Design team of Damian Pascuzzo and PGA Tour pro Steve Pate are worth their weight in gold
NIPOMO, Cal. (June 2, 2018) — The area known as the Central California Coast, located between Monterrey and Point Conception, has scads of great golf courses and some of the world’s most scenic shorefront communities.
Smack dab in the middle of the region, in the town of Nipomo near San Luis Obispo, is The Woodlands, which is Central California’s largest master-planned residential community. There are plans for a full-fledged resort at the site, with three golf courses and an upscale hotel, all built among grass-covered dunes, between stands of eucalyptus trees and in near-sight of the surf of the Pacific Ocean.
Here, hard against the fields bursting with crops of lettuce, strawberries and artichokes, lies Monarch Dunes Golf Club, two sublimely excellent golf courses and the centerpiece of The Woodlands community and the first steps of a grand plan to transform the property into a world-class resort destination.
The courses – the 18-hole Old Course and the unique 12-hole, par-3 Challenge Course – were both designed by architect Damian Pascuzzo and PGA Tour Pro Steve Pate. Pascuzzo worked more than 14 years on the project before seeing golfers put a tee in the ground, a timeframe and a process that allowed the team tocreate two high-quality tracks that are fun to play and very well integrated into the overall development.
“Our intent was to provide Central Coast golfers with a different kind of golf experience, and I believe we achieved that,” Pascuzzo said. “We drew our inspiration from the seaside courses of Scotland and Ireland and from the natural dunes that are formed along the ocean just west of the project.”
Monarch Dunes is not lined with houses down each side of every fairway. Its central golf amenities – the clubhouse, practice range and several holes – are located in the village center, creating a dynamic yet isolated area of activity for the neighborhood.
The two courses were built from the sand that is native to the site, allowing Pascuzzo and Pate to shape very natural looking features into the tracks as well as create fun and exciting green and bunker complexes.
“We planted the golf course with a blend of fescue grasses that are particularly adapted to the region,” Pascuzzo said. “In the fairways, these grasses provide firm and fast playing conditions. Out in the roughs, where the fescue grass is allowed to grow longer, there are different colors and textures that will contrast with the fairways.”
A little bit of everything on The Old Course
The Old Course at Monarch Dunes opened on Jan. 1, 2006. The par-71 track plays at 6,810 yards from its back set of five tees and winds up and down the site’s hills and rolling terrain. The site sports six ponds to provide irrigation and strategic play. Bunkers come are part of the challenge as well, as Pascuzzo and Pate used sand to direct shots and aim the players in the right line of action.
The track’s front-side features the right-to-left 453-yard par-4 opening hole and the 470-yard par-4 ninth, with a fairway that narrows as the player goes longer into the landing area and a raised, left-sloping green that is fronted and sided by water on the starboard.
In between the players have a chance to make things happen on three progressively longer and tougher par-3s (the 121-yard third, the 140-yard fifth and the 200-yard eighth, which all call for a forced carry), two par-5s asking for pinpoint accuracy on the approach (be it with the second or third shot) and two short par-4s, the best of which is the downhill 350-yard seventh.
The back-side starts with perhaps the best hole on The Old Course, the 437-yard par-4 10th, with a split fairway separated by dunes to give a dramatic risk-reward option. The left fairway is narrower than the right but approximately 35 yards shorter to the hole and the putting surface is uphill and guarded by sand on the front-right.
On the 567-yard par-5 12th, the tee shot is slightly uphill to a plateau that is sided by tall eucalyptus trees. If the drive is struck well, the player above the rest of the fairway with the final 270 yards of the hole bracketed by dunes on the left and rolling grassy mounds on the right.
No. 13 (a 423-yard par-4) might take the drive out of the player’s hand despite its length. The hole must be attacked twice – first to safe spot in the fairway that is sliced in two by a drop off, and then to a greens complex with a false-front dune 40 yards shy of the putting surface.
The 255-yard 15this the longest one-shotter on the Old Course and has little room for error, with water on the right reaching out for balls hit to that side and a stack of dunes to the left to snag the short, run-up green.
The player can end the round with a flourish on the 490-yard par-5 17thand the 397-yard par-4 closing hole, two offerings where birdie can be procured with well-struck shots.
On No. 17, the drive is framed by a lake to the right and eucalyptus trees on the left, and the approach is uphill to the largest putting surface on the course (more than 12,000-square feet). The closer is downhill with the prevailing wind at your back and ends with a large, multi-tiered green that makes accuracy paramount.
The Old Course offers a little bit of everything and demands a lot of your game, but that’s the whole reason to play the game, right?It was selected by Golf Digest as one of America’s Top-50 Golf Courses for Women, and that publication also recognized The Old Course as one of its Best New Courses in its Jan. 2008 issue. Golf Magazine also lauded The Old Course at Monarch Dunes as one of its Top 10 New Courses You Can Play for 2007.
The Challenge Course is all that and more
The Challenge Course at Monarch Dunes Golf Club takes the term “out of the box” to a new level. Here – as a companion to the facility’s Old Course – you’ll find 12 par-3s routed in such a way that shots are whipped by winds off the Pacific Ocean, which is just a mile or so to the west.
Also designed by Pascuzzo and Pate, the Challenge Course can be tough thanks mostly to greens with loads of undulation, water, dunes and fescue. It’s a little quirky and is supposed to be, as the architects fashioned the course in such a way that you can play different tees (there are three sets) for different shots.
Holes range from the 82-yard third to the 242-yard fifth, which is hard to reach even with a driver in a facing wind. The layout plays to 1,858 yards from the tips.
“The Challenge Course could set a new standard for short golf courses,” Pascuzzo said. “It’s a fun, but salty, alternative for players who do not have the time or inclination to play a full 18 holes.”
The Monarch Dunes Golf Club includes a practice facility, clubhouse and Butterfly Grille, a full-service restaurant featuring the latest great foods fostered in Central California.
The neighboring 30,000 square foot Monarch Club provides additional 5-Star amenities including the Avila Room Event Center, the Sandalwood Spa as well as The Market Place and Adelina’s Bistro which highlights a hand-picked selection of superb Central Coast wines.