1700 17 Mile Drive,
California (CA) 93953,
- +1 800 654 9300
Hwy 101 S, take Hwy 156 W, then Hwy 1 S, take Pebble Beach exit.
Welcome book in advance
Cypress Point is the course you can’t play at Pebble Beach, but thankfully Pebble Beach Golf Links is one you can. “If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play at Pebble Beach. I loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.” Jack Nicklaus knows a good course when he sees one, so who could argue with him?
“If Pine Valley is the most dramatically beautiful pine-and-lakeland course in this country,” wrote Robert Trent Jones in the Complete Golfer, “Pebble Beach is its unrivalled counterpart among our oceanside courses. I say “oceanside” and not “seaside,” because “seaside has come to imply low-lying linksland, and Pebble Beach is quite the reverse. It is routed along the craggy headlands that drop abruptly into Carmel Bay.
While the architects of Pebble Beach deserve acclaim for the intrepidity with which they seized the opportunities the headlands afforded, it remains an enigma to me why they did not invoke the same shot values for the interior holes. The interior holes could not have been bequeathed the gorgeous excitement of the holes along Carmel Bay, but the same grandeur of design could easily have been sustained.”
Take a deep breath and get your wallet ready for the rollercoaster golfing ride of its life.
There are three courses likely known to most golfers given their regular appearance on television. In that threesome is Augusta National, The Old Course at St. Andrews and the renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links. Before going on -- it's a misnomer to call Pebble Beach a legitimate links course. The layout is located on land overlooking Carmel Bay and it surely doesn't have comparable firm and fast fairways as seen on vintage links courses.
I've had the pleasure in playing the course several times over the last 30 years and the rush you get as you make your way up the 18th hole is still a memorable one. What many may not know is that the existing par-5 was really a non-descript 379-yard par-4 which was changed through the insightful consulting of architect Englishman Herbert Fowler. It was Fowler who wisely recommended in 1922 the hole be extended to a par-5 with the present yardage one sees today at 548 yards.
There have been other key improvements to the course over the years. The most significant change came when the former par-3 5th was abandoned for a new hole created by Jack Nicklaus in 1998. The old hole was simply a concession to the reality at that time in not being able to get a small sliver of land occupied by a homeowner fronting the water who would not budge. When the estate finally came into play the Pebble Beach Company made a generous offer and was able to secure the land and commission Nicklaus to do the work.
The main issue I have always had with Pebble is the inconsistency of the putting surfaces. The greens at Pebble are not large -- roughly in the 5,000 square foot range. They are often tilted and when the wind picks up -- as it usually does -- these surfaces can be vexing to hit consistently with approach shots. The greens consist of poa annua and the inconsistency caused Tiger Woods to skip playing the annual AT&T PGA Tour stop after winning the 2000 US Open by a record 15 strokes. The poa annua causes all sorts of issues -- bounces in and around the cup can happen and pity the poor player who has a twitch in one's stroke because you can be at wit's end by the conclusion of a round.
I also have to echo what's been stated by a few others -- the pace of play at Pebble can be downright comatose. You have people intent on making the most of their day -- ergo taking endless photos at just about every situation. It can be downright maddening to crawl through the day because round are clearly beyond five and sometimes can be closer to six hours in length. When you have a place that does approximately 60,000 rounds per year one would think some sort of sensible pace of play mechanism would be enacted and enforced accordingly.
Pebble is also impacted by the weather pattern throughout the year. During the AT&T event which is played in February it's not uncommon for the course to play especially "slow" -- balls plugging and not rolling much after impact. In the summer months the course can be impacted by the daily ritual of fog enveloping the course. It's just hard to get optimum firm and fast conditions but when they do happen a round at Pebble can be a frightening situation as seen in the final US Open rounds of 1972 and 1992 when heavy wind dried out the greens and players were fighting for their golfing lives just to survive.
Given the charges involved in playing Pebble -- in excess of $500 -- it can be immensely disappointing when the course is not in top form on the day you're there to play. It's also best to take a caddie because if you opt for a power cart you'll be forced to stay on the cart paths and that can mean endless hikes to and from where your ball ends up.
The architecture at Pebble causes a mixed bag of feelings for me. I see the opening three holes as mere window-dressing for what lies ahead. The round really starts to pick up when you reach the under-appreciated short par-4 4th. The hole can be driven by the long tour players -- and several of them did so during the '10 US Open -- which was Pebble's 5th time in hosting America's national championship.
The new par-3 5th is a solid hole and when you reach the par-5 6th you head out to the coastline for what is arguably the finest seaside stretch in golf. The short par-3 7th has been seen countless times -- it can be a mere flip sand wedge or full bore long iron. The green is also devilish -- you can't assume anything is stone dead given the contours present.
The trio of world class par-4's starts at the 8th. It's been said by Nicklaus the approach at the 8th is the finest in all of golf and it's hard to really say otherwise. You see the green sitting below as you scan the scenery from the nearby bluff on the other side. With the surf pounding against the shore it's hard to keep one's mind on the immediate task at-hand. Like so many other greens at Pebble the 8th is a chore to putt. Go too far to either side -- or worse yet go long -- and escaping with no more than a bogey is an achievement.
The long 9th and 10th run alongside the coast and both are stellar long par-4's. If you don't hit the fairway the probability in making par on either is close to slim and none. I really like the 9th -- the key is getting a tee shot down the right side - but that's where the most danger lies. If you reach the fairway bunker on the left side you'll be thrilled to walk away with just a bogey. Being on the left side only adds to the torture because the green is not as receptive to approaches from that side.
The 10th is an interesting hole in that the angle from the tee is different than the 9th. The fairway is much close to the coastline and the green hangs just as near. The best angle is from the right side but the play must be executed flawlessly to secure the reward.
When Pebble turns inward at the 11th you face a letdown in terms of hole quality. The par-3 12th is often undervalued because hitting the green is no easy feat -- especially with the frontal bunker that awaits even the slightest of mishits.
The par-4 13th is not especially scenic but can be deadly if the approach shot is not played smartly. The putting surface is especially banked from right-to-left and should any approach be played indifferently a quick three-putt can happen in a New York minute. I've also heard there are plans to alter the hole somewhat in the near term.
Recently, the folks running Pebble Beach opted to make a bit of a change with the par-5 14th. The hole tempts the strongest of players to cut off the corner of the dog-leg right. Even when doing so -- the 2nd shot must reach an elevated target protected by a solitary bunker in front and bolstered by another putting green that is quite severe. Fortunately, the recent modifications have added other pin locations so that the hole has more elasticity than it did previously. The hole still has its demands but now it plays more fairly.
I have never been a big fan of either the par-4 15th or 16th holes. They are good but just a filler for the final two holes. Both of the aforementioned holes have tilted greens so being precise with the approach shots pays dividends.
The par-3 17th is well known to most golfers. The penultimate hole features an hourglass green and is a demanding no nonsense target to hit at 208 yards -- particularly when the pin is placed in the far left corner. In recent years there's been some slight changes to provide a bit more target area for players to land one's ball. What one cannot fully appreciate when watching on television is how challenging the shot is on the 17th. Players have to have total command of ball flight and distance control. The wind can whip around and the slightest pull can find water to the left of the green or any of the greenside bunkers. I find it amazing to watch previous US Opens at the 17th when Nicklaus almost holed his 1-iron in the final round of the '72 US Open and 10 years later when Tom Watson chipped in from the left rough to edge out the Golden Bear from possibly winning his record setting 5th US Open that year.
The 18th has been seen so many times it's hard to really add much. I like the hole because when you stand on the tee it requires a steady nerve to avoid Carmel Bay on one's left and bailing out right where possible out-of-bounds is located. Getting home in two shots is doable -- but only under proper conditions and when married with adroit execution of the highest caliber.
In 2019 Pebble Beach will host its 6th US Open -- coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its founding. There's no question the highly touted holes deliver in a tour de force manner. However, the course does have key lulls and those situations cannot be so easily dismissed. Pebble is still a special place but when held against the likes of neighboring Cypress Point I'd opt to play the private layout no less than seven (7) times for every ten (10) rounds.
The name Pebble Beach will always be revered by most golfers, however, when assessing the totality of its architecture the course is anchored down by too many mediocre hole. For those with a bucket list the need to play Pebble Beach will be a thirst that must be quenched. I have been able to drink from that bottle and while the taste was truly refreshing it still left me wanting just a bit more.
by M. James Ward
One of the defining characteristics of Pebble Beach is its small greens. They are, along with Inverness and Harbour Town, some of the smallest to be found among the world's great courses. The first three holes at Pebble Beach are inland and serve as a good warm-up for what's ahead. I think the course routing makes sense at the start. That is, start with some less-than-dramatic holes to get the adrenaline under control and allow a golfer to get into a rhythm before tackling the challenge along the cliffs that lie ahead.
Pebble Beach has some very dramatic scenery and some wholly interesting golf holes. In particular, I liked the short (less than 100 yard) par three seventh hole which plays downhill with the majestic vista of Monterey Bay in the background. I would be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't like this hole. I also think that the eighth hole is one of the best in the world. It is a 416-yard par four that is a dogleg to the right and plays along precipitous high cliffs. From the tee you have no real sense of how difficult the hole is going to be. Your view off the tee is blocked by a slight hill. The eighth hole falls off dramatically on the right hand side where the edge of the hole meets the cliffs and produces vertiginous views if you get too close to the edge. A safer tee shot is down the left side. Your second shot has to carry 170 yards over a giant chasm to the tiny green, with a safer play being to the left.
Pebble Beach is such a good course because it offers many of these risk/reward choices during the round. Some of the holes away from the water are good, not great holes (11-16). The finishing hole stands on its own as one of the singular holes in the world of golf. The reason the course is so highly ranked is that the holes along the water are so well designed and strategic, that they over-compensate for the inland holes that are not.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
I decided to treat my family to a 3 week Californian holiday on the basis we could stay at the The Lodge in Pebble Beach for 2 nights and I could play a round on the Pebble Beach Links.
From the moment we pulled into 17 mile drive and drove to The Lodge entrance at Pebble Beach, I experienced that magic feeling of anticipation felt when you enter one golfs great golfing regions such as St Andrews. We checked in at the reception then walked down the stairs through the restaurant to see the 18th green overlooking the ocean. I could smell the history and watched the golfers playing into the 18th and imagining how I was going to play my approach shot into the famous green the following day. After a wonderful lunch sitting on the terrace overlooking the 18th, we ventured to the par 3 course to warm up for the following days exploits.
The following morning, I prepared for my 10.20AM tee time on the range where the club arrange a courtesy bus to the excellent practice facilities and was then introduced to my caddie, Geoff who advised me to take a 5 wood on the 1st to leave a wedge into the first green. I felt nervous on the tee with pure excitement where the world seemed to come to a standstill at the top of my back swing before I unleashed my tee shot 220 yards into he middle of the fairway. Phew! Thereafter I experienced one of the most enjoyable rounds of golf. Holes 1 and 2 are pretty straightforward and then you first see the ocean for the first time on the tricky 3rd dog leg. Holes 4,5,6 are then just spectacular and then just standing on the 7th tee for the famous short par 3 in the ocean you really then feel you are playing one of the worlds most iconic golf courses. 8 and 9 are also such beautiful golf holes along the ocean whilst the next 7 holes coming home are away from the coast.
The real excitement begins again on the 17th when you imagine Watson and Nicklaus standing on the tee in 1982 looking out into the ocean where the incredible chip holed by Watson is recognised with a plaque from where he holed that magnificent chip from the rough on the edge of the green. Geoff my caddie relayed the story where Watson’s caddie said “you need to chip this close Tom “to which Tom replied “I’m going to hole the damn thing!”
Then standing on the 18th tee and looking down the fairway is even more beautiful than any photograph can do justice. I sat on the fence by the 18th tee box as Nicklaus did at his last Open whilst Geoff took photo’s then played this wonderful hole with my family watching from the clubhouse. Pebble Beach really lived up to my expectations and beyond and I cannot wait to return to this beautiful peninsula to experience this wonderful iconic mecca of golf.
It took me 5 years to cancel the debt I had with this Course. During my first visit to the place in 2011 I played all of them (Cypress, Black Horse, Spanish Bay, Spyglass, Pasatiempo and Del Monte) but didn’t play Pebble and I was to regret that decision. I was only going to feel it done once I walked Pebble. I hosted a 44 argentine golfers trip which ended Friday May 27th playing Pebble in a sunny 22°C day, unbeatable.
I had long waited for this and due to the group organization I was not able to even warm up, just hit a couple of putts and directly to 1st tee where my first swing was a pushed driver almost Out of Bounds. I had the sensation that this course would behave similarly to Teeth of the Dog in DR, with great holes by the Ocean and nothing too special inland and I was not mistaken. But the fact is that the Ocean holes are too good, amazing.
Holes 1-2 are just ok, a dogleg easy par 4 (I made bogey all the same) and then a straight par 5 which is played as par 4 during the US OPEN. Hole #3 is maybe the first really good one being a dogleg left par 4 with a forced carry of almost 200 yds where once you fly the bunkers you have a nice approach shot facing the Ocean with a right to left sloped green. Hole 4 is maybe the first really nice one, a short even drivable par 4 with cliffs on your right and over the green. And then it all begins: hole 5 is a par 3 parallel to 4, which can play over 200 yds from the US Open tees with cliffs on the right. Par 5 6th is maybe the most spectacular golf hole with a downhill driver before you have a second blind shot to this reachable hole. The iconic par 3 7th is even shorter than you can imagine, I carried the green with a 58° wedge downwind. 8th makes you lay up before one of the greatest shots of the round being 9-10 two great par 4s with coastline and cliffs on the right. The course just turns ok from 11 to 16, except the magnificent par 5 14th with that tinny little green where if you miss the spot the ball may roll off it easily. And then the grand finale, par 3 17th which brings memories of Tom Watson’s chip and the great 18th with famous Jack Nicklaus picture waiting to tee off.
Although it is a 5h 15mins at least round, it is a great experience. Marshalls help you a lot from 6 to 9 in order to improve pace of play and help you to decide your best choices as second shot on 6th as you don’t have a clue where to go if the marshall doesn’t tell you.
Was it worth it? Definitely yes! Is it that great? Yes! Some people say Spyglass if a much better course, do I agree? Yes. Can it be compared to Cypress Point? Definitely NO! But all these questions come aside when you have played a Major Championship venue on a sunny day and you finish your round on 18th and then eating pizza with friends in the Lodge’s Terrace.
Playing Pebble Beach is an experience I will never forget. The location is incredible with 9 of the holes along the rocky coastline of the Pacific Ocean and Stillwater Cove. I walked when playing and my caddie, Michael Lehotta was excellent. Mike certainly made the day enjoyable and gave me incredible insight to each of the holes. I thought the condition of the fairways, greens, tees, bunkers, and rough were all excellent. Playing a course that has hosted 5 US Opens, 1 PGA Championship, 4 US Amateurs, and 2 US Women's Amateurs definitely has a lot of history on its side. The cost is steep but I am definitely happy to have the opportunity to play here once in my lifetime. Looking forward to watching the 2019 US Open which is going to be held here on the 100th anniversary of the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The first 2 holes are inland and are relatively easy. The first is a 377 yard dogleg right par 4 and the second is a 511 yard par 5. The third hole is a 390 yard dogleg left par 4 that goes back toward the Pacific Ocean and you can cut off as much of the dogleg as you can handle. Holes 4 through 10 are all along Stillwater Cove and the Pacific Ocean, this is where the views are unforgettable. The fourth is a short uphill 326 yard par 4 with Stillwater Cove on the right and accuracy is key. The fifth is an uphill 192 yard par 3 designed by Jack Nicklaus with the green sitting up on the bluffs overlooking Stillwater. The sixth is a 506 yard par 5 with Stillwater Cove on the right with the drive downhill and the second shot up the hill. Accuracy is again key on the second shot with bunkers left and Stillwater to the right. The 106 yard par 3 seventh might be one of the most spectacular short holes I have ever played. I can see why it is one of the most photographed holes in golf. Holes 8, 9, and 10 are all spectacular par 4s that measure 427, 481, and 446 yards with the Pacific Ocean on the right of these holes. The second shot on number 8 over the oceanic chasm ranks as one the most spectacular I have ever seen.
The uphill 373 yard par 4 eleventh starts going to some inland holes again. While the holes are not oceanside the Pacific is clearly in view. The 201 yard par 3 twelfth is an excellent short hole and is the farthest point from the clubhouse. The uphill thirteenth is a nice 403 yard par 4 with bunkers protecting the tee shot. The green slopes right to left and is the most severely sloped on the course. The 572 yard par 5 fourteenth was using a temporary green on the day I played. It is a 3 shot hole for most players where the green will be located. The 396 yard par 4 fifteenth is a solid hole with bunkers protecting the fairway on the left with trees to the right. The green again slopes to the left as the ocean is on that side. The 401 yard par 4 sixteenth looked different that I was expecting. I always remember seeing the 2 big trees that seemed to frame the green while watching on television. Mike said these 2 trees came down and were replaced by the smaller trees that are there now. The seventeenth is a 177 yard par 3 that goes directly in the direction of Stillwater Cove. The long narrow green distance can vary by about 40 yards depending where the pin is placed. The eighteenth is a 543 yard par 5 with the Pacific Ocean on the entire left side of the hole. I can still picture Jack Nicklaus sitting on the fence to the left of the tee on his last competitive round at Pebble. A great finishing hole and a nice way to end a day I will never forget.
Pebble Beach was an outstanding experience and would highly recommend it to any golfer that makes a journey to the Monterey area. Click below to see a You Tube slideshow of some pictures I took during my visit.
When arriving, I recommend stopping outside the Lodge reception (next to the putting green), walk through the doors and down the stairs to the Stillwater Grill – if you do so for the first time, you get the famous view of the 18th green with Stillwater Cove in the background, and views across to the 17th green all the way to the cliffs & the 6th green. If there are better sights in golf, I would like to see them, because I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of golf on some quality courses, and I haven’t seen anything to rival the view down the 18th. Watching it on TV over the years gives you the impression it’s a special place, but seeing it with your own eyes takes the breath away.
I’ve watched 3 US Opens and several AT&T Pro Ams on TV, and it always struck me that Pebble Beach has 2 sets of holes – the classic coastal holes (4-10 plus 17 & 18) and the slightly duller inland holes (1-3, 11-16). And it’s true, the first tee shot doesn’t exactly put you in the mood – it’s a long iron or fairway wood to the corner of the fairway just short of the bunker, followed by a short iron in. But when I arrived at the 1st green, I was amazed at how small and narrow it was, and this proves the tone for the round. The greens, in my mind, looked a lot bigger on TV than they were in reality. They were some of the smallest greens I’ve played on – the 7th and 8th were prime examples – and even though the course isn’t that long, you realise that your short game is in for a stern examination.
After the slightly boring 1st, the 2nd improves things a bit – fairly wide fairway, loads of bunkers left, right & about 70 yards short, and the green is surrounded also. The pro’s make this look easy on TV (apart from Dustin Johnson in the 2010 US Open) but in reality it’s a tough hole from the back tees, and even off the forward tees you have to hit 2 quality golf shots to make a birdie. One of the downsides of the course is evident on the 2nd green and 3rd tee – you cut across the main road where cars make their way in & out of the Lodge, Beach Club and other Pebble Beach amenities – and it’s a bit off-putting having to wait to hit your tee shot on the 3rd whilst cars appear & disappear next to you. But this really is nitpicking, because the 3rd is a tough driving hole … you can’t see most of the fairway from the tee, you have to draw it round the trees in order to give yourself the shortest shot to the green, and again the green is small and runs away from you, so a 4 here is a good score.
The 4th tee shares with the 17th tee, something I didn’t know before playing here, and here we embarked on the most spectacular stretch of holes in golf. The 4th looks open from the tee, as the trees block out the sea, but when walking up the fairway, you realise how much the ocean cuts into the fairway, and the 2nd shot again needs to be precise as the green is narrow and slopes sharply from back to front. Anything in the bunkers surrounding the green is a very tough up-&-down. Then the 5th, again the green is a small target from the back tees nearly 200 yards away, and again the sea cuts in much more than it looks from the tee. Plus the green slopes away from you & left to right, so you have to land short of the green and run it up to the hole. It’s a hole that looks better from behind the green than it does from the tee.
Then we headed up to the 6th tee, and the famous par 5. Again, and this seems like a recurring theme, the tees are framed in such a way that you can’t see the Pacific when hitting (certainly off the Blue tees and from the Whites on most holes), but you know it’s there. The fairway slopes left-to-right towards the cliffs, and it’s probably the widest fairway on the golf course, but the 2nd shot up to the top of the cliff and the green is one of the most challenging you can face. There is tons of room to the left so if you play it, bail out left like I did and you still have a decent pitch to the green! The views from the top of the hill are breathtaking, looking back down the fairway and across to the 5th green, 17th green and 18th hole.
The irony is that, even when standing on the 6th green, you can’t see anything of the 7th hole, even though it’s right below you, so the walk from the 6th green to the 7th tee is truly special. All of a sudden the green appears, so close you could almost wander a few paces and stand on it. It’s no more than 110 yards off the back tees, and on this day there wasn’t much wind, so it’s a short wedge shot … in theory an easy shot, but what a hole! The green is narrow and all you can see are rocks, rocks and more rocks with a few bunkers thrown in for good measure. It’s psychologically one of the toughest shots to hit because you hear the seals, the crash of the waves next to you, and this tiny green within spitting distance. If you hit a good shot, you have a relatively easy birdie putt as the green isn’t that tough, but hitting the green is the toughest part, and missing the green means an almost certain bogey, and possibly worse. It’s easy to see why this hole is so famous.
Right next to the green is the 8th tee, one of the only blind tee shots on the course. The play usually backs up around here, and we had marshals at the top of the hill telling us to wait and when to hit, so we had a good 10-15 minute wait, which wasn’t a problem at all as we could see others hit into the 7th. There is a sign by the tee saying you have 230 yards until the cliff cuts in on the right, plus a large stone halfway up the hill to give you the line, so we hit long irons and hybrid clubs up there and hoped for the best. Any disappointments with the tee shots were soon remedied with the approach, one of the hardest in golf. You have to hit it as close as possible to the edge of the cliff to get the best possible view into the green … too far back and you have a blind 2nd shot as well. The green looks miniscule and barely 40-50 feet wide, and the cliffs cut into the right hand side of the hole, so much so that a shot 20 feet offline disappears down the slope and into the hazard area. Aim left, and you have an impossible chip across the green. The best shot is short at the front of the green, but it’s flanked by bunkers so you still don’t have much room. Anything long will leave another impossible chip that will almost certainly run off the front edge or into the rough surrounding the green. A par here feels like an eagle!
The 9th is a long hole off the back tees, but you have more room than you think to the right, as you can see the 10th hole and the beach in the distance. The 2nd shot is tough as it’s on a downslope or below your feet to another small green. You have more room to the right than the 8th, but the green is similar in that anything long will run down the green and off the front. Downhill putts are impossible to stop and anything wide left will end up in thick rough and a certain bogey or worse. Another top golf hole.
The 10th is similar to the 9th, but not as tough and not as long, so it acts as a respite after what has gone before, although it’s still a spectacular hole. The green is larger and the fairway seems a lot wider, although the entrance to the green is narrow between the bunkers. You can look down onto the beach below you, and the very impressive house behind the green (apparently once owned by Gene Hackman). The 11th is another blind tee shot but not as severe as the 8th, and the 2nd shot to the green is very tough – the green looks like it’s no more than 30 feet wide and at an angle. The 12th is a tricky par 3 where you have to carry the front bunker and then stop the ball on another narrow green from between 180-200 yards away, a tough proposition! The 13th is a long, tough par 4 with an uphill tee shot, but a wide fairway, and in my opinion 12 & 13 are probably the weakest holes on the course, but that’s not to say they are weak holes, but they suffer due to the fact you’re now inland and away from the coast and the scenery.
The par 5 14th is a really good hole – you have to fade your tee shot around the large tree on the right hand side, but you can’t hit it too far as you run out of fairway, the hole bends round sharply to the right. Unless you hit a huge tee shot, you have to lay up around 100 yards short, and the fairway pinches in at this length, and the OB cuts in where the houses are on the right, so it’s not an easy shot. The 3rd shot to the green is semi-blind, and the green has a ledge on the left hand side, followed by a sharp drop off on the right hand side which throws the ball off the front of the green. So you have to hit a very good shot to hold the green, and if you miss it left you disappear down a sharp drop. They shaved this for the US Open and I seem to remember many golfers destroying their rounds on this hole, and it’s easy to see why … the green is very tough and any putt you leave yourself is difficult to read due to the slopes.
The 15th has always been described as a weak hole, but I thought it was ok – you drive semi-blind over some small trees down the right hand side, and the slope brings it back into the fairway. I hit a 3 wood on this hole, and I had less than 100 yards to the green, slightly larger than most but sloping right to left along with the natural contours of the hole. It’s one of the quieter settings on the course and I really enjoyed it for some reason. The 16th is again a wide fairway, but position is key as the green is small and beautifully framed against the trees on the left and small trees on the right. If you go right you’re blocked out by these trees, if you aim left you have a long shot in and you can’t see much of the green. The fairway slopes away from you towards the green itself and towards a series of fairway bunkers, so again this is a tougher hole than you think.
The 17th is one of the classic holes in golf, unfortunately the green is currently being re-designed & worked on, so we had a temporary green to aim to, plus a forward tee, so a hole that should have been 210 yards was reduced to 120 yards, which was a big disappointment (and no concession on the $495 green fee!). We did know about this before playing, having seen it online, and the temporary green was just like a normal green, but it was still annoying to miss out on one of the best par 3’s in golf. The green looks amazing, by the way, so anyone playing at Pebble from July onwards will have a great time on this hole …
After making the walk to the 18th tee, you get one of the best views in golf, and in my view, the greatest finishing hole in golf, for what it’s worth. As you can see from the photo, you don’t have much room to land your drive … bunkers and OB down the right, the Pacific on the left. Your line is the tree in the middle of the fairway and hope you nail it!
Even if you keep your tee shot on dry land, the ocean cuts in even more on the 2nd shot, although the houses & OB on the right hand side stop at around 140-150 yards out, meaning you can bail out right for your 2nd. The only problem with this is the big tree in front of the green which then blocks out your 3rd shot … so you have to try and hit one down the fairway and leave a shot into the green, which is small, and the tree encroaches on the right, and you can’t hit it left as the bunker extends down there just before the ocean … seriously this is a good hole! Even if you make the green, it slopes severely back to front and right to left towards the ocean, so any putt has a ton of break in it. And there’s the front bunker which is deeper than it looks. It’s easy to make a 6 or 7 on this hole, but in order to make par, you have to hit all 5 shots well. Plus you have anywhere from 20 – 200 people watching you in the bar/grill overlooking the green, plus the fenced-off area around the green where people can wander down and take photos. Every shot on this hole is a high-pressure shot!
It’s difficult to add anything to Pebble Beach that hasn’t been said before, but they have stepped up on slow play – we were warned before the round that if we lost a hole on the group ahead, we would be forced to cut out a hole in order to maintain the gap, which fortunately didn’t affect us as we were all of a reasonable standard, but nevertheless played in the back of our minds a bit. The badge they give you as you walk off the 18th was a nice touch, and if you have an exceptional round, as one of our party did, you can create a personalised scorecard in the pro shop. The putting green is exceptional, you can get your jealous friends and loved ones to follow you on the webcams online (on the putting green, 1st tee, 9th green & 18th green), and the driving range is also superb, with pyramids of balls and a good shuttle service running between the 1st tee and practice facilities. The attention to detail is first class (as you would expect for the cost!), the accommodation at the Lodge is also 5 star, and they have plenty of souvenir shops and clothing shops, as well as the huge pro shop, where you can part with huge amounts of cash for various memories of the trip.
In short, if you can save up for a while, as we did, and get the chance to play, it is definitely worth it. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s also public, unlike many of the top courses in the USA, and at least you have the chance to play. We were told that the best time to play, in terms of the condition of the course, was between March & June, as the course dries out throughout the summer and doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing as it did on our trip. But I’m glad I managed to play it, and I don’t regret it one bit.
I played this course on 04.04.15 in sunny but windy conditions and it really was a very special experience although one not without its faults. To accurately review this US mecca of golf I need to express these in the same way that I will highlight the wonders of the place. This review really needs includes a critique of the Lodge because the only real hope of playing Pebble nowadays hinges on you staying 2 nights at the luxurious surroundings of the Lodge overlooking the 18th green. Suffice to say that it isn’t cheap to stay but the food, drinks and staff are what you expect from a top hotel.
As we approached our midday tee time we made our way over to the pro shop to change our shoes. Extraordinarily there is a very small rest room area but no real lockers as such. This was odd as we were forced to change our shoes near the first tee. I guess everyone changes their shoes in the car park? Anyway we were assigned our fantastic new Taylor Made rental clubs and given our caddie. Our caddie Nathan had 13 years of experience of caddying at Pebble and so was a brilliant choice to be paired with. He had an easy nature and we got on great. My first tee nerves manifested themselves with an out of bounds tee shot on the right of the first fairway but I made par with my second ball. The breakdown of the golf bill for my mother in law and myself was as follows: $495 each for the greenfee, $160 for one caddie carrying both bags (non negotiable), $60 cash tip, $180 rental clubs. Total of $1290 or £903 at the current exchange rate.
I don’t wish to go through hole by hole but I would say that there were some weak holes on the front nine, notably holes 1,3 and 4. I managed to birdie the par 5 second hole which I was really pleased with especially when I followed this up with pars at 3 and 4. Everyone knows the course really gets going on the 6th and I was delighted to nail a driver and a 3 wood close to the green for a par five. This hole really played long into the wind. The 7th is the classic short par three but sadly for me my tee shot was somewhat clumsily played and found the rocks immediately behind the green. I played another one off the tee and hit it to 3 foot to make a 4. Holes 8 was a torture as I played it really badly and wished I had taken driver rather than 3 wood off the tee. I played 9 well and though and was now getting into the round and all that Pebble had to throw at you. These holes around the turn offered stunning views over the bay and they were every bit as awesome as I imagined. The stretch from 6-10 are perhaps as good a group of holes as I have ever played. Number 10 was a great par 4 with danger off the tee where typically my round fell apart as I landed a couple of tee shots on the beach with left to right wind. This hole took you to the furthest tip of the course offering unforgettable views over Stillwater Cove and beyond.
I played 11 and 12 well and throughout the back nine I was starting to find my rhythm. Typically it came unstuck on 17 and 18 the site and setting of so many of golf’s most famous denouements. I managed to 3 putt 17 when in the middle of the green. I gather they are redoing that entire green which is good because I basically had an unplayable shot from the centre of the right half of the green. I was forced to go into the rough with my putt to skirt the severe slope to get to the hole. This was faintly ridiculous as I had hit an excellent 7 iron into the heart of the green. No such green should be designed so that you are stymied from going at the hole with your putt. The 18th tee shot was what it was all about next and alas it proved too much as I tried to muller the ball but only succeeded in topping it into the rocks. I played the hole well with my second ball and ended up getting an 8 with a good 3 footer at the last to finish with. Walking off the green I had mixed emotions. I knew in my heart of hearts that I had played pretty well given the fact that I had played only once in the last 6 months and I had been playing with rental clubs.
How does it stack up in my estimation? Difficult to say as there were some weak holes on the back nine as well, 11, 12 and 15 being not that memorable. All in all it was a fabulous experience and as I drunk my well-deserved beer at the bar immediately afterwards I paused for a second and realised how lucky I had been. Cypress Point, which I was lucky to play in 2002, is infinitely the better course and challenge. Clearly it is practically impossible to get on so I feel I have every right in comparing the two courses even if their set up and feasibility to play are radically different. Pebble might edge Cypress Point on views but I would rather play Cypress than Pebble any day of any week. I would also say Royal County Down is a better all-round course than Pebble.
One thing though that did leave a sour taste in the mouth was the pace of play. We played it in 5 hours and 25 minutes which is unacceptable even if you factor in the half dozen or so required Kodak moments for the soon to be uploaded selfies onto facebook. The pace was positively sloth like at times and we played pretty well. Also I have to take exception to something that might be a bit controversial at this point. I do describe myself as a bit of a golf snob and there was one aspect of Pebble that I didn’t care for at all and that was the tourist / commercial element of the place. Throughout the day there were coach loads of people from different nations arriving outside the Lodge. It was frustrating when these people were milling around the lobby and drinking in prime locations on the veranda when I had paid a fortune to be staying at the Lodge. This really manifested itself when I was upstairs about 45 minutes after my game had finished and was drinking my second pint of the day from my amazing rooftop patio. There must have been 100 people around the 18th green (which admittedly is fenced off). They were taking pictures galore and then without warning about 5 guys went over the ropes and started to walk on and around the 18th green when someone was playing. There was no Marshall around and it was up to the group on the fairway to yell to them to get off the ‘Goddam green’. If that had been me playing that hole I would have been furious. I think Pebble really need to get a grip of this. Perhaps they need to have a different access to the clubhouse to those not staying at the Lodge and have a separate bar area for visitors. I also had to tell various tourists off for taking photos of my two year old son putting on the putting green. I must say pebble were great about letting me putt with my 2 year son on the official putting green. I know a lot less illustrious clubs (notably in the Surrey area of England) that would have found this against club protocol. This was to the pro shops and the doormen’s eternal credit as they must have seen me practice with him on the green. It’s a memory that will stay with me forever as it was very special moment to see him walk freely and play with his little golf club on the green.
Overall, whilst it had been a special experience for me it wasn’t a special experience for them to have me. They are quick to get your money from you and although they appear to be genuine when all the waiters and doormen say hello to you there was not a single Hello Mr XXX or how was your round Mr XXX. Would I go back there, possibly. It would have to be on different conditions and I wouldn’t spend nearly as much money as I had done this time. I believe you can play it by turning up in person the day before and ask the starter if there is a time for the next day and you might get lucky. I’m clearly fortunate to have played it on a sunny day with a stiff 3 club wind when the caddie said the course ‘had been a real challenge’. For the thrill of teeing it up there and saying to your golfing buddies that I have played Pebble and have trod in the footsteps of giants really is what’s it is all about. It’s difficult to give the course top marks as the downsides were very definitely real and frustrating. Arguably though to say in years to come that to my son had his first ever golf lesson from his Dad was on the putting green at pebble is what memories are truly made of and one that I will treasure forever.