Monday, December 09, 2013

Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course

Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course
Pebble Beach, California, USA


6873 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 74.3/133
COURSE ARCHITECT: Mike Strantz (2004)
ACCESSIBILITY: Private
COURSE WEBSITE: http://mpccpb.org/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: May 28, 2013.
LOW SCORE: 82 (+10)

ACCOLADES -
- Golf Digest Top 100 in America 2015: #67
- Golf Magazine Top 100 in America 2015: #77
- Golfweek Best Modern Courses 2016: #37


"I hope to carefully shape this new course so she will bend and sweep with the natural terrain of rocks, trees, grasses and ocean. My dream is that she will appear as if she has been dancing among the cypress on this coastline forever, and now she is the new, wonderful discovery of just a few lucky people"
Mike Strantz, Course Architect, Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course

In January of 2002, golf course architect Mike Strantz received some great news. His firm has been awarded the contract to redesign the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, which shared the same incredible oceanfront real estate as Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach.

Monterey Peninsula Country Club was established in 1925, with the C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor designed Dunes Course opening that same year. The Shore Course, as originally designed by Robert Baldock and Jack Neville, opened for play in 1961. The Dunes course would be redesigned in 1998 by noted "Open Doctor" Rees Jones and MPCC members now wanted to refresh the Shore Course, which enjoyed limited views of the ocean in its current form.

For Strantz, who started in the business working for Tom Fazio before gaining notoriety as an architect on the rise for designing Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, Royal New Kent, Tot Hill Farm and Tobacco Road, among others, this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

However, before starting work, he was delivered a huge blow - he had developed an aggressive and rare form of tongue cancer.

To his credit, Strantz never let this horrific news affect his desire to create a personal masterpiece. Despite the need to visit many specialists and go through draining chemotherapy sessions, Strantz spent countless hours onsite, as he always did, relocating to the Monterey Peninsula in order to give everything he had during both the design and construction stages of the project. Not only did Strantz implement a completely new routing but his team engaged in the West Coast’s largest removal of non-native vegetation by removing forty-five acres of non-indigenous ice plant. They also engaged in America's first full-course sand capping, a tedious project that would ensure playable conditions throughout the year and limit maintenance issues substantially.

The completely redesigned Shore Course opened June of 2004 to incredibly rave reviews and Strantz was there to see his dream become a reality.

Sadly, despite numerous chemotherapy sessions and delicate surgical procedures, Mike Strantz would succumb to his cancer on June 10, 2005, only one year after the Shore Course's unveiling.

While Monterey Peninsula Country Club is very private, the public gets to enjoy the brilliance of Mike Strantz's design every year, as the Shore Course was added to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am rotation in 2010 alongside Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill.

The par five first hole features a dramatic downhill tee shot with the ocean beckoning in the distance. The par four 2nd works up hill, doglegs off to the right and features a wonderfully complex set of green undulations.

The par three third hole is stunning, framed beautifully by a few tall, bare trees and some wonderful bunkering. As you work toward the fourth green, the ocean starts making an appearance in the distance and you can start to hear the crash of the surf against the rocks near 17 Mile Drive.

The cool, short par four fifth is next and the par five sixth hole really sets the tone for what's ahead. The hole weaves from left to right off the tee, then back to the left on the layup shot only to require an uphill approach to a significantly two-tiered green. Delightful golf hole.

I think the par three 7th is very underrated - at 226 yards from the tips, players are looking at a long iron or hybrid shot to a plateau green perched high above a considerable false front. The green falls off a bit at the back too, making this a true shotmaking test.

The 448 yard 8th hole is no bargain either and once again showcases what a great designer can do with relatively flat land. The hole bends to the right off the tee around a right fairway bunker but then sharply back to the left for the approach. In a way, it's almost like a double-dogleg par four! That approach is played directly toward the ocean, the first time you essentially see the Pacific in all her glory!

The 224 yard ninth hole is amongst the toughest I've ever seen. In fact, I'm wondering if this was intended to be a par four at some point, as it's an all-or-nothing tee shot over native land and bunkers to a very complex green. There is a layup area well to the left for the faint of heart but you'll need to dial up a high fade if you're to have a chance of reaching this green in regulation. With 17 Mile Drive directly on your right, this tee shot will stiffen up the most seasoned of players. A brute if I've ever seen one!

An incredible stretch of golf continues on the uniquely designed par five 10th hole. The drive seems innocent enough, with plenty of width and the ocean in the distance but positioning is vital if you are to challenge the green in two big shots. If you hit left off the tee, you'll be left with a shorter distance but a completely blind approach over some dunes while the safe tee shot to the right will open things considerably but almost guarantee a layup for all but the longest of hitters. Brilliant design and the 10th greensite is among the best I've seen in a long time. Simply awesome and I'm not saying that just because I two-putted for birdie here ;)

The greatness continues with the stunning postcard view off the elevated par three 11th tee. It's sensory overload as you look at the landscape in front of you - the crashing Pacific to your right, incredible, white sanded dunes off to the far left and a glorious view of Cypress Point in the distance. What a canvas!

The stretch of holes from #6 through #11 is quite astonishing.

The par five 12th is a true three shotter and relatively plain after the great holes before it but I really enjoyed the 13th, especially the approach shot to a great greensite tucked in a far corner of the property.

I really enjoyed the par three 14th hole, with a smartly placed bunker in front and an intricately undulating green. You then get one more look at the ocean on the 15th before moving away from the water and back toward the clubhouse on the par five 16th hole.

The long 455 yard par four 17th is perhaps the toughest hole on the golf course, a relatively narrow tee shot followed by a long approach into a narrow, well-protected green with a little creek off to the right.

You have one final climb on the mid-length par four 18th, where a long iron or hybrid can be used for placement before hitting a mid-to-short iron approach up the hill to the last green.

There is an artistic quality to Mike Strantz's work here that is incredibly unique. His desire to have the holes "dance among the cypress" is fully captured through impressive use of doglegs, weaving fairways and ingenious bunker placement. The ocean provides an incredible landscape but the topography is decidedly average - it's this MOVEMENT created by Strantz that delivers thrills throughout the round and I have to imagine that MPCC members are absolutely delighted with his great work at their club.

The course features a very unique out and back routing, with the par three 9th tee being the furthest point from the clubhouse. I walked with a caddy (the caddy took a cart) and I played in just over two hours. It ranks among the finest walking courses I've played.

Conditioning was superb and for that I can only assume that the extensive drainage work and sand capping by Strantz has afforded the club the ability to provide incredible turf quality that promotes fun ground game approaches and truly firm and fast playing conditions.

The Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club is a fitting monument to the genius that was Mike Strantz. Like the leaning Cypress trees on his course, one hopes that he too is dancing in heaven.

The entrance to Monterey Peninsula Country Club

The Spanish Colonial clubhouse was built in 1925

The practice green to the left, the clubhouse to the right and the pathway to the first tee beckons

The elevated tee shot on the 502 yard par five opening hole

Behind the 1st green, looking back towards the fairway

The approach to the 391 yard par four 2nd hole

The front of #2 green, with unique undulations

The 155 yard par three 3rd hole

These cross bunkers are blind to the player from the tee

The tougher-than-it-looks tee shot on the 403 yard par four 4th hole

The fairway on the 4th hole

Greenside at the 4th hole, with the ocean making its presence felt

Tee shot on the driveable 311 yard par four 5th hole

The approach shot into the 5th

Tee shot on the 546 yard par five 6th

The landing area off the tee on the 6th hole

A wedge approach is required from here on the 3rd shot, with the elevated 11th tee in the distance

A look at the two-tiered 6th green from behind

The challenging 226 yard par three 7th hole

A great look at the huge false front on the 7th

Looking back toward the tee from behind the green on the par three 7th hole

The daunting tee shot on the 448 yard par four 8th hole

The ocean in all its glory, as you struggle to gain focus on your approach to the 8th

In front of the 8th green

Perhaps the toughest par three tee shot I've ever encountered is on the 224 yard 9th, with 17 Mile Drive on the right and a stiff breeze in your face!

A slightly more zoomed-in photo shows a bit more of what needs to be navigated in order to reach the green in the distance

This is about 50 yards in front of the significantly tiered putting surface. Three putt city for me on this one!

A wide open fairway awaits on the 543 yard par five 10th hole but positioning is vital

A look at what I had left on my second shot on the par five 10th

The stunning panorama that is the 11th hole at The Shore Course

A zoomed-in shot of the 181 yard downhill par three 11th hole

The front left bunker on the 11th hole

Tee shot on the 598 yard par five 12th hole

The approach into the 12th

The 414 yard par four 13th tee

Perhaps one of the more underrated greensites at MPPC Shore, the 13th is tucked in a far corner of the property.

Just in front of the cool 13th green

The solid 185 yard par three 14th hole

Tee shot on the 413 yard par four 15th hole, as fog begins to descend upon the Shore Course

The approach to #15

A dedication to architect Mike Strantz behind the 15th green and near the 16th tee

A long carry awaits off the tee on the 16th, a 501 yard par five

The short pitch approach to the 16th green

One of the most difficult holes on the Shore, a 455 yard par four with a tight landing zone

The approach into the narrow green at the 17th

The final climb begins as you reach the 377 yard 18th hole - there is much more room than it appears!

The final approach shot of the day, uphill all the way, ending a great day at a special place!



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