Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point: Pacific Ocean panorama, white sand, slick greens

By David R. Holland, Contributor

DANA POINT, Calif. -- When Tom Watson visited Monarch Beach Golf Links for the Hyundai Team Championships, he said the greens reminded him of Augusta National. The bunker sand should, too. It's the same bright white crushed marble.

Monarch Beach Golf Links - No. 1
The opener at Monarch Beach Golf Links is an uphill par 4 with water in play on the right.
Monarch Beach Golf Links - No. 1Monarch Beach Golf Links - 8th
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Monarch Beach Golf Links

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Playing at Monarch Beach Golf Links will bring to mind the great traditions of Scottish links golf. The seaside course offers sweeping views of the oceanfront as well as a challenging and diverse layout. The course is on the shorter side but it is an excellent place to work on your iron game

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 70 | 6645 yards | ... details »

It all comes together for an unforgettable round of golf on California's "Riviera", a beautiful stretch of land just off the Pacific Coast Highway.

Monarch Beach, designed by Robert Trent Jones II and opened in 1983, is a must for golfers who love to play in sight of the Pacific Ocean.

You can see the misty blue on 12 of the 18 holes and on two holes you are right there, hearing the surf crash and gazing at Catalina Island or the myriad of seagoing vessels, from sailboats to tall ships.

To master this Scottish links-style course, you must be able to read and conquer the quick greens that run 10 on the Stimpmeter. You also have to dodge 113 bunkers or be able to hit out of them.

"We hear lots of positives about the layout, the weather and the views," said Brian Baus, head professional. "Golfers like that we are managed by Troon Golf, that the course is playable and that there aren't that many forced carries. But if we want to we can put some pin placements out there that are almost impossible for even professionals."

Monarch Beach's length was increased from 6,344 yards (par 70) to 6,601 yards in a recent makeover. That distance is still deceiving. The air is heavy here at sea-level on the Pacific, so your tee shots are not going to soar as far. It also plays on a hillside meaning you will have some downhill shots, but some uphill, too. If the wind kicks up, well, you will have to deal with that, too.

"You can really be surprised by the lack of length you get off the tee," said Chuck Wood of Irvine. "I think one looks at the scorecard and thinks it is a short course, but the air is heavy, you have many approaches to elevated greens, you can have the wind against you and if you play during the rainy season, that takes more yardage off shots. The Pacific views are great."

The signature hole is a risk-reward beauty that takes you seaside. No. 3 is a 315-yarder that dogs dramatically left. The pros, like Couples, just grip and rip as the crow flies. But even if you hit this green on your tee shot there's an unreal putting surface with more bumps and knobs than a witch's nose. One of the pin placements is far upper left, a nice little flat shelf. But if you are anywhere else on the green, a three-putt can be the norm.

Monarch Beach is located in a "ritzy" area, no doubt. A Ritz-Carlton is nearby and the ultraexclusive St. Regis, a 400-room hotel has just opened right above Monarch's Tuscan-styled clubhouse.

Because property is at a premium on the California coast, Monarch doesn't have a driving range. It does have four warm-up cages and putting green.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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