You had us at hello, Monarch Beach Golf Links, with your sparkling oceanfront views on the front nine, lush coastal valley views on the back, treacherous rollercoaster greens, fluffy crushed-Augusta-marble bunkers and naturally rolling fairways.
Located in Dana Point, Monarch Beach is known far and wide for showing golfers a good time while insisting they flex their course-management skills. Locals come to get their fix of Scottish links-style golf. Many who live outside Southern California call it their home-away-from-home course. Illustrious golf publications frequently name the course to its “best of” lists.
The Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout earns kudos for its unending variety. Many a wide-open fairway will test golfers with an approach shot that demands a carry over water or sand. A blind approach shot created by the day’s pin placement forces players to trust their yardage and the club in their hands. Even experienced players will find themselves mentally kicking themselves for skipping flop-shot practice when faced with several small greens that repel the hard-bouncing ball.
Pulling golfers back to the course as surely as the Pacific Ocean draws golf balls on these greens are Monarch Beach’s courtly amenities. The club recently introduced a new Flex Set Rental Program featuring standard and premium rental sets from Nike, Callaway, Titleist, Ping and TaylorMade, allowing golfers to mix and match their set make-up if they wish. The large clubhouse includes nicely appointed locker rooms for men and women, along with the elegant Club 19 restaurant featuring a full bar and an extensive patio overlooking the course and the ocean.
In addition to its expertise hosting group golf events, a friendly and well-trained staff showers guests with private-club-level, personal service. The starter and marshal are generous with course-management tips and golf carts are equipped with digital GPS mapping, both key factors in Monarch Beach offering a speedy pace of play with the average round clocking in at four hours and 20 minutes.
OB Sports, which recently took over management of the course, couldn’t make it more appealing. Or could it? The Monarch Membership aims to do just that by offering golfers a year of unlimited golf for the annual fee of $5,250. Among the long list of member privileges: complimentary golf cart and practice facility access, four free guest passes, discounts on lessons and golf shop apparel, and exclusive playing privileges at other OB Sports-managed courses in Southern California (like Tijeras Creek Golf Club), Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and around the country.
Then there’s the Crown Club Card that gives golfers preferred tee times at special rates throughout the year for the cardholder and up to three guests, complimentary golf on the cardholder’s birthday, pro shop discounts and other goodies for an annual fee of $149.
The membership programs are just the ticket for golfers who want to challenge themselves with plenty of risk-reward shot making embedded into Jones Jr.’s design. The smart player thoughtfully considers the best places to miss off the tee, given all the architect’s strategically placed bunkers, water features and out-of-bounds areas.
There’s also lots of visual distractions to contend with, and nowhere does it come into play more than on the par-4 No. 3 signature hole. From the tee, you’ll hit toward the awesome vista of the Pacific Ocean. Focus on your swing thought rather than the view of the lovely sandy beach and you might have a chance of cutting the dogleg left. It’s a scoreable hole, provided you concentrate on softly landing your approach shot on the two-tiered, elevated green.
The par-5 seventh hole tests the golfer’s control, accuracy and nerve. A narrow and hilly fairway is flanked by bunkers on the right side and a wide swath of brushy creek bed on the left. Faced with a carry over the creek bed, golfers must consider where to lay up, where to land and whether to go for the green.
More elevation changes challenge golfers on the back nine, with the par-3 No. 13 perhaps being the most fun test. The hole is just 155 yards from the tips, where you’ll hit from an elevated tee toward an almost-island green with water around the front and right. Those who bail out to the greenside bunker on the left have a tricky up-and-down to master.
Like many shots into the greens at Monarch Beach, it’s not for the faint of heart.
– By Michelle Flores
For more information or to book your tee time at Monarch Beach Golf Links, call (949) 240-8247 or visit monarchbeachgolf.com.