A handful of courses have such grand reputations that you arrive with impossibly high expectations. Pebble Beach is perhaps the ultimate example. I’ve heard some of my most well-traveled friends say it’s their favorite course in the world. Ahead of my trip, all I could think was, “how could it be that good?!”
When I traveled to Pebble Beach for work recently, I secretly didn’t want to like the course. A part of me wanted to be the contrarian who wasn’t impressed. Unfortunately for my plans, I was blown away by the setting, the inland holes surpassed my expectations, and although our round was slow, I wanted all of that time to soak in the views!
So is Pebble Beach worth the $500+ green fee? A golf traveler’s resume would have a major hole if they died having never played Pebble. Simply put, I think every serious golf traveler should shell out for the big fee at least once.
To the hipsters and contrarians that say Pebble Beach isn’t as impressive as the hype… you’re wrong.
I stayed in a hotel in nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea and drove 17 Mile Drive to Pebble Beach the morning of my round. I arrived early, hit balls, and walked to the first tee to meet my playing partners. I was paired with a son, father, and grandfather who were celebrating the son’s high school graduation. Their excitement and enjoyment spilled over to me and I couldn’t have enjoyed their company any more.
I had also been told by other golfers that I either had to take a caddie and walk, or take a cart and stick to the path. Fortunately, that information was wrong. I asked the starter if I could walk and carry my own bag without a caddie. His answer: “Of course you can! Nobody ever asks for that…”
With clubs on my back we walked down the first fairway into a foggy Pebble Beach morning.
Hole #1 – 346 yards – The opening hole is a gentle dogleg right that narrows on approach to the small hillside green.
Hole #2 – 460 yards – This straightaway par 5 is a birdie opportunity, but stray from the fairway and double bogey is lurking. Steer clear of the bunkers and trees near the green.
Hole #3 – 374 yards – Long hitters can drastically shorten this hole by cutting the dogleg left corner. The small green requires an accurate approach.
Hole #4 – 307 yards – The yardage lulls golfers into a false sense of security on this cleverly bunkered hole. The green also slopes drastically back to front, welcoming three-putts galore.
The Pacific opens into view to the right once you pass the trees next to the tee box.
Hole #5 – 142 yards – Pebble Beach founder Samuel Morse originally sold the land on which the 5th hole now stands. In 1997 the Pebble Beach owners reacquired the land and built this short par 3.
The 5th marks the beginning of one of golf’s best stretches of seaside holes anywhere.
Hole #6 – 496 yards – This par 5 requires some local knowledge and do-or-die heroics. The safe play off the tee brings fairway bunkers into play, and from there it’s a blind shot up the cliff toward the green.
Hole #7 – 98 yards – This short par 3 is one of the most famous holes in the world. In person it feels even shorter than in photos, although wind can drastically change how it plays.
Hole #8 – 400 yards – I didn’t know much about the 8th hole prior to my visit, but it’s one I’ll never forget. A long iron toward the left side of the fairway is the play off the tee. From there it’s a dramatic descent to a green on the hillside near cliffs.
Hole #9 – 460 yards – The cliffs run down the entire right side of this hole, and their psychological effect on the golfer can’t be understated. You simply need two stellar shots to reach this long par 4.
Hole #10 – 429 yards – The tendency is to aim ever further left on the 10th, but the further left you go, the harder your approach to the cliffside green.
Hole #11 – 349 yards – This marks the departure from the seaside holes, but as you’ll see below, the views are great whenever you turn around. This uphill par 4 plays to a small, blind green.
Hole #12 – 187 yards – This mid-length par 3 plays slightly downhill to a well-bunkered green.
Hole #13 – 391 yards – The challenge lies in the uphill approach to this green from the wide fairway.
Hole #14 – 560 yards – This long par 5 gently curves uphill and right to an elevated green.
Hole #15 – 377 yards – I don’t think the shrubs and trees that obscure this hole add much. Avoiding the deep fairway bunker in the middle of the fairway is key on this par 4.
Hole #16 – 376 yards – One of the least memorable holes on the course, this par 4 turns left off the tee to a large green tilted right to left.
Hole #17 – 170 yards – This green was recently renovated and expanded back to its hourglass shape. The tee shot can vary drastically depending on pin position and wind direction.
Hole #18 – 532 yards – The final hole needs little introduction… The 18th hole at Pebble Beach hugs the beach and a single tree in the fairway forces golfers to choose a strategic line off the tee.
I’ve often heard courses called, “the Pebble Beach of…”, but I’ve never played a course as dramatic as Pebble itself. I left the course feeling satisfied and happy, knowing that even if I never return, I’ll have seen one of the greatest courses in the world at least once.