Carmel Valley's Quail Lodge gets a bit of a facelift

By Adam Brady, Contributor

CARMEL, Calif. -- While golf-related thoughts of the Monterey Peninsula are usually directed toward Pebble Beach, the Carmel Valley continues to shine despite the large shadow of its illustrious neighbor.

At the forefront is Quail Lodge Resort, which since the 1960s has been blessed with a perfect harmony of exceptional golf and well-appointed accommodations, all set within a sunlit Carmel Valley setting. Most would think it couldn't get any better than that, but those behind the scenes at Quail Lodge seemingly disagreed.

Last summer saw the completion of a $25-million augmentation of the resort, which extended to nearly every facet of the legendary property and made the once-great resort even greater.

"This is an exciting new phase for the property," said Jim Cecil, managing director of Valley Resort Management, the property's operator. "Quail Lodge has an illustrious 40-year history, and the renovation only heightens its appeal for those seeking the finest accommodations and amenities in one of America's most scenic and charming locales."

The renovation was completed just in time for the inaugural Haber Cup, a charity event held in honor of Quail Lodge founder Edgar Haber. Meanwhile, the clubhouse's new restaurant and sports bar was christened Edgar's as a nod to Haber's lifelong contributions to the resort and the community.

The Robert Muir Graves-designed golf course was generally left alone during the makeover, and remains an intriguing, plush layout. Its mountain setting gives golfers that elusive feeling of serenity and solitude from the dreaded outside world. Though only 6,449 yards from the tips, the course presents a fair challenge, while still offering the potential for a low round. The presence of 10 lakes and the ever-present Carmel River serves the dual purpose of protecting the holes and adding to their luster. Meanwhile, fairways are near flawless and putting surfaces roll true throughout the year.

Quail Lodge's signature is its quintet of prickly par-3s, starting with the long second hole, which offers some comfort (if not a very long putt) with its extra-large green. The fifth is one of the more beautiful holes on the course, downhill with a large pond right of the green. And at 197 yards from the tips and a still-robust 189 from the next set of tees, a push into the water is always in the back of the player's head.

The eighth is straightforward but just plain long at 219 and 208 yards from the back and middle tees, while the 12th is a healthy 223 from the back tee pad that sits behind a barranca. It's more agreeable from the middle tees at 135, but bunkers still threaten. Finally, the often-photographed 17th is an ideal penultimate hole, as its pond to the left and bevy of sand gives it the potential for a match-play turning point, where birdie or bogey (or worse) are both within reach.

Ponds and/or the Carmel River come into play on at least eight holes. Two of the most dramatic are the crucial 15th and 16th. The first is a dogleg-left par 5 in which anything less than a perfect drive could find water right or left. The large pond to the starboard side of the fairway serves double-duty, as it looms large on the dogleg-right 16th. Next to that tee is another body of water, which doesn't come into play on the drive but forewarns you of what you will face when you get to the 18th. Play Quail Lodge's last four holes in somewhere around par and you've accomplished something, no matter what you did the rest of the round.

Quail Lodge's new two-story clubhouse is consistent with the golf course, as the interiors were entirely redone to create a discreetly stylish feel. The ground floor was reconfigured to make room for Edgar's restaurant and sports bar, while the upstairs features meeting rooms and banquet space. Meanwhile, the well-stocked golf shop is blessed with a feature that wasn't changed -- one of the friendliest staffs you will ever find.

From Highway 1, go east on Carmel Valley Road for 3 1/2 miles and turn right on Valley Greens Drive (where you will see the signs for Quail Lodge).

Where to Stay

Quail Lodge's 97 luxurious rooms were revamped while keeping their rustic, California-country spirit. Rooms are stylishly decorated and each features large decks for relaxing in the Carmel Valley sun or enjoying a usually warm night. Especially impressive -- everybody likes free stuff -- is the fact that each room is equipped with a complimentary refreshment center with snacks and beverages. And Quail Lodge must have gotten a bulk rate on plasma-screen TVs, since every room has one and the clubhouse features several on the walls (including 12 in the sports bar).

Guests can venture outside their rooms for several options, including a first-class Spa and Wellness Center, two upscale restaurants, spa and swimming pools, a 9-hole putting course and broad nature trails.

The Carmel Valley area

Outside Quail Lodge Resort is a little attraction called the city of Carmel and the endless shopping and dining experiences it offers. Another enticement are Carmel Valley's extensive wine-tasting opportunities. But with everything that's gone into making Quail Lodge so welcoming, you might find no reason to leave.

Adam Brady, Contributor

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