Since it first opened in 1985 along the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Dana Point, Monarch Beach Golf Links has long been a favorite destination for Southern California golfers as well as business and leisure travelers visiting Orange County. With its unmatched seaside location, prime course conditions and commitment to first-class service, it’s not hard to see why.
Starting in 2021, golfers and resort guests may notice upgrades, as the 400-room AAA five-diamond property has become the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club thanks to a new management contract with the world-class luxury hotel brand. Ohana Real Estate Investors, which purchased the club in 2019, will retain ownership.
While any changes to the golf experience may be subtle at first, the overall experience of guests visiting from near and far will be improved in many ways, said Eric Lohman, General Manager of Monarch Beach Golf Links.
“We have been blessed to be able to enjoy working with a five-star, beautifully appointed resort that has been run by some of the best luxury brands in the business, and we expect that to be enhanced under the Waldorf Astoria name,” Lohman said. “We’re excited to showcase our facility, operations, service and the amenities that we offer.”
The Waldorf Astoria brand includes 16 hotels and resorts in the United States as well as 21 international properties from China to the United Arab Emirates. A handful of those, including La Quinta Resort & Club and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, offer golf.
Monarch Beach will certainly benefit from its association with Waldorf Astoria. The course opened more than 30 years ago with only a trailer for a clubhouse but a highly regarded Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design on a spectacular piece of property directly abutting the Pacific Ocean – a claim that only a handful of California tracks can make.
The course gained national attention when it hosted the Hyundai Team Matches – a unique match play competition among PGA Tour, Senior Tour and LPGA players – in 2001 and 2002. Along the way, a world-class hotel was built just steps from the fairways, and the 162-acre resort quickly became a destination known not only for great golf but its first-class meeting, lodging, dining and spa offerings.
As much as things have changed since Monarch Beach first opened, the quality of the golf experience has never wavered and, in fact, continues to improve year after year. The par-70 routing plays 6,645 yards from the tips, but with elevated greens, plenty of bunkers and wind along the ocean adding to the challenge, it plays longer than the scorecard indicates. Lakes, wetlands and a creek winding its way through the course ensure that it’s not a bomber’s paradise and rewards more of a thoughtful shot-making approach.
The eye-popping signature hole comes early, but you’ll never forget the 315-yard, par-4 third. Pacific Ocean surf splashes at the fairway’s right edge on this crisp dogleg to the left. Well-placed bunkers and a smattering of trees demand that you plot your attack carefully, whether laying up or going for the green. Even if you find the putting surface, bold contouring makes for a serious flatstick adventure.
What truly elevates Monarch Beach Golf Links, however, is the quality of its holes away from the ocean. Take the 612-yard, par-5 seventh, a memorable risk-reward thriller that is bisected by a wide, scrub-filled creek, or the 400-yard, par-4 18th that calls for an exacting approach over a lake. With ocean views throughout the round, there’s no question golf is a prime attraction at the resort.
Lohman said he and his staff are excited about a couple things as 2021 tees off – the addition of a new Links Card program and a new fleet of PHAT Scooters arriving soon that will allow more golfers to experience an alternative mode of transportation, whether it’s on a scooter or a GolfBoard.
The Links Card combines the benefits of some previous membership offerings. For a $449 annual fee ($399 for returning cardholders), members have access to a 14-day advance booking window and receive 30-50 percent off regular green fees, great guest rates, discounts in the world-class golf shop and many other benefits.
“We feel like the Links Card is the best way to support our local community of golfers in 2021, to allow as many people as possible to play here on a regular basis,” Lohman said. “And we think the solo rider vehicle is here to stay and not just a passing trend, so we’re excited to be able to offer those to more golfers.”
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