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Monday, December 29, 2014

Quail Lodge Rebuilds a Classic Course

Quail Lodge & Golf Club
There is a world of good golf fifteen minutes (and $400) away from Pebble Beach along Carmel Valley Road.  Quail Lodge, Rancho Canada, and Carmel Valley Ranch offer welcome respites from the sometimes pressure cooker rounds played nearer the ocean.  I sampled Quail Lodge and found it both relaxing and challenging--and a real value for the dollar, too.

The course measures 6,449 yards from the back tees, with a manageable 71.4 rating/129 slope. Two other sets of tees make it fun for everyone and the reasonable green's fees encourage newbies to tee it up.  There's also an excellent range, short game area, and practice green right next to Edgar's Grill, which is worth the trip itself.

Quail Lodge Golf Course, a classic Robert Muir Graves design, has recently undergone a major renovation that includes rerouting a couple of holes, redesigning and refreshing the bunkers, and rethinking the pond, lakes, and other water on the property--a timely effort given California's recent drought. Since the back nine was closed for construction during my stay, I played only the front, which was interesting enough to play twice.

The opener is a benign 540-yard par five, but the meat of the front side is the collection of three long par threes. At 203, 198, and 216 yards, you may need some big artillery to reach them.  The number one handicap hole is the uphill 403-yard fourth hole where you can't see the surface of the green on your approach. The green is big enough to warrant a quick look, though, since the pin location can easily dictate club choice. The hill is so steep you know you'll need at least one more club--depending on the pin, you might want to add one or even two more.

One of the most challenging features of Quail Lodge is the massive tree that sits smack in the middle of the ninth fairway about 100 yards from the tee. A well-hit drive on the 541-yard par five can clear it, but don't try going around. The fairway is surprisingly narrow and there's OB on the left if you try for a big fade and a punitive bunker complex on the right if you go for a looping draw and hit the dreaded straight ball instead.

It's a great temptation to visit Carmel and focus entirely on the ocean courses, but a day spent looking eastward will yield some excellent golf.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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