PEBBLE BEACH, CALIF. — Like Paris and a great ’97 California cabernet, Pebble Beach Golf Links has the unfortunate burden of trying to live up to its own reputation.
And, like Paris and the cabernets, it does.
It really is that spectacular. It really is that captivating. It really does belong on all those bucket lists.
Are there better golf courses from a pure architectural standpoint?
The first two holes at Pebble Beach are nothing special but neither is the first hole at Royal Dornoch. Pebble’s par-5 14th is no one’s favorite hole and the 15th is about as plain a par-4 as you’ll find.
But playing Pebble Beach – just being there – is about the experience. You can argue that it’s too expensive and takes too long to play but when you look up at the hill at the par-5 sixth or stare down at the green at the par-3 seventh or summon the nerve to hit a second shot over the ocean at the par-4 eighth, all the other stuff fades away.
Pebble Beach gives you what the special places do best: It provides memories and feelings.
You may wince at the $495 greens fee but if you only get there once, you’ll remember the day forever. That’s what you’re buying.
This is a special time for Pebble Beach because in the space of 10 months it will host the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship and the 2019 U.S. Open. With the exception of Augusta National, no golf course may be more familiar to the American public than Pebble Beach.
It’s where Nicklaus bounced a 1-iron off the 17th hole flagstick in the 1972 U.S. Open and where, a decade later, Tom Watson chipped in from a tangle of rough to deny Nicklaus another major championship.
Unlike Augusta National, which requires a member to invite you, Pebble Beach is a public course. It is surrounded by wonderful golf courses – Spyglass Hill, Spanish Bay, Poppy Hills, the two layouts at Monterey Pensinsula Country Club and, of course, the majestic and majestically private Cypress Point – but Pebble Beach is the sun to their moons.
To do it all the way, stay at the Lodge at Pebble Beach or the Inn at Spanish Bay. To sit outside by the fire pits at Spanish Bay with the water shimmering in the moonlight, having a drink before dinner at Roy’s and knowing there was golf today and/or golf tomorrow adds to the glow.
If you prefer, tiny Carmel is picture book perfect if you like tiny streets, old trees and quaint shops. It’s possible to walk the beach from Carmel to under the bluffs where the ninth and 10th holes at Pebble Beach sit then walk back for lunch or dinner.
Duck into Dametra Café for dinner and don’t be surprised when the proprietor pulls out his guitar and leads the dining room in a spirited singalong. It’s almost as good as the clam chowder, which should not be missed.
The Pebble Beach experience is one of a kind. One of the best kind.