Great golf on the Monterey Peninsula extends far beyond the ocean cliffs of Pebble Beach Golf Links. A great example of that is at Bayonet & Black Horse — a 36 hole facility located in Seaside, California. I have previously raved about the Bayonet Course, which I don’t hesitate labelling a “must-play” while on a golf trip to the Peninsula. As a result, Bayonet’s counterpart — Black Horse — has a lot to live up to.
Beth and I have both been fortunate enough to play both courses on multiple occasions, and under varying conditions. Black Horse weighs in a little lighter on the scorecard than Bayonet. The par 72 layout comes in at 7024 yards from the tips, and a course rating/slope of 73.7/136, which still packs a heavy punch.
The opening tee shot on the par-5 1st hole of Black Horse:
Approach shot into the 1st green:
The first thing that you’ll notice about Black Horse is how visually stunning it is. Between the uniquely sculpted bunkers, rolling fairways, Monterey Cypress trees, and views of Monterey Bay, Black Horse does not shy away from the camera.
Tee shot on the gentle dogleg left, par-4 4th hole:
The next thing you might notice as you play Black Horse, is how darn challenging it can be. The tee shots appear fairly open and look inviting, but those bunkers are where they are for a reason, and not always easy to avoid. However, it’s not a course where too many balls are going to be lost due to the relatively open nature of it.
The greens are huge, often raised, and have severe undulations. If the conditions are firm and fast, they are nothing short of treacherous. If you’re not familiar with the tiers and undulations, it can be very difficult to get the ball close to the hole. If you’re lucky enough to play them in softer conditions, they are still challenging, but much more fair.
Tee shot on the driveable par-4 6th hole:
The dogleg right par-4 7th hole:
Another thing you might notice as you play the course, which unfortunately takes away from how the course plays in spots, is the drainage system. Due to the topography of the course, they had no choice but to install an underground collection system to manage water. The result is many metal catch basins in the fairways and near the greens, where the surrounding topography is graded such that water drains to them. This is great for water management, but it also collects a lot of golf balls. We have observed many times that tee shots of varying length, line, and quality all funnel to a similar place. This results in a high concentrations of divots in these areas, and some frustrating lies in the fairway.
The par-4 14th hole, which features a slightly downhill tee shot, followed by a significantly uphill approach into the green:
The par-3 15th hole:
Unlike Bayonet, Black Horse does not return back to the clubhouse after 9 holes, so instead they have a food and beverage cart. However, both times we have played, we have been a bit disappointed with the frequency in which we saw the cart, and the food options it provided. Our last visit, we were very hungry by the 12th hole and finally came upon the food and beverage cart, only to find the sandwiches had sold out and the food options were limited to chips and chocolate bars. Given my opinion regarding food on a golf course (click here to read about it), I would say there is room for improvement in this department. Even if it is just a friendly reminder when you’re checking in before the round, that it might be a good idea to grab some food since you won’t return to the clubhouse during the round.
Black Horse is a course with so much potential. Visually, it is captivating and inviting, yet each time I’ve played it, it fell just short of what I expect it should be. It’s a course I want so desperately to love. Even now, in this very moment, I want to give it another go because I’m convinced that the next time it will be everything I think it could be.
As Bayonet and Black Horse gain popularity, their tee sheet has become increasingly busier, and we have witnessed pace of play become an issue at times. Hopefully they get some marshals out there and start to adapt to the ever-increasing demands on these golf courses.
It’s important to remember that reviewing golf courses is often subjective. I’ve had people tell me they like Black Horse better than Bayonet, even though I don’t think they’re in the same league. As a duo, they make a strong team and both offer up a stern, scenic challenge.
Black Horse isn’t a bad golf course. In ways, I think it falls victim to the high standard in which Bayonet set with me. My best advice is to try them both and find out for yourself. For as little as $50 including a cart if you can score an online deal (typically it is $85-$95), it’s tough to go wrong.