One of the most cherished municipal golf courses in America, the Pacific Grove Golf Links started life in 1932 as a nine-hole course on the northern tip of the Monterey Peninsula. Like the other golf courses in the area, this one owes is very existence to Pebble Beach founder Samuel Morse, who sold land to the local chamber of commerce in 1931 for $10, on the condition that they maintain the property as a golf course for at least 5 years. The chamber agreed and engaged Pebble Beach collaborator H. Chandler Egan to design nine holes through a Cypress forest with the occasional view to the bay. Nearly four decades later, in 1960, the original designer of Pebble Beach, Jack Neville, returned to the area to extend Pacific Grove to the full 18 holes. The course we play today has changed little in the ensuing years.
While there is quality across both nines here, the lure of Pacific Grove is the Neville back nine, which is built on classic windswept dunes overlooking Monterey Bay and the Point Pinos Lighthouse. The design itself is reasonably basic, but the routing follows the terrain beautifully and points the golfer toward some of the most scenic parts of the Pacific Grove coastline. The scarcity of the bunkering and the lack of focus on pristine maintenance contrasts starkly with the playing conditions found elsewhere in Monterey and gives the entire back nine an unmistakable rustic charm.
The spirit of municipal golf is alive and well here, but the simple understated nature of the golfing experience at Pacific Grove does not mask the quality of the stretch of holes from 11 to 16. These may not be the best maintained or most sophisticated holes in California, but they occupy some wonderful tumbling ground and few golfers play them without a smile on their face. The focus on fun golf at Pacific Grove, ahead of expensive or excessive golf, makes this a place worthy of much admiration.