California 101 Golf Trail San Luis Obispo

By The Unknown Golfer


I recently decided to play more golf, mostly to address some work/life balance challenges I’ve faced in recent years. Luckily for me, the Central Coast is chock full of excellent public golf courses. In keeping with my self-promise, I called on three college buddies to join me for a golf weekend, and they quickly agreed.

Our foursome had handicaps ranging from 4 to 18 so the skill level varied quite a bit, which made for a fun weekend. The best golfer of our group was Neil, a former Division 1 football player who, despite his size, has a smooth and easy swing and the patience to navigate the toughest courses and still score well. On the flip side, there is me. After a long break from golf, I am back at it and in the midst of golf lessons, which means my game is as unpredictable as a moody teenager.

So, we picked a weekend in late October and met up for three days of golf, conversation, and relaxation. The three courses we selected were Nipomo’s Monarch Dunes and Black Lake, and Dairy Creek in San Luis Obispo. We set off on our three-day adventure from Santa Barbara and started with a Friday morning round at Monarch Dunes. Here is what we discovered.

Monarch Dunes Golf Course

Monarch Dunes has two courses, their 18-hole Old Course and a 12-hole challenge course, which is made up of challenging par three holes. Our group played the Old Course, but everyone we talked to raved about the 12-hole challenge, so consider that option if you are looking to focus on your short game or if you are just short on time but still want to get in a round.

The Old Course is a beautiful track and is in phenomenal condition. With a par of 71, the link-style course was quite a challenge for everyone in our group. Much of my morning consisted of avoiding the deep bunkers and eucalyptus trees, mostly unsuccessfully. In total, I probably hit six different bunkers during my round, but the sand was in good condition and getting out was challenging but doable. That’s the good news; the bad news is the bunkers took a toll on my final score!

Our most accomplished golfer, Neil, said, “Monarch Dunes was a lot of fun. Despite walking, we finished in just a little under four hours and the diversity of the landscape was challenging and fun at the same time. The links-style forced me to focus more on ball placement than distance, which I think helped me score pretty well.

Overall, the day at Monarch Dunes was a great experience. After our round, we spent a couple of hours hanging out at the Butterfly Grille, which is a worthwhile stop as well. With a rate of $90, Monarch Dunes is a solid value for the quality of the course, and we’ll be back to give the challenge course a go.

Monarch Dunes Golf Course is located at 1606 Trilogy Pkwy, Nipomo.

For tee times and more, see

Black Lake Golf Course

Next up for our foursome was a Saturday round at the Black Lake Golf Course, also in Nipomo. Black Lake is comprised of three different nine-hole layouts, called the Canyons, Oaks, and Lakes, all with different challenges and attributes.

Our day consisted of playing the Canyons and the Oaks, and of the three locations, this is where we played our best collective golf. The courses were in fair condition and we were rewarded for accuracy off the tee, especially when playing the Oaks. If you are not in the fairway, chances are you are navigating a tree or three. In some cases, the fairways were hard, which helped with distance when we were able to put the ball in the fairway.

“I really liked Black Lake, and I got things rolling on the Oaks Course. I managed to par the first six holes but No. 7 (par 3) jumped up and bit me. The two courses were also pretty different, and I always enjoy courses that make me think, which was the case today,” noted my playing partner, Neil.

While we didn’t get to play the Lakes, we were told it offers fairways that are wider than what we navigated during our round.

Black Lake doesn’t have a weekend rate which was nice, so the $55 we paid to walk was kind to our wallets. We also heard Black Lake is a great place to take in some live music, but 
we didn’t hit it at the right time. While Black Lake is not one of the best conditioned courses I have played in recent months, it is certainly worth the trip; it is priced right, and I’d play it again in a heartbeat.

Black Lake Golf Course is at 1490 Golf Course Ln, Nipomo. 

For tee times and more, see

Dairy Creek Golf Course

On the final day of guys’ weekend, we made our way to the Dairy Creek Golf Course in San Luis Obispo. Dairy Creek offers a nine-hole experience along with a setting that is unbeatable. Personally, I enjoyed the rolling hills and amazing views more than I did the golf, but it had more to do with my game and a stiff wind than the course itself.

Despite playing just nine holes, I lost multiple balls that rolled further out of bounds than I would have thought, and when I did manage to hit a good shot, the green rarely held my ball. The greens were fair but very fast, which added a few more unnecessary strokes to my score. So, the combination of my rollercoaster golf game and course conditions led to a high score on my card.

My playing partners managed to navigate the course with far more skill than I did. “Dairy Creek was another fun course. I didn’t play my best golf of the weekend but this course was a good test and the views alone were worth the trip out here,” said Neil. “After playing three days in a row, I’m pretty happy we saved the nine-hole course for the last day. The layout here is one of the best I’ve seen for a nine-hole course. I’ll definitely come back for another round.”

Like Black Lake, Dairy Creek was priced fairly. We played nine holes for $20 and could have played 18 (replay) for $30 if we wanted.

As the long weekend wrapped up, I reflected back on three great days of friendship and golf, and have to say it was time and money well spent. As golfers, we are spoiled to have so many excellent options within short distances. I’d also like to point out the friendly staff and great service at all three locations. They did not know we were there to write a review, yet we were treated as though we were VIPs at each location. We’ll definitely be back, and the challenge course at Monarch Dunes is on my short-list of courses to tackle.

Dairy Creek Golf Course is located at 2990 Dairy Creek Rd, San Luis Obispo.

For tee times and more, see