Fun on the slopes of Laguna Seca Golf Ranch in Monterey

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

MONTEREY, Calif. –- Set among the hills of the Monterey-Salinas corridor, Laguna Seca Golf Ranch represents one of those anomalies of the Monterey Peninsula climate.

Laguna Seca Golf Ranch - hole 17
The short, downhill par-3 17th is one of the many fun holes at Laguna Seca Golf Ranch.
Laguna Seca Golf Ranch - hole 17Laguna Seca Golf Ranch - hole 7Laguna Seca Golf Ranch - hole 11Laguna Seca Golf Ranch - hole 15Laguna Seca Golf Ranch - hole 18
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Laguna Seca Golf Ranch

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Laguna Seca Golf Ranch is the result of a collaboration between Robert Trent Jones and his son. The course sits at the heart of the Monterey Peninsula, enjoying a landscape of scenic coastal hills. The course is mostly open but there are a few mature oak trees lining the fairways. The gently rolling landscape provides some interesting elevation changes and there is plenty of water coming into play, especially on the back nine.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 71 | 6174 yards | Book online | ... details »

It can turn foggy and remain that way on the coast, but go few miles inland, where there's a little elevation, and blue skies appear.

The sunshine reveals green hills at Laguna Seca, majestic oaks and emerald fairways, often viewed from elevated tees. Opened in 1970, it's a collaboration between Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Robert Trent Jones Jr., available for play at a fraction of the cost needed to enjoy more storied venues on the peninsula.

Laguna Seca Golf Ranch features narrow, uneven fairways, scores of strategically placed bunkers and uphill doglegs with large receptive Poa annua greens. This par 71 isn't overly difficult at just less than 6,200 yards, but it's plenty challenging for most players.

Laguna Seca Golf Ranch starts easy, turns progressively harder

As opening holes go, a downhill, straightforward and short par 4 with room to miss left and right works as the perfect warm-up for most golfers. Unless stymied behind one of the oak trees, most players will enter the first green with a wedge.

But slowly and surely, Laguna Seca Golf Ranch turns more difficult. Fast forward to the third, a fairly tight -- albeit not long -- par 5, and the demand for more precision emerges. A couple tricky, little, sharp doglegs on the sixth and the seventh holes force game management. And then the ninth, an uphill, 404-yard par 4, plays more like 500 yards, especially against the wind.

Big hitters can drive the 11th, a particularly fun, 332-yard, downhill dogleg right, if they take it over the trees.

Laguna Seca Golf Ranch's signature hole and the most difficult on the golf course arrives at the par-5 15th. You must play it once to fully understand, because off the tee, there seems little room to drive the ball with tree trouble left and an ominous fairway bunker right.

In retrospect, golfers learn to lay up short of the bunker and play this 548-yard hole in three shots to the green.

"You're dead in that bunker," said Mark Darby, director of golf. "From there, you're hoping for a one-putt par. I usually just try to pitch it out if I get in the bunker."

Indeed, just beyond the big, deep bunker sits a rather large lake that requires a carry to a fairway that turns directly right. It can prove difficult to get over the hazard from the bunker, especially if the hole, as usual, plays into the wind. And even when you clear the first lake, a water hazard looms in front of the green.

Laguna Seca Golf Ranch: The verdict

Laguna Seca Golf Ranch rates as one of the best values on the peninsula. An enjoyable golf course, its elevated tees provide a blast for golfers hitting drivers and fairway woods against a background of the green hills. The receptive greens are in good shape, and the golf course displays great variety.

Laguna Seca includes a 14-acre practice facility with a good driving range and practice greens. The club also offers lessons and equipment rentals and a nicely stocked golf shop.

Balesteri's, a popular local restaurant, operates the club's dining facility. The menu includes extensive breakfast and lunch selections, such as breakfast burritos, salads and Angus burgers. And the dining room affords great views of the golf course.

Residents receive access to membership packages for reduced green fees and playing privileges at Laguna Seca's sister golf courses, the East Course and West Course at Rancho Canada Golf Club in nearby Carmel.

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.

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