Designed by Tom Fazio, with input from both Sandy Tatum and J. Michael Poellot, the Preserve Golf Club is the centerpiece of an enormous development in the hills outside of Monterey known as the Santa Lucia Preserve. Previously used as ranching land, this vast, rolling property covers 31 square miles yet less than 10 percent of the area is used for golf and housing with the remainder preserved in perpetuity as untouched open space.
The golf course itself occupies a mere 350 acres, its holes arranged in a large loop and mostly set within a series of small hills and valleys at the base of the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains. Fazio used the distant peaks to provide a dramatic backdrop to a number of the better holes here. He also integrated natural ponds and streams into the design and carved his fairways from a collection of timeless redwoods and ghostly live oaks. These oaks occasionally block golfers driving to the wrong part of the fairways, especially on the longer holes. Approach play is definitely the key to scoring well, however, as the fairways tend to be relatively spacious but the sizeable greens are built with sharp slopes that often kick inaccurate balls down banks or away to dangerous three-putt areas. Several targets feature subtle false fronts while a number of others are shaped to allow shrewd golfers to use the contours to feed their shot toward tricky hole locations.
As secluded a place to golf as one would ever find, the Preserve experience begins with an eight-mile drive up the club’s winding entrance road, which leads players to an historic Spanish-styled clubhouse that dates back to the 1920s. Although the course itself is a long way from the best along the Carmel coastline, the development is a class act and most will find it hard not to be seduced by its pristine playing surfaces and first-class service.