It's U.S. Open week and in this edition of Punch Shots, travel editor Erik Peterson and TravelGolf.com senior writer Mike Bailey debate Pebble Beach vs. Augusta National. If you had one more round to play, which should you choose?
By ERIK PETERSON
Let’s face it, I really want to play Pebble Beach, but before I die I have to play Augusta.
I feel fortunate to have walked both courses – though I haven’t played either one – and each has certain elements that blow the other out of the water, Augusta just has more of them.
Let’s start with the golf course setting, where Pebble’s position along Carmel Bay wins easily. Augusta has towering pines, blossoming magnolias and chirping birds, which makes it the prettiest inland course in the world. At Pebble, you could just take the setting at Nos. 7,8,9, 17 and 18 and have one of the world’s most spectacular settings for golf. Advantage, Pebble.
As for the course itself, the worst holes at Augusta are still great, while Pebble has a few that could be from your local muni – most notably No. 1. Advantage, Augusta.
What about conditions? Even if you’ve only seen Augusta on TV, you can’t tell me there’s a course in the world that’s in finer condition. The fairways feel like carpet, the pinecones are programmed to fall only in certain places at certain times, and the greens – I believe our good friend Gary McCord said it best when he infamously quipped, “I don't think they mow these greens, I think they bikini wax them.” Advantage, Augusta.
Next is history. To be fair, Pebble has an impressive résumé of historical moments when you consider Jack’s 1-iron and Watson’s chip-in at 17, not to mention Tiger’s 15-shot romp in 2000. But four good U.S. Opens and a bunch of Clam Bakes still doesn’t match Augusta.
Augusta was founded by Bobby Jones and designed by Alister McKenzie, with Nicklaus, Woods, Hogan, Snead, Nelson, Player, Mickelson and Palmer all among the multiple winners. Enough said.
By MIKE BAILEY
Yeah, I know that conditioning at Augusta is as good as it gets. But after playing Pebble last month, I can tell you that superintendent Chris Dalhamer and his crew have the 110th U.S. Open venue pretty close. So if they're fairly even conditioning-wise, and if you rate the layouts as comparably great, the wild card is the palette on the Pacific Ocean. No inland course can compare to Monterey Peninsula coastline.
Just think about it for a second. Starting with the par-3 fifth, you get these incredible views of the water, the bluffs and the lone Cypress tree that sits atop the par-5 sixth. Then there's the seventh, the best short par 3 in the world, set along black rocks protecting the green from the surf. Looking back across Stillwater Cove is the view of the 18th, perhaps the best risk-reward par 5 in all of golf. And forward are the incredible holes of eight, nine and 10, all giving you a front row seat of one of nature's most splendid works.
And if you think the inland holes at Pebble are ordinary, think again. Pebble is never boring -- on any hole. Then, it's back to the ocean to the par-3 17th, where Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson both hit incredible shots to clinch U.S. Open victories, a piece of history that rivals anything in golf.