Opening hole to the back niceThe 12th is a very stratigic holePlenty of bunkers on the 17th
It’s 5.45am and I’m back on the road again – this time for the two-hour drive to the Monterey Peninsula – and all week I’ve been hearing great things about this track, especially after its recent $14 million renovation. ‘It’s one tough course’ is the theme that’s been running through the many conversations I’ve engaged in. Well, after chatting to Julio Rodriguez, the tournament coordinator at Bayonet and Black Horse, I learn the renovation took place back in 2008 so it’s had plenty of time to bed in. Gene Bates undertook the work but the original course dates back to 1954, and as you can gather from the name it has a military history.
The course sits on the site of the former Fort Ord founded by General Robert B McClure. It was christened in honour of the 7th Infantry Light Fighter Division which was nicknamed the ‘Bayonet Division’. Like Presidio Golf Club in downtown San Francisco it’s now become a course that is open to the public, and with that came the recent investment to update.
As I turn off of Lightfighter Drive and on to the property, my jaw drops – the white sand in the bunkers gives it such a visual impact against the lush green of the fairways, tees and greens, my pulse is starting to race. I’m given a little green bag with some practice balls and I head off to the range to warm up. As I pass by the first tee and look up the fairway my heart skips a beat in anticipation.
I make sure I practice well, because not only do I want to do the opening hole justice, I don’t want to smack the ball into one of those majestic Cypress trees that line both sides of the fairway. With my practice finished, I hand in my slip to the starter who informs me I can go out now so I don’t get stuck behind a fourball. Standing on the tee and looking out at this beautifully designed hole, I give myself a little pep-talk then tee the ball up and smash. I’m off and running. I’ve made the fairway and for the next three hours I’m seduced by the sheer beauty of the place. When I say beauty I don’t mean in an Augusta National way – although it has that about it. I mean its ruggedness. It’s a man’s course. You know it’s going to test every part of your game and you will not only need finesse and touch around the greens, but strength from the tee and also from the rough if you miss the fairways.
And the green complexes? In a word, wow. Like the majority of you out there I’ve never played Augusta but come every April I’m glued to the screen. Well, these greens are probably the best I’ve ever putted on. They are fast and true, but boy you need to be on the button – the wrong speed or read will see you struggling to not four-putt let alone three-putt.
If you want to test your game on a course set up for the pros, this is as near as you will come. Unless you manage to get on the course the day after a tournament, the rough won’t be as tough and the fairways will be a bit wider, but the pace of these greens and the movement in them will give you an idea of what the boys on tour face every week.
The motto of the 7th Infantry Division was ‘Light, Silent and Deadly’ and Gene Bates has kept that motto alive and well on these greens. I’m not going to go into standout holes here because they all stood out. It’s a true test of golf and I love every moment of playing this track. Truly a must-play course.