Changes suit Monterey Peninsula's renovated Bayonet Golf Course
The new Bayonet Golf Course at Seaside Resort isn't quite the bargain it used to be, but after a multi-million-dollar renovation, it should take its place in the rotation that includes the best golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula.
SEASIDE, Calif. - Gen. Robert McClure probably didn't know much about designing golf courses, and it seems he wasn't very good at golf. Good thing for most us he was left-handed.
Because, as the story goes, McClure had a severe slice, so when it came time to lay out a new golf course at the old Fort Ord Army base here off Highway 1 more than a half century ago, he designed a course, quite naturally, that would fit his game. Doglegs that turn right to left - as they do on holes 11-15 on the newly renovated Bayonet Golf Course - not only favored his slice but also skilled right-handed players.
Bayonet was named after the Army's 7th Infantry Division - the first major unit to occupy Fort Ord, as well as the last when the base closed in 1993. The Army's loss has been our gain. For the last 16 years to so, Bayonet, as well as the other course here, Black Horse Golf Course, has provided affordable quality golf in a place that's not exactly known for affordable golf.
But neither of these courses had fully reached its potential, given the location. Both are perched above Monterey Bay, yet with uncontrolled tree growth and underbrush rampant throughout the course, players here rarely caught a glimpse of it even on a clear day. The old turf was a mish-mash of different native varieties, and some of the holes needed to be re-routed.
The remedy? Seaside Resort Development hired architect Gene Bates to oversee a $13 million renovation of both courses, and the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Bayonet Golf Course: A complete makeover
The work included trimming and clearing the underbrush of the thousands of cypress trees and California Live Oaks and the removal of non-healthy trees. Tees were rebuilt, bunkers were added with bright white sand and holes and corridors were rerouted. Now you can see Monterey Bay, downtown Monterey and Point Pinos from several locations from around the golf course.
The changes to course agronomics are no less impressive. Gone is the Poa annua and Kikuyu grasses that ran as they pleased. The whole course was reseeded with the relatively new Jacklin T1 bentgrass — a rich, dark-green strain specifically developed to hold its own against California natives. Fescue now surrounds the bentgrass rough.
As for the hole-by-hole layout of the course, Bayonet, which has hosted professional tour events of every level, is anything but easy. The fairways here aren't exactly generous, which makes the tee shots plenty challenging. There are some short holes on this 7,104-yard par 72 - like the 343-yard, par-4 fifth - but there's hardly a breather on the golf course. Many of the holes require long, accurate drives and some pretty good approaches. The greens, which are less undulating than Black Horse, are very firm because they are new. They require a skill level that many players don't have.
In some cases, you can land the ball short of the green, get a bounce and run the ball up between the bunkers, an advisable alternative than trying hit shots pin high, especially if the flagstick is in the back of the green. You can get a ball to stop but only after a couple of big bounces. In time, the greens will soften, but they will be firm for a few years more than likely.
As for the most challenging holes, take your pick. The eighth is a 613-yard par 5, rated as the No. 1 handicap hole on the course, which has a slope of 141 and a rating of 74.8. By the time you get to the green, you could be faced with a difficult putt or challenging chip or Texas wedge from one of the collection areas. Par is a great score.
The hardest hole on the course might be the next one, though. At 476 yards, it plays all uphill. Hit a good drive, and you still have a long iron or fairway wood over a series of deep bunkers to the putting plateau.
"Just so you know," said Dick Fitzgerald, project director for Seaside Resort Development, "I argued for that green to be down one level."
Survive those two holes, and it really doesn't get any easier. You've heard of Amen Corner at Augusta National? Bayonet has Combat Corner, holes 11-15, the aforementioned series of sharp doglegs around the 192-yard, par-3 14th hole.
Then you get another long par 3, the 225-yard 17th, before finishing with a risk-reward 527-yard par 5. But be careful: If you go at the 18th in two and leave it in the wrong place, like left of the green in between the oaks or in one of the cavernous greenside bunkers, par is anything but a certainty.
Bayonet Golf Course: The verdict
The folks at Seaside Resort promised that Bayonet, as well as Black Horse, would be sensational after the renovation of all 36 holes was completed on Dec. 20, and they made good on that promise.
While nothing can replace the splendor of Pebble Beach Golf Links as far as natural tracts of land and sea go, this isn't too shabby. Plus, when you factor in the striping of these bentgrass fairways and the overall conditioning and look, Bayonet takes a back seat to few golf courses in California.
Bayonet is also demanding, but with four sets of tees, anyone can enjoy it. It's also very walkable, with tees and greens close together for the most part. The green fees aren't quite the bargain they used to be, but you won't play anything else with this kind of quality in the region for $75 to $160.
Golf instruction at Bayonet Golf Course
A big part of the renovations the new expansive practice facilities, which include a driving range, large practice green next to the clubhouse and extensive short game area where you can hit bunker shots, 30-yard pitches or various chips from different lies around the green.
And if you're looking for a little help with your game before you try to tackle Bayonet or Black Horse, individual lessons from the facility's PGA Professionals are available.
January 27, 2009