Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course -- Detail
The first hole is a 151 yard par 3, with no particularly interesting characteristic. The city was in the process of doing some construction on a new clubhouse, so the hole was only playing at 126 yards, but I assume this was a temporary situation, and the full distance will eventually be restored.
#2 is also a par 3, but it is a beefy 199 yards. There's an apartment building behind the green, and it's a bit disconcerting to be hitting at a building, but rest assured, it's well out of reach. 200 yards is a tough distance for most of us bogey golfers - you might do well to break it up into a 150 yard shot, and then a 50 yard shot.
#3 is only 312 yards, but you can't really try to drive the green because a couple of huge trees on the left block your line. A guy I was with hit a really nice-looking drive over the tree, and I thought it had a chance. However, it got tangled up in the second one, which you really don't notice off the tee. The right play is just what it looks like -- hit an iron out to the right, and a wedge to the green.
The fourth hole is only 265 yards. There is no reason not to go for the green off the tee. Just be aware that the street behind the green is OB. You big hitters might need to back down one club.
#5 is a 520 yard par 5. The teebox aims you out to the right at a line of trees, and that's pretty much the way you have to play it. If you go down the left side, the second tree is going to smack you down (that's a good thing -- otherwise you might get OB out in the street). The line of trees on the right separates #5 from the #6 fairway. A local rule states that if you hit it out in the wrong fairway, you need to bring it back to the treeline, with no penalty stroke. The best advice for playing this hole is to keep it in play, and hit it straight. Two five irons and a wedge?
#6 is handicapped as the hardest hole on the front nine. It runs back parallel to #5, with a little extra length, mostly uphill, and against the prevailing ocean breeze. There's room to hit your driver off the tee; any hooks (slices for lefties) will put you in jeopardy of getting OB into the street on the left. Use a long iron for your second shot to set up a midiron approach into the green after a dogleg right. (By the way, the same rule applies about crossing into the wrong fairway - bring it back with no penalty). The green is tricky -- it's small, has a nasty bunker in front, and a pretty steep back to front slope.
#7 is another shortie - it's only 310 yards. The tee shot is uphill and blind. You might need to send a scout ahead to make sure the previous group is out of the landing zone. The fairway is a bit tight - might be a good idea to leave the driver in your bag if you're likely to stray at all.
#8 is a long par 4, with a dogleg right. You need some length off the tee, but you can't be wild -- it's pretty easy to slice one into the street if you get ahead of yourself. Use a fairway wood off the tee for control. Play to the right half of the fairway to get back a little distance. If you stray left, it might take you an extra shot to reach the green.
#9 is a 218 yard par 3. Same advice as before, if you're not Tigeresque with your three iron, you might be better off to play two shorter shots in.
You'll need directions to get to #10. Here they are. Turn left out of the parking lot. Go up the hill until you get to entrance to the lighthouse parking lot. Turn right, the teebox is on your left. This is a mild-mannered unassuming 109 yard par 3. All four of our foursome doubled this hole. None of us have any excuses, like unseen obstacles, subtly placed trees or anything -- just sheer incompetence. Bogey is a terrible score here.
The eleventh hole gives you a good look at the ocean. This is a short, wide-open par four. It's only 303 yards. The green is at the left corner (this had to be carefully explained to me because the fog rolled in about the time we arrived at the teebox. So take your best shot at the green, chip on and make the birdie putt. (No, I actually three-putted for a bogey, thanks for asking.)
#12 is a 513 yard par 5, with the ocean on the left. Gorgeous view from the teebox! The hole doglegs right, and the offshore breeze blows left to right. Do not let the wind and your own swing push you off the fairway! Let me introduce you to the rough. First of all, there's this little groundcover plant which is called the ice plant. They tend to weave their stems together to form a tight impenetrable blanket which will NOT yield up your ball, no matter how hard you swing. Second, they grow out of sand (remember the ocean? Well, you're playing on the beach...). Except this isn't like a sand trap, because nobody rakes it, ever. There's just the wind, and golfers traipsing around, and coastal white-tailed deer. The sand, where it's not covered with ice plants, resembles thoursands of pock marks. Whereever your ball coms to rest, it will be at the buttom of an indentation in the sand, exactly like a buried lie. So you can't get a club on it. You can't blast it out. You can't pick it clean. You can't chip it. All you can do is flail away, in the futile hope of moving it a few yards closer to the fairway, where it will either come to rest in another pockmark, or a mat of ice plants. On the other hand, if you can keep the ball in the fairway, this is a pretty straightforward hole. Three wood or iron off the tee, six iron on the second shot, a short iron on the approach. Wide green, not much undulations. Easy par. Or two pars if you go with the rough.
#13 is a short par 4, playing only 316 yards. It's important to keep that in mind, espeically if there's fog. You don't need a heroic shot off the tee. Hit it out in the fairway with just about anything, and you'll have a straightforward approach to the green, which tucks in to the left. Two wrinkles: To separate the 12 and 13 fairways, there's a line of OB stakes on the right. And the green is "tucked in" to a sea of ice plants, so don't miss!
I would like to play #14 on a clear day. The day I played, the fog had rolled in, and the hole seemed downright mysterious (or should I say, "MISTerious"?). The tee shot was a blind launch into the mists. For once, I hit it well, and was left with a wedge shot into the green (which I chunked and made bogey). It's only 356 yards, and it's pretty much straightaway, with a narrow neck in front of the green, so nothing special. But the clouds of fog and the hints of ocean views gave it a special aura.
#15 is a bit longer, at 397 yards. It has a fairly pronounced dogleg right, but do not try to cut the corner -- ice plants and sand, y'know... There's a tree just right of the green which made a great target through the fog. On my approach shot there was a pretty stiff breeze coming in from the ocean. I was about 120 yards out, which would normally be a gap wedge. I hit an eight iron instead, and pured it. Just right. So that's three extra clubs. Don't underestimate the wind!
#16 is another 355 yard straight par 4. It runs right past the lighthouse (you can take a tour during the right time of the day. It's a real live operating facility.) There's room to hit your driver, as long as you don't go too far right and get OB into the driving range.
#17 is a 153 yard par 3 across a pond. It's pretty straightforward if you hit your tee shot straight. Between the trees and the trap, there's a lot of trouble to the left.
The final hole is another short 298 yard par 4. There are trees left and right that can make it ticklish to try and hit driver. If you decide to lay up, take one extra club on the approach shot because the green is slightly elevated.
Pacific Grove is great value for the money, giving you a taste of oceanside links golf for a muni course price. The course is very short, which manifests itself in the form of a lot of 300 yard par 4s. Having said that, the course is well defended, and a lot of fun.