I remember Saint Mary's would load up in a van, driven by one of our four coaches in four years (the country club sport at a country club of a college had an other-side-of-the-tracks streak of struggles) and we'd take on Santa Clara at one of the two courses at Fort Ord, a U.S. Army training facility, established in 1917. Our matches were hardly a battle, usually just a pillow fight. Two "Division 1" programs performing at division six speed. Feathers everywhere. Here's a shot of the real training that would take place on property while we played golf:
Of the two courses at Fort Ord, we'd always play the Bayonet Course (16th green pictured above), which had a lot of extreme dogleg lefts. Why? General Robert McClure, an avid lefty golfer who had a horrific slice, designed the course. I didn't mind it; I was a righty with a nasty hook. However, that notion that trees are 90 percent air--not at Fort Ord. They were 100 percent dense Dikembe Mutumbos of smackdown.
Unfortunately for Fort Ord, it was downsized in 1991 and then they closed it in 1994. The two courses were turned over to the city of Seaside and both became public. Coming off a Gene Bates multi-year and $13 million renovation, the former Fort Ord is looking as good as the revamped golf program at my alma mater (the Gaels aren't just good at basketball and rugby any more). Bates has worked with Nicklaus and Johnny Miller and his most notable course design is Circling Raven in Idaho, No. 61 on Golf Digest's list of America's 100 Greatest Public.
Both of the former Forth Ord's renovated courses finished in the top 10 remodels of 2009, according to Golf Digest, and both are receiving rave reviews by friends who have been there recently. Not only for the look and feel of the golf, but also for the value. In the summer, play either course during the week for $100, $120 on weekends. Active and retired military get ridiculously good discounts, which is cool considering the Pentagon is no longer involved. Click here for a complete listing of current rates.
In terms of the courses, one friend told me I wouldn't recognize the place. He says they cleaned up a lot of the cypress trees, removing a lot of the undergrowth. (That stuff was my nemesis.) It helped the esthetics of the place, some of the sightlines and the views out to the ocean. Another friend, who lives local, took advantage of one of the few annual membership options. For the "Executive Membership" he paid $4,200 per year (translation: $350 per month) for unlimited golf, range balls, a discounted cart rate, discounted guest fees, pro shop discounts and some free food. He figures if he plays seven times a month it's worth it. He has played a lot more than that. He says, "The benefit of this deal is that if I want to go out and just play nine, or if I want to play 27, whatever, it's all covered as part of the membership."
My friend's breakdown of both courses (he's a 3 handicap):
____[#image: /photos/55ad72edadd713143b42465d]|||Blog_BayonetNo.17.jpg|||Bayonet (17th green pictured above): It still plays long and they like to soak it, so it rarely plays firm or fast. That's actually true of both courses. August through October is the dry season. The rest of the year it's more like lands and stops. It's tight, tree-lined, significant elevation changes, challenging greens, very visually attractive, makes your eyes feels good. They say it's No. 35 on your list of the 50 toughest courses in the country, so it's a great place to challenge your game and in the end, it makes you a much better golfer. Birdies are rare and you get into the 80s in a hurry out there. A lot of caddies from Cypress or Pebble play their golf at Bayonet.
____[#image: /photos/55ad72edb01eefe207f698a8]|||Blog_BlackHorse.jpg|||__Black Horse (pictured above): __ There's a little more room at Black Horse than Bayonet, you can spray it a little more, but it's also tight in some spots, and some of the greens are a little over the top. There's different bunkering on both courses. Bayonet's bunkers have smooth contours and edging. Black Horse's edging to the bunkers is rough or serrated, like a knife. So you always know which course you're on, and with they way the routing works, maybe that was part of the point. It can get confusing for first-timers. There are more holes on Black Horse where you stand on the tee and you're excited to swing it. Bayonet is much more intimidating. I don't know what accounts for it, but there are some people who like one and not the other. Because I can play both with the annual membership, I like jumping back and forth.
If only I could be back at St. Mary's.