At Monarch Dunes Golf Club, the links-style golf of coastal Britannia stretches out in the hills of California wine country. Amid windswept dunes and eucalyptus trees sweep coastal views speckled with amber hillsides and big blue skies. And this is just how architects Damian Pascuzzo and PGA Tour Pro Steve Pate wanted it. But they also wanted something beyond beautiful vistas. They wanted a unique 30-hole arena that tested the mettle of golfers.
On the 6,810-yard, par-71 Old Course, players unleash the full potential of their swings on the open expanses of the longer front nine before dialing back for close control on the back nine—a shorter tract made formidable by water hazards on all but two holes. Though the two halves have their own distinct flavors, both begin with mid-length par-4s. These are the course's two most difficult holes, so savvy golfers should spend extra time before the round and at the turn to give their driver an encouraging massage.
While the Old Course is a grassy homage to golf's most sacred traditions, Monarch Dunes' Challenge Course charts a much more unorthodox path—and not just in its unconventional 12-hole layout. While some par-3 courses are known as "pitch-and-putts" for their short holes, The Challenge—named among the Top 10 Par-3 Courses by Golf.com—will have some reaching for a driver or three-wood on holes 5 and 12, which measure 242 and 202 yards respectively. Golfers can expect to finish the round in two hours or less, freeing up plenty of time to relax at the Butterfly Grille or shop for flame decals to glue onto their golf bag.
Course at a Glance: The Old Course
Course at a Glance: The Challenge
At Blacklake Golf Resort, players can choose any combination of challenges from three distinct nine-hole courses, each representing a unique feature of playing golf within the varied landscape of the Central Coast. Sea breezes drift up from the valley to the Canyons course's elevated tee boxes. The Oaks course ventures away from the clubhouse to wind through a forest of towering oak trees, its undulating grass and smooth walkways shaded by the abundant branches of those mighty oaks. To begin the Lakes course, a short, 143-yard hole heralds the inviting nature of the compact layout and wide fairways, all before a monstrous 573-yard par 5 finishes the round.
Open from dawn to dusk, Blacklake Golf Resort also features practice facilities, including a 275-yard driving range and two putting, chipping, and pitching greens on which to improve your techniques. During lessons, the staff (http://blacklake.com/staff/) of PGA professionals works to improve players' fundamentals without sacrificing the fun, relaxing nature of the sport.
Course at a Glance:
* Three nine-hole courses (par 36, 36, and 35)
* Total yardages from the back tees: 3,276, 3,125, and 2,909
* Three sets of tees per hole
Hop-n-Play's indoor playground extends beyond the usual dimensions of fun. Apart from being climbable, slidable, and bouncable, nearly every play piece is also moveable. Toddlers can ride balls suspended from a spinning palm tree, or balance inside a slowly rotating hamster-wheel. Flowing water even makes an appearance, cascading down a tiny slide that's encased in clear plastic to prevent anyone from getting wet or ruining their makeup.
But each unique and safely padded attraction does more than entertain. While romping and running under the watchful eye parents, kids develop their muscle coordination and sense of space. And they can develop them late into the evening—families can show up ready for bed during the last business hour of the day, known as "pajama play."