Superior Court Judge John M. Phillips spent his career witnessing the cycle of offending and incarceration in which local youth often became trapped. He founded Rancho Cielo Youth Campus to help prevent first-time offenders from getting stuck in this negative spiral by giving them educational and vocational alternatives to crime. After acquiring the Natividad Boys' Ranch, a long-dormant juvenile-incarceration facility, he transformed it into a comprehensive educational environment with classrooms, a wood shop, a ceramics room, and a natural setting.
Today, Rancho Cielo Youth Campus helps underserved youth in Monterey County find their place in society with educational programs and social services that range from healthful eating to drug diversion. The ranch also provides vocational training and job placement in the culinary-arts and construction fields. The sprawling 100-acre grounds contain two lakes, stables, and a cultivated garden, all of which host outdoor activities and recreational programs including fishing, dance classes, and sports leagues.
At Famous Dave’s BBQ, hand-rubbed St. Louis-style spareribs smoke over a hickory fire for 3-4 hours. A generous helping of sweet and sassy sauce—made from Famous Dave’s secret recipe—seals in the ribs’ piquant flavor and also makes appearances on other barbeque specialties including country-roasted chicken and regular or boneless wings. Joining Famous Dave’s menu of barbecue staples are burgers and citrus shrimp fresh from the grill as well as sandwiches, southern sides, and desserts.
Designed by 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples, San Juan Oaks Golf Club showcases an 18-hole course that arches across 7,133 yards of San Juan Valley terrain. On the front nine, golfers test their mettle at one of Freddy's favorite holes, the 204-yard, par-3 sixth hole, where tee shots must speed through swirling winds and trees wielding catchers’ mitts to land on a green guarded by oak and eucalyptus trees. The back nine rolls through the valley’s foothills, regaling golfers with frequent elevation changes and back-to-back tees—at 16 and 17—that offer stunning views of the surrounding area. The course frequently draws top-flight golfers and is a Stage-One site of the PGA Tour's Qualifying School.
Before taking to the first tee, golfers can warm up at the club’s practice facilities, which include a 15-acre, all-grass driving range, a 10,000-square-foot putting green, and an area for chipping and bunker shots. Elegant, high-beamed ceilings and a wood-burning fireplace await golfers and underfed 9-irons at the restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch.
Course at a Glance:
Home to household names like Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, the Monterey Bay area can rightfully claim a place among the world’s top golf regions. The 36-hole complex at Bayonet & Black Horse Golf Course hosted the 2012 PGA Professional National Championship and bolsters the coastal locale’s reputation for world-class links, boasting both a rich historic legacy—Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Tom Watson have all graced the Bayonet course—and a recent redesign from famed course architect Gene Bates, which earned both courses a spot on Golf Digest’s Top 10 Course Remodels of 2009.
The older of the two courses, Bayonet Golf Course was originally sculpted through the cypress trees of the since-closed Fort Ord Military Base in 1954 by the Army's Commanding Officer General Robert McClure. Measuring in at 7,104 yards from the tips, the course still captures McClure’s original vision, with a classic, tree-lined layout and several dog-leg lefts the General cunningly installed to favor his left-handed fade off the tee. Gene Bates’ recent design contributions are apparent in the layout’s clusters of creative bunkering, reshaped greens, and areas where trees have been cleared to allow for greater views of the Monterey Peninsula.
Bates also made sweeping alterations to Black Horse Golf Course, changing the layout from its tree-lined, 1964 design into a more open counterpart to Bayonet’s cypress-, pine-, and oak-ensconced fairways. In addition, Bates carpeted the entire 7,024-yard course with new, smooth-rolling bent grass, while revamping the irrigation to provide for more meticulous playing conditions. The remodeling efforts afford many sweeping views that populate the course, but especially the one golfers’ encounter on the newly-added, 224-yard, par three 15th hole, where an elevated tee looks out onto a horizon dominated by the Pacific Ocean.
In 1982, Alfonso Castaneda opened Dona Esther Restaurant, which he named after his grandmother in honor of her life and love of cooking. Popular dishes include carne asada made with rib-eye steak and the Dona Esther Special, a combination platter that hides its plate beneath a piping-hot chicken enchilada, taco, and burrito and bed of rice and beans. Customers looking for something more comforting than a mariachi band that lulls them to sleep can always order a steaming, fragrant bowl of menudo—a traditional Mexican soup seasoned with onion, cilantro, and crushed red pepper. But if music's your thing, live musicians fill the room on Saturday nights and during the Sunday brunch buffet. The traditional tunes add to an atmosphere epitomized by rustic carvings and paintings, as well as lush greenery that spills out of pots in search of salsa.