Tucked into the Del Monte Forest on California's Monterey Peninsula, Poppy Hills is well known to fans of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as one of the toughest tests of golf faced by PGA TOUR players. It's also a rare location where the public can test itself on the same course it has seen the pros play on television. Poppy Hills was built as the home course for the Northern California Golf Association and was the first golf course in the U.S. to be owned and operated by an amateur golf association.
Several unique challenges confronted Robert Trent Jones II in designing Poppy Hills. First, we sought to create a golf venue that would prove worthy of its renowned neighbors, including Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. Simultaneously, we wanted to design a course that could host tournaments while still providing a fair and manageable round to public golfers. In building Poppy Hills, we also committed to protecting the dwarf cypress, a rare species of tree located on the site. Demonstrating the environmental sensitivity that has characterized so much of our work over the past four decades, we mapped these trees and routed the golf holes and water channels around them.
Playing through forests of pine and cypress, Poppy Hills affords some protection from Monterey's ocean breezes but still proffers occasional views of the Pacific. The 6,833-yard layout boasts lakes and vertical hazards (trees) en route to large, rolling, compartmentalized greens guarded by water and sand. As per our client's wishes, the greens were inspired by those at Augusta National. Deep, strong bunkering close to the putting surfaces demands short game finesse. A number of sharp doglegs force players to shape their shots. Five par threes and five par fives (including back-to-back par fives at holes nine and ten) lend additional interest.
Ron Whitten, the architecture critic for Golf Digest has said of Poppy Hills, "Architecturally its routing fits its hilly, ravine-slashed location, which was no easy feat. Almost every hole is tree lined but it's never been a tight, claustrophobic course. The corridors are wide and selected trees were left in play. Whitten calls it "the best bargain on the coastline.