Pebble Beach is still the king
I have been lucky enough to play some spectacular golf courses in the past year – the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, Whistling Straights, Chambers Bay and Ballybunion’s Old Course and Lahinch in Ireland, for example.
But my recent visit to the Monterey Peninsula confirms that Pebble Beach Golf Links is still the king of golf in America, if not the world. Augusta National, home of The Masters, remains the pinnacle of places everybody wants to play before they die, but Pebble Beach remains the one place that every golfer should play (because there’s no access issue) before the fairway to Heaven beckons.
Pebble Beach is the only name brand in golf that transcends the game. Tell Average Joe golfers you are playing Spyglass Hill – arguably the better golf course, purists say – and they will shrug their shoulders and say ‘Huh?’
Most golfers have heard of Bay Hill, the TPC of Sawgrass, Pinehurst Resort – other legendary PGA Tour stops – but they just don’t offer the same sex appeal. Tell them you are playing Pebble Beach and watch their jaws drop.
Although the $495 tee time is no doubt too pricey for many, I’d argue the experience is truly priceless. OK, priceless is a bad word to use. None of us need the green fee to go any higher than it already is.
Crabby critics call Pebble Beach a seven-hole golf course and I see their point. It’s all relative, though. The other 11 holes only suffer – they’re all good – because of the ones that are truly spectacular. The stretch of No. 6 through No. 10 might be the most dramatic in golf. The tiny 100-yard par-3 seventh should be easy but never is. The cliffs on the eighth hole are just as stunning as they are intimidating. No. 18, the par 5, plays like a gut check only the strong survive.
It’s the aura of the whole place that makes the Pebble Beach experience special. The resort smells of prestige and big money without being stuffy. Most people are friendly and tickled to death to be there. The staff is outgoing and ready to please. The fact that you will likely only tee it up here once makes the trip take on an otherworldly significance.
The whole Bing Crosby, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Kite connection takes the ‘walking in the footsteps of legends’ theme to a whole new stratosphere. And there’s just something about those views. The coastline is magical. Craggy rocks pounded by ocean surf. It’s sublime.
This was my second time playing Pebble and I’ve been blessed with sunny skies and little wind each time. I’d hate to plop down all that cash and get rain and fog, but that’s a possibility in the micro-climates of the peninsula.
I marveled at the new longer, bolder, more challenging layout taking shape for the 2010 U.S. Open. The work on the new bunkers looks fabulous. I can’t wait to see it next June in HD, even though the pictures in my head will be even sharper and more memorable than any TV can deliver.
I’ll tackle these topics and more about Pebble Beach, so stay tuned for more in upcoming reviews for this site, GolfCalifornia.com and WorldGolf.com.
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