Jerry Pate knows golf. He's got eight wins on the PGA Tour, including the 1976 U.S. Open, and he's an accomplished course designer. Throughout the season, he'll be stopping by Devil Ball to offer an inside-the-ropes look at the week's upcoming course. Today: The Monterey Peninsula Country Club, one of the sites for this week's AT&T Pro-Am.
The AT&T returns to Monterey Peninsula Country Club, part of the Crosby's original trio of courses when the tournament was first played in Monterey in 1947. It was held here again in 1977 when Spyglass Hill underwent renovations. Then the tournament was played on the Dunes Course, which was designed by Seth Raynor and Charles Banks. This time, though, the tournament will be played on the Shore Course, originally designed by Jack Neville and Bob Baldock in 1961.
In 2004, the Shore Course re-opened for play after a total transformation by the late designer Mike Strantz. The result of Strantz's final work is a playful course that offers generous fairways that create playability for the amateurs, but offset approaches that demand accuracy and shotmaking ability from the pros. Strantz also enhanced the site's views by rerouting the entire course mostly to the south, toward Cypress Point and away from the usually fog-shrouded Monterey Bay. Agronomically, Strantz underdrained every fairway with perforated pipe on 15 foot-centers, for a total of 42 miles of pipe on the course. He then plated the heavy clay soils on the entire site with sand mixed with PermaPore, a ceramic additive that retains adequate moisture for the turfgrass while the excess percolates through the sand.
As all great seaside courses should, the Shore Course offers numerous routes to each green, and it will surely play vastly differently as the seaside winds shift from day to day, hour to hour. Holes 5 through 16 sit on the peninsula, vulnerable to the elements, and are surely the holes to watch. Of particular interest is Hole 12, a reachable par five that parallels the ocean. A left-to-right tee shot that challenges the bunkers and native terrain on the right will set up a chance to reach the green in two shots. An aggressive second will have to be played from right to left over native terrain into the offset approach. Yet a simple lay-up will leave a pesky wedge across a fronting bunker against the shallow angle of the green.
Although not long by today's standards, MPCC is as good a golf course, and is as fun to play, as any golf course in California. It is proof that we, as designers, need to discredit any value given to length, and build courses that reward creativity and shot-making ability over sheer brute force.
Jerry Pate has been designing golf courses for over 30 years. His portfolio of work includes Old Waverly Golf Club in Mississippi, site of the 1999 United States Women's Open; Trump National Colt's Neck (formerly known as Shadow Isle) in New Jersey; Kiva Dunes on the Alabama Gulf Coast; and Rancho La Quinta Country Club in California. See more of his work at www.jerrypategolfdesign.com.)