Golf Course Review - Pebble Beach Golf Links

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HISTORY: Pebble Beach founder Samuel F.B. Morse had a vision to create a one- of-a-kind course with unsurpassed scenic beauty and an element of difficulty that would always be challenged but never conquered. To do so, Morse hired two amateurs who had never before designed a golf course, Jack Neville and Douglas Grant. It was Morse's intention to create a seaside course to salvage a failing real estate development. For roughly $100,000 in construction costs, the amateur duo routed the famed seaside links, which features nine holes along the water.
 
Pebble Beach has been host to some amazing events, including four U.S. Opens and four U.S. Amateurs, and since 1947 has been the main venue for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, formerly called the Crosby Pro-Am (Named after legendary entertainer Bing Crosby). When people talk about the U.S. Opens at Pebble, 1972 comes to mind and Jack Nicklaus' one-iron on the 17th hole that rattled the pin as he defeated Bruce Crampton by three shots. Or, how about the 1982 Open, when Tom Watson denied Nicklaus a fifth Open title when he chipped in on 17 from a somewhat impossible lie after telling his caddie 'I'm going to sink it.' Let's not forget the record performance from Tiger Woods in 2000 when he demolished the field by 15 shots as he equaled the lowest score ever at the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Championship.
 
Pebble Beach
The fifth opened in 1999 for play after Nicklaus designed the hole to flank the bluffs of Stillwater Cove.
REVIEW: Beautiful and breathtaking scenery comes into play when battling Pebble Beach, especially holes seven through 10 and 17 and 18, as they skirt the Pacific. However, Pebble has some holes sprinkled throughout the layout that are 'nice' holes, not great. The first hole is a dogleg right par-4, just 381 yards leading up to a tightly-bunkered green. The second is a straightaway five-par (played as a par-4 for the 2000 Open) that leaves you thinking, what's so special about this course? The third hole is also a short four, featuring a sliver of a fairway as it bends almost 90-degrees to the left to a small green surrounded by three bunkers and your first glimpse of the ocean.
 
Another somewhat average hole is the fourth at 331 yards. A carry of just 196 yards is needed from the tips, as the ocean skirting the entire right side is played as a lateral hazard. The fifth hole opened in 1999 for play after Nicklaus designed the hole to flank the bluffs of Stillwater Cove. Originally, the fifth played uphill and inland, but Nicklaus did himself proud with his re-routing of this gem. The sixth is an exacting par-5 with the Cove all along the right. After your tee shot down into the valley of the fairway, your second shot must travel up over a steep slope and must be accurately placed to the right of the bunkers, thus leaving yourself with a short approach to this small green that runs from back to front.
 
The par-3 seventh is where the wind really comes into play. On a calm day, sand wedge is the norm. However, when conditions are blustery, a knock down five-iron could be the call. This hole is one of the most photographed holes in golf. As you move to the eighth, don't forget to check out where the aiming rock is, otherwise you will end up in the ocean. After your drive reaches the top of the plateau, hold your breath, as the view and the shot you need to produce are awe inspiring.
Pebble Beach
On a calm day, sand wedge is the norm on the seventh hole. However, when conditions are blustery, a knock down five-iron could be the call.
The final hole on the front side features an ocean view all along the right side of the fairway. Your drive needs to be long and left, as the fairway slopes towards the water. A deep bunkered gully fronts this windswept green.
 
Another waterside hole, the 10th at 446 yards, is no pushover, as this fairway also slopes to the right, as does the green, so a properly placed approach is a must. The course returns to average with the uphill, par-4 11th. The oblong green slopes from back to front and tends to be very quick. The 12th is an exacting par-3 with club selection a must to a wide, but shallow green. The uphill, par-4 13th plays longer than the 399 yardage would indicate. A wide fairway target helps off the tee, but don't stray, as a long bunker left and three bunkers right will snare plenty of errant shots. The par-5 14th is virtually a three-shotter for most mortals (Tiger and Daly excluded). The dogleg right, 573-yard monster must be played with an accurate second shot or your approach will be next to impossible, as the green slopes from left to right and sits behind a menacing bunker.
 
A medium or short iron will set up a birdie possibility on the par-4 15th. Just remember, all putts will move towards the ocean. A ho-hum 3-wood or long iron off the 16th tee will set up medium or short iron approach to a green guarded by bunkers and trees. Putting on this green is the most challenging part of the hole. Back to the ocean for the 17th, as the wind condition will dictate your course of action. A par on this devilish par-3 with an hourglass green will make your day. Chip-in like Watson and who knows, you might be buying drinks at the bar, usually reserved for people making an ace. The 18th hole is a perfect way to end your round. Hopefully, you'll have to wait on the tee, so you'll be able to absorb the surroundings and what transpired during your round. Sitting on the fence, remembering your birdies, bogeys, Nicklaus pondering his future, this is what golf is all about. With water looming all along the left side, the tee shot must be placed left of the fairway trees some 265 from the box. Your second shot would be ideally located on the left side of the fairway, leaving a nine- iron or less to a green that features putts that tend to fall ocean side. Parring 18 makes everything else seem sublime.
 
OVERALL: As good as Pine Valley, no way, but a somewhat close runner-up. Course conditioning is always a factor and it affects this course in particular due to the amount of rounds played each year. When playing a seaside venue, you'd love to include rugged elements in the mix. However, a benign sunny day takes the cake. Don't let the price tag ($350 per round) bother you. Pebble Beach is a must!
 
Phil Sokol writes for the Sports Network, and periodically contributes to GolfChannel.com. Send your thoughts on this article to Phil Sokol at psokol@sportsnetwork.com.