Course Review: Nicklaus Club – Monterey

Monday’s morning round at The Preserve Golf Club was something special, but I was also really looking forward to my Tuesday plans. I was somehow able to arrange rounds on two of the Monterey Peninsula’s other private clubs. First up in the morning was Nicklaus Club – Monterey.

This used to be known as Pasadera Country Club and it is the only Jack Nicklaus Signature course on the Monterey Peninsula. It originally opened in 2000 as part of this beautiful master-planned community. In 2013, the club was rebranded as Nicklaus Club – Monterey.

It is located just east of Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, but this golf course isn’t visible at all from the highway. Once you get through the gates and up to the massive Spanish hacienda style clubhouse, you can start to see the course and realize you are in for a treat.

We were told to arrive after 9:30 and they’d be able to get us out behind the regular Tuesday morning ladies groups. There were only 10 of them, playing in two groups of five and moving at a pretty decent pace. We had a few open holes when we started and eventually caught up to the groups. Still, the total pace was right about 3.5 hours and that was perfect.

There are a handful of holes closest to the clubhouse—namely the 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th holes—to get you started and finished in the same area for each nine. These holes are in a flatter section of the property that isn’t quite as interesting as the rest of the course, though water hazards are in play to add a little interest factor.

The front nine then has a couple of different sections that you’ll play. The 2nd hole is a short and steep uphill par-4 followed by a fun par-3 3rd coming back downhill. The 5th and 6th holes are their own little section, as well, with a similar arrangement of an uphill par-4 followed by a slightly downhill par-3.

One of the most interesting things about Nicklaus Club is the fact that the routing contains seven par-4s, six par-3s and five par-5s. To me, that is a fun mix. I also tend to like Nicklaus’ par-3 and par-5 designs more than his par-4s, so there’s another plus.

This is a very challenging course, which is no surprise with the Nicklaus name. There are more uphill shots than downhill ones, and many of the greens are elevated and well-protected by false fronts and deep bunkers. There were perhaps a few too many semi-blind uphill approaches (to greens I had no experience with) for my liking. However, this is definitely a course you probably need to play many times to really figure out, and that’s what makes it ideally suited for a private club membership.

The front nine is enjoyable, but the back nine is really where your memories are made at Nicklaus Club. This is a roller coaster ride on this side of the course as you work your way uphill through the canyon on holes 11-13. The 13th hole was my favorite of this stretch. It’s a beautiful-looking dogleg right with a big old dead tree right in the middle of the fairway at the turn. Then you have an uphill approach to one of the less-guarded greens out here. It’s still a tricky approach, but at least you can kind of see what you are hitting into.

The 14th hole is the signature hole of this course and your fear factor will be determined by which set of tees you are playing. The picture I included below is from the back gold tees, which have you hitting a 209-yard shot from atop one side of the canyon across to what is essentially a very shallow island green from that angle. The green itself is perched atop the other side of the canyon on the highest point of the property.

I was playing the blue tees, which feature a different approach angle. It’s definitely less intimidating than the golds, but that’s not saying much. It still looks like a sliver of a green from 185 yards away. Then, you have swirling winds on top of the canyon that are very difficult to judge. I’m told this course can get quite windy in the afternoon, so that really makes this hole tricky. There is some bail-out room short and left of the green that you can’t see from the tee boxes, but otherwise you just go for the green and hope for the best!

That fun hole is followed by the super downhill par-5 15th which offers the best tee view on the course. Then, you have the uphill par-3 16th followed by another fun downhill par-5 17th. What a fun and dramatic stretch of holes!

The course was in very nice condition. The tee boxes and fairways were excellent. The rough was lush and cut so the ball would sit up nicely. The bunkers were great, as well. They did let me know long in advance of booking the date that they were aerating the greens, so I set the proper expectations. They punched and sanded just a week before we played. However, as far as recently aerated greens go, these were quite good. They were soft and super grabby with the sand, so it was fun to be extra aggressive on pitches and chips (which you can’t always do on a Nicklaus course). Putts still ran pretty smoothly at medium speeds and I am sure they are usually quite fast and slick here.

I figured this would be a nice course given the location, design pedigree and high-end community. I was very much impressed by Nicklaus Club – Monterey on all levels. It’s a very demanding course that deserves more attention than it gets, and it’s one I am grateful I’ve now had the chance to play. Highly recommended!

Some pictures from Nicklaus Club – Monterey (4/24/18):

(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)

 

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