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Destination: California

Par Excellence

All her man wanted was to play the Monterey Peninsula's holy trinity of golf--Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach

September 27, 1998|LISA MARLOWE | Marlowe is a freelance writer based in Malibu

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — My husband, Brian, has had the same mistress for years. He spends most weekends with her, claims she keeps him in shape and takes away his stress, but often he'll come home more frustrated than ever. I've tried to entice him away with new extracurricular activities, but I know he'll never give her up. He's hooked.

His addiction to the game of golf can be spooky; I don't know if a man could be this passionate about a woman. Once, when I asked him if he had to choose between us--wife or golf--he just stared at me and said, "I'm thinking." When his latest birthday loomed large, I told him to make a wish. He countered with two little words: "Pebble Beach." And no, no, no, he didn't just want to play the famed course itself, the ne plus ultra, the very mecca, the Holy Grail of the sport. He wanted to play the Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill courses as well--all owned by the Pebble Beach Co., and all located on the private 17-Mile Drive.

He'd been fantasizing about it for years. His love has taken us to some of the world's greatest fairways: Scotland's St. Andrews, Turnberry and Gleneagles; the courses at Hawaii's Mauna Kea and Lanai's Lodge at Koele resorts; Bali's Bali-Handara (in the bowl of an extinct volcano); and Kiaweh Island Ocean Course in South Carolina.

But Pebble Beach remained unconquered. And since a very large part of the game is jawing about it to your pals (Ever get stuck in the middle of a lively discourse on double-bogeys?), the cachet of playing Pebble Beach was of great importance to him as a "serious" sportsman.

The Pebble Beach Co. also owns the two resort lodgings here--the Lodge at Pebble Beach, and the Inn at Spanish Bay--and the 101-year-old Del Monte golf course (the oldest course west of the Mississippi), located in Monterey, four miles from the 17-Mile Drive.

The white-columned Lodge at Pebble Beach, which began as a log inn in 1909, is the perfect example of traditional country club style. Its younger sister, the more architecturally hip Inn at Spanish Bay, opened in 1987 six miles from the lodge and was an immediate hit. Washed in soothing taupe and sandy tones, the inn blends perfectly with the surrounding rugged dunes, carpeted in spring and summer with varying hues of purple verbena and lavender seaside daisies.

Guests at these two hotels--the only ones on the 17-Mile Drive--enjoy special booking privileges at all four courses, often a virtual necessity if you want to play. Resort guests also get reduced greens fees. Brian booked it all--the three courses and lodgings--one week ahead.

As first-timers at the Pebble Beach resorts, we chose the luxurious 270-room inn over the equally posh 161-room lodge, mainly because the inn seemed less of a tourist stop and more of a retreat.

Ah, the pleasures of golf widowdom. The inn has eight tennis courts, a vast pool and the Spanish Bay Club, a first-rate health spa offering small, personalized classes in everything from cardio-jazz to yoga, along with aromatherapy, all types of massage and a weight room. Bikes are available, gratis, for cruising the coast, and, should you pedal a beach too far, the resort provides a shuttle to return guests to their point of origin.

Guests at both resorts can use the lodge's private oceanside Beach & Tennis Club at Stillwater Cove, which also boasts a great cafe for alfresco lunch or brunch overlooking the Pebble Beach fairways. Add the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, with 140 horses and 34 miles of beach and forest trails, and there's really no excuse for non-golfers not to enjoy this place, even if you just snuggle by the fire in the lobby lounge, and do nothing but stare out at the roaring sea, a hot toddy in hand.

*

Buoyed by a fine sunny day last spring, we decided to drive up from L.A., arriving as night fell fast over Spanish Bay, the site where Juan Portola camped in 1769 while trying to locate Monterey Bay.

"I think I hear bagpipes," I said, as the valet lifted our luggage from the car, and indeed I did. At dusk each day, a kilted Scot piper plays his mournful melody as he walks the dunes around the inn and links--a slightly corny touch, but plaintively beautiful if you're in the right mood.

Fires burning in oversized hearths drew us into the expansive lobby of ivory and earth-tones accented with burnished walnut and slate. Towering bay windows faced the churning sea. A jazz band played Cole Porter at the far end of the room, and the inviting couches were strewn with contented-looking couples.

Since it had received high marks for service in surveys by organizations such as Conde Nast and Mobil, we were surprised to receive no greeting whatsoever at the check-in desk. And the clerk, a peevish Mr. Bean-type, gave us a room by the elevator on the ground floor. We'd booked an upgraded room rate--not just a "standard"--so this wasn't cricket. After much deep sighing, he gave us a different room. But the hotel was only 70% full that night; moving us should have been no big deal.

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