The final stop on my recent Northern California trip was one of the best. I was so fortunate to be able to line up two private Monterey clubs on Tuesday and it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly in terms of timing, geography, etc.
After we finished at Nicklaus Club – Monterey, we headed just down the highway a couple miles to Corral de Tierra Country Club. If Nicklaus Club is to be considered a hidden gem, then Corral de Tierra is an even more hidden gem. When I told people I was playing here, I got some blank stares. Now that I have played it, I hope to bring it a whole lot more attention than it gets in the incredible Monterey Peninsula golf scene.
The roots of Corral de Tierra Country Club date back to 1959. The course was designed by Bob E. Baldock and it sits nestled in a beautiful, secluded little valley kind of right in between Salinas and Carmel. The clubhouse and golf shop sit atop a hill overlooking the course, in a very similar fashion as you’ll find at a lot of older golf clubs throughout California.
The 1st and 10th tees offer scenic elevated tee shots while the majority of the course sits down in the valley surrounded by rolling hills, ranches and homes. There are mild changes in elevation on some parts of the course, but not much. The course comparison that kept popping up in my mind was Oakmont Country Club here in Southern California, which is an old school club with plenty of history and character of its own.
The layout of Corral de Tierra doesn’t offer quite the drama of something like the back nine at Nicklaus Club, but I found it to be a more solid and playable course all the way through. It provides ample challenge and a good variety of hole designs that will keep you working for a good score. Yet, it’s not so crazy that you’ll lose a ton of balls or rack up huge numbers. This course really fit my eye for whatever reason and I had one of my better rounds of the trip except for a couple of costly blow-up holes down the stretch.
A handful of holes stick out in my memory, including the aforementioned 1st and 10th. The 1st hole is one of the prettier-looking opening shots I can remember as you get to see a lot of the course from that vantage point. The 10th is a more intimidating tee shot that finds you teeing it up right next to the clubhouse, hitting over big old oak trees and the parking spaces for the short course practice area. This is a shot you don’t want to hit too far offline or you will be yelling “fore.”
The 13th is a nice par-5 that brings in a little bit of change in elevation as you go downhill and dogleg to the left. The 15th is another hole I liked with a water hazard running up the left side and just a nice overall presentation throughout the hole. Lastly, the 18th is a solid finisher with a cool tee box presentation. All the tees are situated along a large water hazard (same one as the 15th) and each tee box is kind of cut into the water in its own little peninsula. Looking from the back tees forward, it makes for an unique serpentine presentation.
The conditions at Corral de Tierra were near-immaculate and by far the best of any course on this trip. It was all 9s and 10s in my Greenskeeper.org ratings and I can’t express just how nice this course looks and plays. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all lush and deep green—perfectly manicured. The sand traps were excellent. The greens were firm and quick, rolling smooth and true. After a number of post-aeration rounds this this trip, these greens were a dream to putt on.
Corral de Tierra is the true definition of a hidden gem and I would highly recommend it to anyone who gets an invite. I know they are looking to expand their member base. If you are in the market for a friendly, high-quality private club in the Monterey area, this and Nicklaus Club – Monterey are both lesser-known options that are well worth considering.
Some pictures from Corral de Tierra Country Club (4/24/18):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)