On our way to Carmel, CA, we booked 4 days at an RV resort in Cayucos, CA located right on the central California coast. In this area is the most incredible oceanside town of Morro Bay which is home to the very challenging hillside course aptly named Morro Bay Golf Course.
The day before we were to play, we were drawn to the course for a preliminary look and introduction to our host, GM Joel Clay. We were excited and keen to return for our lunch time tee off the following day. We found a very spacious area to park The Golfmobile and after checking in with Hayden, in the pro shop, we loaded the clubs up on the new Yamaha power cart.
After a brief warm up on the range with countless looks downward over the course to one of the most dramatic ocean views of Morro Bay, we were summoned by the starter to join John and Ted for our round. As it was a busy day, the first tee was a congregation of about 12-16 golfers waiting for their tee time.
Friendly banter permeated the area as well as the starters voice audible over the microphone explaining repeatedly why it was slow off number 1. “The flag on the first green is right up front so everyone is 5 putting” he explained to the individuals in front of him and unknowingly to a bewildered mass of golfers about to play the hole.
Those familiar with the course, including our two golfing comrades, clarified that the green is severely sloped so balls roll easily off the green when you putt. Great I thought, not only is this crazy sport hard enough, now Newton’s theory of gravity is part of our day.
Who we are paired with is not critical to the review process, but it is to the mood of the day and these two fellows were a pair of princes. They were pleasant, complimentary and supportive all wrapped in one. They were also vital to the limited amount of success we had on the course in offering numerous valuable short game tips.
The greatest stroke waster in golf typically is excessive putting which may be a common occurrence at Morro Bay GC due to its hillside sloped landscape. Also, it’s what adds to the allure of playing “Little Pebble Beach” a moniker it had been given in the past.
Off we went. Since the course is not particularly long I played from the back or black tees. Even from the tips the course was a modest 6,360 yards in length. In the time we were waiting to tee off, I was the only golfer to tee it up from that far back. This fact attracted many viewing eyes and a few murmurs. I remember my Dad saying even if you’re not trying to be a show off, you better make sure you nail it. When I take a big cut, my miss is typically a fairly low gentle hook. So, taking a big cut as I did combined with the left to right slope of the fairway resulted in a perfect drive resting smack dab in the middle of the fairway. One elderly fellow even clapped softly. Myra, being the sole woman had an audience, and knowing she gets nervous in such circumstances, she really buckled down and joined me in splitting the fairway. Off we went, sloped greens bring it on.
Flagstick placements are the responsibility of the grounds crew not necessarily the Superintendent. None the less their placement is a very important and integral aspect of the day’s pace of play and enjoyment. In my many years in the golf business when we had to succumb to really difficult ones you’d often hear, “The superintendent must have been in a bad mood” or “He woke on the wrong side of the bed” or my favorite “He must be a sadist”. That one always made me laugh while pondering, “Are they really sadists?” I guess they could be, but perhaps they might be perturbed at having to cater to a group of society that is more likely to complain about a blade of grass out of place than how beautiful the whole course is.
Actually, I think Ted, in his friendly way, was a bit of sadist. Numerous times when any of us chipped or putted too hard, often without intention, he’d say “bye bye “or “that one is in the ocean”. It was a bit of levity really and probably created a bond among our foursome. None of us 5 putted on the first green. We all picked up after our third putts in a decision to limit the pain.
I am not about to suggest or finance any type of remedy to the calamity that occurred on 3 or 4 of the greens during our round, it’s a hillside course. Even putts that looked uphill defied belief when they kept rolling on and on and on following a modest tap. I would, however, close the first green, remove the turf, put a temp in front of it, take a box scraper to level it, reinstall the turf and open it up to birdies – not 5 putts.
The course as a whole is spectacular to play and in very good condition. The tee boxes are level to a fault, fairways easy to play and the entire course is located within the beautiful forest of the Morro Bay State Park. The Par 3’s from the back are great with 2 of them over 240 yards. I loved the Par 4 2nd hole, downhill with Morro Bay smiling up at you. Numerous greens were backdropped by thick stands of pine and eucalyptus trees, song birds sang joyfully among them while squirrels danced amidst fallen branches.
It was a very fun day and I had a number of bogeys usually reserved for the number of pars I make on average; about 10-12. Four pars are not an indictment of my skill or game, I rarely have a bad day putting as I did here. A few points if you stop to play here which I recommend you do. First, play with a local, like Ted who gave us an aiming point on and around the greens. Second, watch with intent when the others in your group play from on and around the greens. Third, if you’ve ever played a course built on a slope look around at your surroundings be aware of what direction the valley or in this case the ocean is. Finally, putt cautiously and remember like walking it’s easier to fall fast down a hill than it is to slowly climb up a mountain. Play Morro Bay, it makes you think for sure. And, oh ya, bring your camera.