Beach. As their website says, they are “a favorite with early risers.” We took full advantage by arriving daily prior to their 6am opening to prepare for a day of golf. Their coffee is fantastic, and the vegetable frittata was the perfect protein-packed pre-golf breakfast.
Pebble Beach Resorts has five golf courses: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, The Links at Spanish Bay, Del Monte, and Peter Hay. Pebble Beach is obviously the most famous, followed by Spyglass as a close second. The fact that I’ve been watching both of these courses on TV for years as part of the PGA Tour AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was the true foundation for my excitement to play golf in Monterey. Because they were aerating Pebble’s greens during this week (and because the 18th fairway was closed due to the Concours), I opted to play Spyglass and Spanish Bay, their #2 and #3 courses, respectively. (I promised myself that I would finally check out Pebble next year).
Day 1 included 18 holes at The Links at Spanish Bay, which is a links-style course where accuracy is essential. Many of the holes either border the ocean or offer an ocean view, and it has the feel of a wind-swept old-school Scottish course (although luckily for us the wind decided to keep calm during our round). Be sure to bring plenty of balls, as every hole has waste areas that literally swallow balls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re lucky enough to find the ball, hitting out of the waste area is prohibited. Fine with us. We’d prefer to drop in the fairway anyway. Overall, while Spanish Bay probably wasn’t quite worth the $295 total cost, it was very enjoyable and a perfect round to begin the week.
Day 2 included 18 holes at Spyglass Hill. I got paired with three other golfers who were in the semiconductor business, one of whom even had a home on the course. They were great guys, which added to the enjoyment of the round. After a long warm-up on the range, I teed off in really cool and really moist conditions, and after almost birding the first hole, I immediately fell in love with the course. It is exactly what you would expect. The first five holes are insanely picturesque, and all have ocean views. Beginning with the sixth hole, the course heads inland and offers a completely different tree-lined experience. Spyglass is a true test of golf for the serious golfer. There’s not much more to say other than it was one of the most beautiful golf courses I’ve ever experienced, and I will go back. No doubt.
I had planned for golf to be over for the week, but the little devil (or angel?) on my shoulder kept telling me to play a third day. So I did what any respectable golfer would do: I jumped onto GolfNow.com and booked 36 holes at nearby Poppy Hills.
I didn’t know much about Poppy Hills except the name, and that it had previously been one of the courses in rotation for the PGA Tour tournament. The club is definitely more laid back than Pebble Beach. As soon as I walked in, I was instantly impressed with their entire club – the clubhouse, the service, the food, the operation. After a great breakfast served to me by the very nice Sandy (who treated me like her son), I teed off by myself and played one of the more enjoyable rounds that I can remember. The course is nothing short of fantastic. The greens are big, the conditions were lush, and the course is very playable. This unassuming but fantastic course will definitely make my “must-play” list during my next trip back to Monterey.
Driving back to L.A., I reflected on the past four days and began to plan my trip back next year. While by no means inexpensive (especially during Concours week), a long weekend trip to Monterey is a must-make trip, especially if you’re a golfer. Experiencing the 17-mile drive and the beautiful seaside landscape is one that I wish everyone to have. It’s almost impossible not to be present when experiencing the ocean water hitting the rocks. The only thing better, really, is to make a birdie while experiencing the ocean water hitting the rocks (which happened to me, I swear).