1700 17 Mile Drive,
California (CA) 93953,
- +1 800 654 9300
3 miles NW of Carmel
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, who would argue with him?
|Dating back to the 1930s and originally known as the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am – as it is now called – is a 72-hole PGA Tour event which is typically held on three Californian, Monterey Peninsula courses. Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills have all been among the trio of host courses. The cut is made after Saturday’s play and the 60 leading pros and 25 pro-am teams play Pebble Beach for the tournament and the multi-million $ purse. However, back in 1937, Sam Snead picked up a relatively modest $500 first prize.|
Pebble Beach is Mecca for so many golfers and it’s such a joy that everyone can play here if they can afford it. At more than $400 per round, it’s not the cheapest green fee on the planet, but where else can you soak up so much history?
The course opened its tees for play in 1919 and Jack Neville laid it out with a little help from Douglas Grant (the first Captain of Canterbury Golf Club in England), but the course we play today is primarily with thanks to Henry Chandler Egan who remodelled the course ahead of the 1929 U.S. Amateur Championship. The culmination of their combined efforts, with a little help from the “Golden Bear”, had probably resulted in the most spectacular and memorable golf course in the world.
“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.”
Pebble Beach is a classically simple out-and-back affair but it makes the adrenaline pump. If you can ignore the beauty of the surroundings and keep your mind focused on the game, you might card a decent score. If you can’t ignore the thundering Pacific, just take a deep breath and enjoy yourself. With so many great holes to mention we’ll keep it brief. Holes 7 to 10 comprise of probably the greatest sequence of holes on the planet.
Take a deep breath and get your wallet ready for the rollercoaster golfing ride of its life.
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.
Its reputation goes without saying and the anticipation never fails to excite. Seeing the holes with your own eyes ensures that the panorama will get your heart racing. There’s nothing quite like the first tee jitters you experience at Pebble Beach. The course opens with a relatively straightforward stretch until you reach number 7. Clearly a downhill 100-yard par 3 surrounded by the Pacific Ocean will draw comparisons to waving a red rag in front of a bull. The race is on and fasten your seatbelt. In my opinion, holes 8 through 10 are world-class par 4s and really represent the crescendo into the back nine. Long tough holes with the ocean roaring next to you can trample your courage if ball-striking is anything less than perfect. I was thrilled to see how impressive the course conditions were, and even after a packed timesheet of golfers, the greens were still rolling true at 11 on the stimp at 4pm in the afternoon. This is a fairytale golf course with so much exciting history. The legends, fables and stories that we all remember come to life when you walk this hallowed ground. I always stop and think that this is one of the courses that people want to play before they die. Every single day, this course makes dreams come true for so many people. You’ll be surrounded by golfing fanatics from all corners of the earth who may only visit this course once in their life, and this is the special day that they will remember forever. For that fact along, Pebble Beach Golf Links is an experience of a lifetime.