Quail Lodge: A slice of California countryside for Monterey golfers
CARMEL, Calif. - On the Monterey Peninsula, some courses wow you with stellar views, picture-perfect holes and a full-on case of the first-tee jitters to go with those lofty expectations. Other courses slip you in smoothly; give you a chance to get your bearings as you get used to the scenery and the style of the course.
Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club is the latter. Rather than the golf equivalent of a 1,000-foot bungee jump off a suspension bridge, Quail Lodge is more like a deep tissue massage that takes a few moments to get used to, then relaxes you into a peaceful state as you loosen up and let the course start to come to you. It will.
Unlike its more famous cousins on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula, Quail Lodge sits about eight miles inland. While the course can't claim ocean views, it can and does tout the abundantly sunny mornings, which are not the norm along the coast.
The course meanders along the Carmel River with beautiful canyon views from every hole. Though the region is more famous for its golf than its vineyards, Monterey is something of a wine country and the overall feel here is California countryside.
A not-so-long (6,449 yards from the tips) traditional course set in a lush valley, Quail Lodge has a country club feel, which should come as no surprise since the course went private this year. It's open to play for resort guests and the resort underwent a $25 million makeover in 2003. Stay-and-play packages are available to the public.
There are many wonderful things about the course, but let's begin with pace of play, which couldn't be better. On a recent outing, this reporter was paired with Jeff Farley, a golf shop staffer who is working to secure his PGA card. We were proceeding nicely on a three-and-a-half-hour pace and yet paused on a par 3 to let a single player pass. By the end of the round a twosome was on our tail.
"The members play quickly here," Farley said. "It's not uncommon to see them whip through rounds in three hours, often less - and that's walking."
In this era of hit it, then get cold waiting through five-hour rounds, this virtue must not go unnoticed. What also shouldn't be overlooked is the conditioning. If you wind up with a bad lie here you deserved it. The fairways are immaculate and the greens are downright sticky.
This reporter (who is no single-digit handicapper) got a 200-yard rescue club shot to actually spin back from the ball mark on one of the course's long par 3s, a trademark of this otherwise shortish course. Greens Superintendent Dennis Kerr recently won an award for turf grass management, and it shows.
If brainstorming for flaws, one could say there are a few too many homes lining the fairways, particularly on the front nine. Generally speaking, though, the homes are sufficiently set back from the course and don't all look the same.
Quail Lodge was laid out in the mid-1960s when it was not essential for each house in the neighborhood to be a replica of every other. Here, the homes are well maintained and though you'd probably rather they just not exist, they do add a bit of charm.
While playing the 14th, you'll see Quail Lodge itself, just across a pond and behind a putting course. The recent makeover is obvious from this view.
The course begins with a fairly straight forward par 5, a long par 3 and a straight-away par 4. Remember, Quail Lodge is more smooth jazz (Miles Davis) than mind-blowing arena rock (U2).
Things start to get interesting on the fourth hole. There's a 403-yard shoot-through-the-hatch to a wide landing area, then a steep climb to a green perched alongside a bunker hungry for short, slicy shots.
"Use two clubs extra for this climb," Farley said.
Then comes another stout par 3, 198 yards, water on the right, bunker on the left. And so it goes. By now, you've settled into the style.
The layout and scenery are calming. And if you're hitting decent shots you've got plenty of good looks at birdie. The greens don't break much and aren't particularly fast.
You can play the course aggressively, hitting mostly drivers and leaving yourself with fairly short second shots. Or you can try and manage the course with 3-woods and long irons if the driver isn't behaving itself.
Quail Lodge can play quite easily for the resort guest who wants to scoot up on the tee box, or be quite demanding for those who want to "see the whole course."
If you've decided to hold onto the big stick, the back nine will test your precision. No. 10 is another shoot-through-the-hatch and get-it-over-the tree to a narrow fairway hole. The 11th is an easy enough 347-yard par 4. Then comes 12: a 221-yard par 3.
"No. 12 is the one that kind of separates the men from the boys," Farley said.
How about another shoot-through-the-hatch, into the wind, watch-out-for-the-tree-on-the-right, it's-OK-to-go-left-but-not-too-far type of par 3?
"Get a par here and it kind of feels like a birdie," said Farley, who proceeded to par the hole. As if 12 weren't difficult enough, it plays into the wind and over the Carmel River. Good thing there are closer tee boxes for the fainter of heart.
Things settle back into a groove again until you reach 16, clearly the toughest hole on the course. It's a 408-yard par 4 with a 90-degree dogleg right, water guarding the corner and a greenside bunker gobbling up short second shots. If you haven't had a blow-up hole yet, this will probably be the one.
A round at Quail Lodge will feel different from other rounds on the Monterey Peninsula. You won't see too many other people, unless you play on a big weekend.
While the course is top notch and immaculately maintained, it doesn't have that intimidation factor of Pebble Beach. It's very women-friendly and may be the perfect course for a couple, two couples, or four friends who just want a quiet morning of quality golf without getting too heavily beat up.
The service is first-rate, very attentive and knowledgeable. And Edgar's, the restaurant overlooking the practice range and putting green, has superb food in a California contemporary setting, complete with a dozen plasma TV screens and a stylish bar.
At $160 a round, it doesn't come cheaply and non-members must stay overnight for access to the course. But that's still much less expensive than more famous courses to the west and the experience is very memorable.
Stay and play
Quail Lodge (quaillodge.com, (888) 828-8787) is the obvious choice here, since you'll need to stay there to play the course. A variety of room choices are available. The Lodge also features a spa, a wellness center and meeting space.
For those who enjoy the countryside setting but want something a little less expensive, try Los Laureles Lodge (loslaureles.com, (800) 533-4404). Guests will experience a rustic setting with a number of period antiques.
Two excellent dining options are on site. Edgar's adjacent to the practice range, offers great food in an upscale, yet relaxed setting.
The Covey, at the Lodge, has won numerous awards and highlights fresh ingredient from local farmers and fishermen. It has a romantic setting alongside a pond with large windows.
For organic food aficionados, try The Organic Kitchen at The Farm Stand of Earthbound Farm (ebfarm.com, (831) 625-6219).
September 26, 2005