Renovated Black Horse Golf Course is the perfect Monterey-area complement to Bayonet

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

SEASIDE, Calif. - Officials were a little surprised at the breakdown. Just three weeks after the two courses at Bayonet and Black Horse reopened following an extensive renovation, it was Black Horse Golf Course not Bayonet that had the most rounds played on it. The edge was slight, to be sure, but a little surprising considering the history of the two Monterey-area golf courses.

Black Horse Golf Course - Hole 18
The 605-yard, par-5 18th hole at Black Horse Golf Course is much improved and one tough finishing hole.
Black Horse Golf Course - Hole 18Black Horse Golf Course - SeasideBlack Horse Golf Course - Hole 1Black Horse Golf Course - Hole 7
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Black Horse at Bayonet/Black Horse Golf Course

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The Black Horse was built after the unexpected popularity of its sister course the Bayonet that was built 10 years prior in 1954. Situated on the site of the former Fort Ord, both share a rich military history. Both also offer unrivaled vistas of Monterey Bay, but the more open nature of Black Horse allows for more panoramic views

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7024 yards | Book online | ... details »

Bayonet opened in 1954 when it was part of the Fort Ord military base. (The courses are now owned by the city of Seaside after the military base closed in 1993.) Named after the Army's 7th Infantry Division that was based there, Bayonet has hosted numerous high amateur and PGA Tour events over the years.

Black Horse, which is named after the 11th Calvary Regiment, opened in 1964. And though it, too, was of championship caliber, it never did attain the lofty status of its older brother.

The reason is probably because Black Horse was considered a little easier and shorter. The fairways were more generous, giving up a little more leeway off the tee, and the bunkers weren't as severe. But now, after the renovation, Black Horse may not be easier, especially when you consider that the greens have more undulation to them.

Black Horse is on par with Bayonet

Architect Gene Bates, who was in charge of the renovation of both, said the two golf courses now complement each other well. They are both aesthetically pleasing after a massive tree trimming, removal of underbrush and the reseeding of fairways, tees and greens with Jacklin T1 bentgrass, a rich, dark-green strain specifically developed to hold its own against California natives. The courses also have fescue surrounding the holes, giving a nice contrast to the striped fairways and roughs.

"But the style of the greens and bunkers make the courses distinctly different," said Bates, who has worked on more than 150 projects worldwide during his illustrious design career. "Bayonet has traditional, deep, challenging bunkers. The greens are tamely contoured because the layout, from tee to green, is challenging enough that severe greens would be too punishing and not reward good shots or heroic recoveries.

"On Black Horse, the bunkers are large with serrated edges and clustered to draw one's eye to them. The green surfaces have a lot of movement, conversely, because there is plenty of room off the tee, and the bunkers are less severe."

In the end, it really depends on your mood as to which one you would want to play. But if you're looking for a little more relaxing round, then perhaps Black Horse is the choice with its elevated tees, shallower bunkers and slightly easier approaches.

Still, the par-72 Black Horse is now a few hundred yards longer at 7,024 yards long. It has a slope of 141 and a rating of 73.7, very comparable to Bayonet. Three-putts loom around every corner at Black Horse, and the fescue seems a little more predominant on this course, making the prospects for a lost ball a little greater.

After a relatively benign opening hole, you get a look at the muscle of this course early on. The second hole is a 247-yard par 3 that seems to play longer than its yardage with bunkers left and trees to the right. Even one set of tees up, it's still 214 yards. (Black Horse, like Bayonet, has four sets of tees.)

One of the most appealing features about Black Horse is the variety of holes. There are three par 4s more than 440 yards but several short ones as well, including the sixth, a 265-yarder that plays uphill. Because it's well protected by bunkers and rough, there is risk in trying to drive the green, but the reward can be great. Get it on the green, and eagle is definitely a possibility.

Oddly enough, the next hole, a 550-yard par 5, will also surrender its share of birdies and eagles, even though it's rated as the No. 1 handicap hole. Good players will be able to get there in two, but a misplaced second shot can lead to disaster if you find the fescue on the right or the cart path and trees on the left side.

The 12th is also a reachable par 5 at just 508 yards, but there is little room for error, and the green is difficult to hold. So even if you get around the green in two, birdie isn't a cinch.

Like Bayonet, the finishing hole here is also a par 5, and it's a doosy at 605 yards. Three good shots will get there with no problem, but if the pin is front left, and you miss it to the left by just a few feet, balls tend to feed to left back corner leaving an almost impossible two-putt.

Black Horse Golf Course: The verdict

Black Horse probably saw the most dramatic improvements of the two courses here. Like Bayonet, conditioning so far is impeccable, and greens run very true. They are extremely firm, though, so even wedge shots must be played to the front of the green on most holes.

If you come to Bayonet/Black Horse, you should play both golf courses. They are different enough with the bunkering and tee shots that you won't feel like you're repeating yourself, yet both offer several great views of the bay and Monterey.

Golf instruction at Bayonet/Black Horse

One of the most notable improvements at Bayonet Black Horse are the 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, individual lessons are available from the facility's PGA Professionals. Just call the golf shop to set up an appointment.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Black Horse

    Jim Ellis wrote on: Feb 17, 2009

    In 1969 I made the Fitch Jr. High Golf team shooting a 39 on the front 9 of the Bayonet. Fitch Jr. High bordered the course.It was just the Fort Ord Golf Course then. Last September I visited the course and my old neighborhood which was a boarded up ghost town. Glad to see the golf course renovation was successful.