Carmel Valley Ranch: Friendly Luxury, Playable Golf

By David R. Holland, Contributor

Back along Snively's Ridge on the eastern boundary of the Santa Lucia Preserve is a spot that is one of the great luxury getaways in the USA. It's called Carmel Valley Ranch, and its Pete Dye par-70 layout is a very playable golf course that was voted one of the Top 100 Women-Friendly Courses in the country by Golf for Women's Magazine.

It's hard to believe that in this setting one feels so in tune with nature and away from the big cities, but actually one is only moments away from the shops of Carmel-By-The-Sea, the beach and Pacific Ocean, Big Sur, Laguna Seca Raceway, 17-Mile Drive and the Monterey Aquarium. Cannery Row, Carmel Mission, Fisherman's Wharf and Point Lobos State Wildlife Reserve are other favorite attractions within minutes.

From the 11th tee box you are on a pedestal looking down upon the 6,234-yard golf course and the 438-yard par-4 that features a huge football-field sized sand trap guarding the left side.

"Standing on the blue tee box of No. 11 is an awesome sight," said Bev Lemon of Marina, CA. "You can look out some 450 plus yards over the fairway and green and see the fairway of hole No. 12, another 300 plus yards, in the distance. The aesthetic beauty of the course is quite memorable.

"Carmel Valley Ranch is a great course for ladies. The front nine is easily walkable, while the back nine is much more challenging with lots of hills," Lemon said. "Another pretty view is from the white tee box on the par-3 hole No. 13. This view looks down over the lakes that surround the 18th fairway to provide a picturesque, breathtaking scene."

Director of Golf Michael Chapman says most visitors like the weather in Carmel Valley. It's only minutes from the seaside Pebble Beach courses that feature wind, cold and fog frequently, but at the same time it could be sunny and warm in Carmel Valley.

"We are nestled in this scenic valley and along with the weather people like the wildlife and the beauty of the elevation changes," Chapman said. "Our greens are usually really nice and the course is kept in great condition year around."

"One of my pet peeves is the maintenance of the ladies tee boxes," Lemon said. "Most courses seem to pay less attention to them. Not so at Carmel Valley Ranch. All tee boxes were excellently maintained."

Women friendly? Carmel Valley Ranch not only has red tee boxes measuring 5,046 for women, but also a gold which is only 4,337 yards long.

No. 2 is another beautiful golf hole that will make you think. It's a par-4 only 299 from the back, but the second shot has a huge oak in the middle of your line-of-sight and the green is guarded by sand and a waterfall. The backdrop is a mountain wall.

No. 12 is a blind tee shot and also blind second shot for shorter hitters. No. 13 is straight downhill, a par-3 measuring 150 from the back.

So if someone has told you that all Pete Dye courses will humble you, forget it. Carmel Valley Ranch wasn't designed to break you. Fees are $145 for hotel guests and $155 for the public.

Carmel Valley Ranch has many varied packages. One three-night package is designed for newcomers to golf, and lets you learn the game in a comfortable, supportive environment. A half-hour refresher clinic is available each Wednesday and Saturday. It also includes: Three nights in a spacious one-bedroom suite, a full breakfast daily, two 90-minute lessons (semi-private, up to four people), one four-hole playing lesson with pro (per stay), complimentary use of Callaway clubs and Foot-Joy rental shoes, unlimited use of practice and fitness facilities, one 50-minute massage (per stay), and a welcome gift in suite upon arrival.

Carmel Valley Ranch is situated in a 1,700-acre estate that includes 144 guest suites which overlook the golf course and a turn-of-the-century tennis clubhouse. Each of the guest suites are grouped in homelike clusters on the hillside, along with new ones overlooking the valley. You will have up to 1,200-square feet of comfort.

Each suite includes fire place, refreshment center, deck with a vista, fresh-cut flowers, terrycloth robes and freshly baked cookies at bedtime.

Carmel Valley Ranch's dining options range from the formality of The Oaks dining room in the main lodge, to the casual atmosphere of the Ranch House Cafe at the tennis clubhouse, to the Club Grill at the golf clubhouse. All the choices feature indoor and outdoor dining overlooking the beauty of this countryside estate.

CVR offers a tennis complex with 10 hard courts, two clay courts and northern California's only grass court. There is a full-service pro shop, pool and whirlpool spa, and men's and women's locker rooms with saunas. The tennis clubhouse is located in the most historic site on the estate - the original ranch house, which was built more than a century ago. Surrounded by gardens, this is also the home of the resort's fitness center.

The Resort holds the Gold Tee Award from Meetings & Conventions Magazine. The Grand Ballroom at the main lodge divides into eight breakout rooms all with audio-visual capabilities. CVR can help you plan any meeting or conference, larger or small.

Carmel Valley Ranch
One Old Ranch Road
Carmel, California 93923
Reservations: 1-888-GRAN-BAY
Phone: 831-625-9500

Directions: Carmel Valley Ranch is situated about a 15-minute drive from the Monterey Peninsula Airport, 90 minutes south of San Jose and 2½ hours south of downtown San Francisco.

From San Francisco Airport (117 miles, 2 hours) or from San Jose Airport (80 miles, 1½ hours):
1. Take Hwy 101 South.
2. Take the Monterey Peninsula Exit onto Hwy 156 West.
3. Continue on Hwy 156 to Hwy 1 South.
4. Continue on Hwy 1 South to Carmel Valley Road.
5. Turn left onto Carmel Valley Road.
6. Continue on Carmel Valley Road 6½ miles to Robinson Canyon Road.
7. Turn right onto Robinson Canyon Road to Carmel Valley Ranch.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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