Favor the left side of the fairway. Catch the right half of the fairway and you'll contend with trees and a deep ravine that cover the right side of the green. A safe approach played short left catches a slope that will feed right and onto the green.
Avoid coming up short. Even if you clear the chasm, the front of the green falls off, sucking balls back toward the ravine. A high hinge in the middle of the green creates three distinct sections: left, right and back hole locations.
A drive down the left side cuts the corner, but it leaves a hanging lie and a blind approach. Find the right side of the fairway and you’ll have a visible, albeit longer, second shot from a flat lie. Past the greenside bunker on the left, a slope carries everything right and onto the green. A fairway swale swallows up approaches that finish right.
The longest par 5 on the course will have most players strategizing how to set up their third shot. The left side of the fairway provides the safest angle – it keeps you from challenging two greenside bunkers, while enabling you to use a friendly bank left of the green. Be cautious with a back hole location – the green rolls away sharply.
The last of a killer opening five-hole stretch is lined with a natural sandy area down the right-hand side. The optimal attack angle is playing across the green (left side of fairway to right hole location, and vice versa). Avoid missing long, as it leaves a devilish up-and-down from well below the putting surface.
The lowered green subtly falls off three different ways – to the front, left and right. An aggressive tee shot tracking a back hole location is susceptible to a hidden bunker behind the green. Long approaches targeting the right half of the green can trickle down to the forest floor.
This dogleg left climbs nearly 50 feet to a two-level green. If you are brave enough to challenge the left-hand fairway bunker, you will be rewarded with the best angle for approach. But shots that miss left on the approach will find a deep fairway hollow – or worse – the natural sandy area and creek down by the ninth green.
An aggressive drive that slides just left of the towering Monterey Pine can catch a slope and bound forward into wedge range. A bank left of the green generously accepts shots and ushers them down the putting surface. Shots long and right fall off steeply below the green.
Keep your tee shot right of the two fairway bunkers for a view of the green and your lay up landing area. Left is blind. A revitalized seasonal creek cuts diagonally across the hole, creating many choices. Lay up left? Lay up short of the creek? Challenge the creek? That’s up to you, and the prevailing wind, which is usually against you. Approaches short right will bound down the hill and funnel onto the green.
The key to this hole? Stay right. A giant hillside keeps balls in play on the tee shot, although bombers should note the bunker that comes into play at the throat of the fairway. Right is a safe lay up and an appropriate bailout if you go for it in two. Hit your approach short left and watch your ball trickle back down the shaved bank into the pond, a la No. 15 at Augusta National. Right and long are always safe.
The hanging bunker on the left slope and three deep bunkers to the right are inspired by the work of Alister MacKenzie. A strong left bank past the bunker will feed balls onto the green. Be aware that shots to a front flag are susceptible to sucking back off the green. Out of bounds lurks right.
A spectacular view of the Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains awaits, fog permitting. This par 4 dives more than 80 feet downhill, with out of bounds creeping into play on the right. Shots played down the left-hand side provide the best view into the green. Short shots can crawl onto the green, but long approaches fall off a steep back edge.
This uphill par 4 climbs 50 feet. Challenging the sand on the inside corner of the dogleg opens up the approach. A kicker slope left of the green redirects shots onto one of the most undulating putting surfaces at Poppy Hills. The green is divided into three strong sections, including a false front. Long shots collect into a challenging fairway hollow.
A tee shot splitting the two fairway bunkers is ideal, as the farther right you play, the longer your approach into the smallest green on the course. Drives sprayed too deep fall off a crowned fairway toward the forest, leaving a tough angle where all four greenside bunkers are in play. The left portion of the green is exposed, although shots must climb a false front.
The longest par 3 on the course is inspired by C.B. Macdonald, who brought North Berwick’s Redan Hole from Scotland to National Golf Links a century ago. A Redan green slopes right-to-left, and front-to-back. With that in mind, play away from the deep bunker that guards the left side of the green by aiming right, as a slope will feed your ball down the green. But beware — a shot hit too long on this line will collect into one of the deepest fairway troughs on the course.
A drive that skirts the fairway bunker on the right will cut the corner and provide the best approach angle. A lone bunker fronts the left side of the green, a look inspired by No. 10 at Pasatiempo. A backstop long and left will spit balls back onto the green, while anything missing short right will funnel backward for an uncomfortable recovery shot.
The final par 3 is pressed against a deep ravine to the right. Three bunkers before the green also make missing right a bad idea, but shots short and left will work their way onto the front edge. A bailout long and left leaves a delicate recovery with the ravine as a backdrop.
If you want to get home in two, a drive taking on the left fairway bunker leaves the shortest approach. But a tee shot down the right side of the fairway leaves a friendlier angle, as you will find a gap between the two bunkers fronting the green. If you play this hole as a three-shotter, laying up to the left side of the fairway creates the best avenue into the green, which has three distinct sections.