The newest course in the Pebble Beach portfolio, the Links at Spanish Bay was created in 1987 and designed by the unusual team of Robert Trent Jones II, Tom Watson and former USGA head Sandy Tatum. Like the other courses in the area, Spanish Bay does enjoy some excellent coastal outlooks and the routing sensibly takes golfers straight at the sea on the very first hole. From here the front nine tends to play toward or away from the coast, while the back is arranged in a large loop around home sites, with the best areas late in the round and adjacent to the beachside dunes.
Interestingly, when building this golf course the design team decided to create a faux-links, and to try mimic the features and undulations found on the best links in Britain. There are some very nice areas here, such as the dell green on the par four 3rd, but mostly the shaping and general design ideas miss the mark. The pot bunkers look somewhat linksy, but the lush rye grass surrounding them and leaking into the faces damages the authenticity of the style. The rolling greens and fairway undulations are also hurt by the softer than is ideal grasses, rye on fairways and Poa annua on the greens. The concept of asking someone to play a running approach shot through design but then preventing the ball from bouncing onto the green because of soft turf is very frustrating.
Further, there are few really interesting or exciting holes here, with most of the design attention apparently placed on making holes look a certain way rather than play with any strategic interest. The majority of the holes at Spanish Bay are fine, but too few reach any great architectural heights.
Given the Links at Spanish Bay is part of the Pebble Beach Resorts company, this is always likely to remain a popular place to golf and is certainly worth including as part of a package deal with the other gems in the area. If it were a standalone public course, however, or the green fees nearby were more reasonable, it would be hard to imagine many golfers queuing up to play here.