Pebble Beach! I was going to golf the famous Pebble Beach! What history and drama both in the spectacular view and the great golfers involved. To walk the same ground as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson really heightened the excitement to play. I was nervous, and I started planning my first tee shot long before arriving. If I could hit just one good shot, I was hoping it would be that one. What a feeling to see that ball soar through the air straight down the fairway, and the confident pose that would follow. How should I approach the round? Should I not care about the score and just enjoy the moment, or try really hard to play well so I can boast to my friends, or just learn from the experience and history of the course? I decided to do all of the above, but maintain a smile on my face for the entire day.
This year Pebble Beach is hosting another US Open Championship – the fifth in its history. Previous winners were Nicklaus in 1972, Tom Watson in 1982, Tom Kite in 1992 and Tiger Woods’s 15 stroke victory in 2000. The course went through significant changes since its last championship. It had four greens and sixteen bunkers rebuilt, altered or installed; eleven tees have benefited from enhancements, and six holes have seen the addition or adjustment of trees. The total length of the course has also been lengthened to 7,040 yards, but it’s still playing to a par 71.
The fairways have also been cut to force players to hit toward more trouble spots on a number of holes that border the Pacific Ocean’s cliffs. The increased precision required and higher difficulty is showcased on hole #8, a 428-yard hole that requires a lay-up to about 195 yards out. The tee shot will force the player to challenge the right side of the fairway as the rough has been grown along the entire left side of what used to be fairway. Then the player is faced with an extremely challenging long iron shot over a gorge to a small and undulating green. Drop a ball at the two hundred yard marker, and I would guess that the average golfer has about a one in twenty chance of hitting the green. One more thing: the prevailing winds are usually in your face making an extremely tough shot even tougher. That approach shot was one of my favourites of all time.
Other features of Pebble Beach that one can't appreciate on TV are the size and undulation of the greens. There are some shots where one sees very little of the putting surface with bunkers and mounds hiding them. The greens at Pebble Beach are the smallest on tour putting a premium on hitting the right club to the right spot. This is another difference that the amateur playing the course will experience. You really have to trust your club selection and be confident over your shot. You can really get stuck on where not to go instead of where you want to be. The most forgiving part of the course, especially when the rough is down, are the tee shots. There is an opportunity to spray the ball on a few holes and still have decent approach shots. However, with the rough grown out, tees moved back, slick postage stamp greens and the unpredictable Monterey weather, Pebble Beach is sure to test the pros at this year’s US Open Championship.
Pebble Beach was amazing in all its facets. The golf was one aspect, but there was much more. The shopping, restaurants, spa and equestrian center and the history and glamour of the place are as advertised. The resort is also a great destination for water sports, surfing, walking, food and wine and is even host to a huge car show every August. There were a number of non-golfing tourists enjoying the area and taking pictures of the many unbelievable views. When at Pebble Beach, you feel like you are somewhere significant, and you are constantly reminded of its rich history and glamour. One more thing: I recommend getting a caddy, especially if you never had one. I met a gentleman named Steve, an eleven-year veteran with over 3600 rounds caddied at Pebble Beach. He was extremely helpful, and provided a guided tour of the course and its rich history. I relied heavily on his ability to read greens and recommendations on aiming spots and yardage. He played a role in my mental approach as he always stayed positive and encouraged me to trust my swing. Steve's dream is to eventually get a bag for the US Open, and I believe he would do a tremendous job with any golfers that would utilize his tremendous knowledge of the course.
Overall, Pebble Beach was something I will always remember and not just for the golfing. The Monterey Peninsula is spectacular, and it offers a wide variety of experiences for all. I would strongly encourage any golf enthusiast to enjoy the walk on #18 at Pebble Beach. What a way to finish a round at a historical place in golf history! The three and a half footer I made for par will always stand in my mind as one of my happiest moments in golf.
Date: January 17, 2010