PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Whether they’ve written it out on paper or not, every golfer has a bucket list. And Pebble Beach Golf Links is on every single one.
On your first trip to the masterpiece on the south side of the Monterey Peninsula, whether you’re playing or not, it’s easy to see why.
Sprawling views of the ocean as far as the eyes can see, yachts and sailboats floating just off the coast, grandiose cliffs plunging from the course down to the beach, where people and their dogs splash about seemingly without a care in the world.
Even the relatively ordinary holes are lined with extraordinary homes that, while you’re not exactly sure how much they’re worth, you know you can’t afford.
Sure, the U.S. Open brings with it giant merchandise tents and grandstands, but in a way, the fact they’re staging one of the biggest tournaments in the world here only makes it more beautiful.
Because the U.S. Open also brings with it the best players in the world, playing one of the best courses in the world, in what are supposed to be perfect conditions this week.
"There's no more special place than Pebble Beach, period,” said two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els. “Every day is different out here, but it's very similar, if you know what I mean.”
As soon as you start down the beachside stretch of holes on No. 4, you know exactly what Els means. It’s a vibe.
“Walking down the scenic holes on the front nine, you can't help but just be impressed with the place,” said 2013 U.S. Open champ Justin Rose. “I'm excited about playing my first U.S. Open here. I think the course is in wonderful condition. It's primed and ready to go.”
It’s hard to pick a definitive hole without doing a disservice to the others, but let’s just say the pros are big fans of them all.
There’s the iconic 109-yard, par-3 seventh, which Jon Rahm calls "easily a top three par-3 in the world,” and which was graced by quick Coast Guard helicopter fly-by Tuesday as Phil Mickelson teed off during his practice round.
Then there’s No. 8.
"The greatest second shot in golf," Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach, said of the 428 yard par-4. "To me, if I had one shot to hit for the rest of my life, that would be the one."
From No. 1 to 18, the pros don't have a bad word to say about the layout. And they shouldn't. If the golf gods have an office, this is where it’s located.
"It was more beautiful in person than I could have imagined," Jordan Spieth said, recalling his first trip to Pebble Beach. "And then to be inside the ropes playing a tournament, not only not having to pay to play, but getting paid to play — Pebble Beach is really special and always has been. Winning a golf tournament here was so cool. To be able to walk up the 18th hole at Pebble Beach, I mean, that's like walking up the 18th at Augusta. It's iconic."
"How can you not like the views? It's a cool place just to play golf and just to be here. It really is special," said two-time defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka. "This would be the coolest thing, to win three in a row and to win a third one at Pebble, I think that's really — it's such a special place. And to be as a little kid you always wanted to play a U.S. Open at Pebble. It's kind of a dream come true, in a sense."
Dream come true ... bucket list ... once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Call it whatever you want, but it all boils down to this – it’s the most beautiful place on Earth, and they let you bring your clubs.
What more do you need to know?