A Closer Look: Bayonet and Black Horse Courses
Sweeping renovations to both courses in 2007 and 2008 have made the 'must-play' Monterey Peninsula layouts more interesting, more scenic and a better overall test of golf.
California's Monterey Peninsula is home to some of the best-known golf courses in the country. Pebble Beach Golf Resorts sports four courses that are open to the public, including the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill. Nearby Cypress Point Club is private, yet avid golf fans are familiar with the course from its years as a part of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Ten minutes north of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point are Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses, which have their own mystique among avid golfers. The one-time military courses in Seaside, Calif., have been part of the Monterey itinerary for many savvy golf travelers.
"These courses have a reputation for being a must-play on your trip to Monterey," says Pat Jones, PGA head professional at Bayonet and Black Horse. "I talk to visitors as they come through our shop, and they're playing us the day before or the day after they played at Pebble Beach, or Spyglass, or Cypress Point. We're in that rotation."
Jones says part of the mystique surrounding Bayonet and Black Horse comes from the courses' past as part of the Fort Ord military base, when it was difficult for the public to play the layouts -- and rumors of Bayonet's extreme difficulty grew. He says the military link still resonates, as some visitors are playing the courses because their fathers were once stationed there. But as competitors in the 2012 PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA will see, the sweeping renovations performed on both courses in 2007 and 2008 have made the layouts more interesting, more scenic and a better overall test of golf.
"The renovations took out a lot of trees and trimmed back the cypress trees on the property, which made the courses more playable and opened up great views of the Monterey Bay," Jones says. "Before the renovation, a lot of people wanted to play Bayonet just to see how hard it was. Now both courses are known for having some of the best greens on the peninsula, and Black Horse is getting its due as a true championship course."
The 312 players vying for the Walter Hagen Cup at this month's PGA Professional National Championship will see some similarities out of the Bayonet and Black Horse layouts, which are situated next to each other. Both courses feature Jacklin T1 Bentgrass from tee to green, and should be in peak condition for the National Championship. The average high temperatures are in the mid-60s, and the prevailing breeze off the Monterey Bay will be a factor on both courses.
"I would tell all our competitors that we're at sea level, and the ball might not travel like some of them are used to," Jones says. "Whatever the scorecard has for yardage for a given day, you can add 300 yards to it -- the courses play that much longer than the numbers would indicate. But I think everyone will think it was a fun, fair test of golf."
That test will be different from one course to another. Each player in the field will play one round on each course, with Bayonet hosting the final two rounds. Jones says Bayonet puts an emphasis on accuracy and length off the tee. The layout has birdie holes at the outset and down the stretch, but players will really need to focus over holes 11–14, a tree-lined stretch known as "Combat Corner."
"Between holes three and seven, you have some short par 4s and par 3s that you can make birdies on, and if you make a par on No. 9, you've picked up something on the field," Jones says. "No. 10 starts the backside with another birdie hole, but then things get really tough."
No. 11 is the start of "Combat Corner" and a tough par 4 despite only playing 389 yards. Jones advises players to keep their tee shots below a fairway bunker that guards the dogleg left. Powering a driver or 3-wood past the bunker leaves a partial wedge shot from a downhill lie, making it tough to stop the ball short of the hole -- or hold the green at all.
Nos. 12 and 13 continue the challenge of "Combat Corner" with two more difficult par 4s, each playing much longer than No. 11. The 12th hole reads 420 yards on the scorecard, but it is uphill all the way and plays at least 40 yards longer. The green on No. 12 has multiple tiers, and Jones says, "it has been known to test even the best short game." Meanwhile, No. 13 is a 480-yarder that plays downhill, but into the prevailing breeze. The 13th tee provides one of the most stunning views of Monterey Bay on the property.
Black Horse, meanwhile, presents a different tactical challenge. The fairways are more open, but aggressive bunkering and undulating greens put a premium on course management and distance control.
"I look at Black Horse as almost like two courses in one," Jones says. "The first seven holes are a mix of short par 4s and difficult par 3s. From Nos. 8–18, I like to says the course gets 'bigger' -- the holes are longer, you have more uphill, heroic shots and you see a lot of majestic views of the bay." Players looking to get off to a good start on the front nine at Black Horse may take an aggressive run at No. 6 and 7, a pair of risk-reward par 4s. No. 6 is up hill, but plays just 266 yards. Longer players can take a run at the green, but missing it can leave a tough up-and-down birdie opportunity -- or leave you scrambling for par.
No. 7 plays 130 yards longer, but is downhill and may still tempt long hitters. The smart play on both holes may be hybrid off the tee and short iron into the greens.
"Those are great examples of the challenge Black Horse presents now that it's been renovated," Jones says. "With the un - dulation of the greens and the collection areas around them, you can't go pinseeking all the time. Otherwise you find yourself in a collection area with a tight lie 10 feet below the green, and those are the shots that always get your heart racing."
Jones says his favorite hole on Black Horse is No. 11, a challenging 452-yard, uphill par 4 that doglegs to the right. A tee shot well placed near the fairway bunkers to the left leaves an uphill shot to a tiered green, while a tee shot along the right side may be blocked by a menacing cypress.
The closing hole on Black Horse is a 588-yard downhill par 5, where a little local knowledge can come in handy.
Jones says there's a "speed slot" on the left side of the fairway that can add 30 yards to a well-placed drive. From there, competitors will have roughly 250 yards downhill, with a full view of the Monterey Bay in the distance.
Jones thinks the PGA Professional National Championship may come down to the 18th hole on Bayonet, which is also a par 5. At 530 yards, long hitters can hold the green with a faded long iron and set up a run at eagle or birdie. A trip to the PGA Championship, or a chance at victory, may depend upon it.
"I think our competitors are going to walk away thinking this was a fun, fair test of golf," Jones says. "I'm sure Bayonet and Black Horse will produce a worthy National Champion, and send 20 very strong players to the PGA Championship with a lot of confidence that they can handle any challenge."
This story appears courtesy of PGA Magazine, the official publication of The PGA of America.