Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach. Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, 1919.
The knock on Pebble Beach is usually that the inland holes aren’t great. This is kinda true. I like the third and the 16th, the second is OK, the 14th is memorable, but many of the rest are basically forgettable. The 12th seems to me a downright poor hole. Of course, to focus on those shortcomings when discussing Pebble Beach is rather like complaining about the quality of art hanging on the walls of the Sistine Chapel—you’re looking in the wrong place!
The holes along the cliffs are so good and come in such a sustained run that it seems almost churlish to focus on anything else. I’ve walked the course during tournaments and it’s stunning, but even that pales in comparison to the feeling you get when standing in the sixth fairway with a club in your hand, wondering if you can clear this daunting hill in front of you and keep your ball from tumbling over the cliff. Or the feeling you get trying to gauge the wind and the hill on the 7th tee. Or the feeling you get when you step on the fourth tee and the coast is sitting right there alongside the fairway and you know it’s going to be in play for the next seven holes.
For me, the sixth hole is the most incredible natural hole I’ve seen—a stunning combination of natural beauty and the audacious design decision to play up and over the hill (how did they play that hole with hickory shafts?).
Sure, the course would be better if all the holes were that good, but 18 oceanside holes is simply not possible. There are inland courses where there are 18 great holes, and there is something to be said for consistent design. But there’s also a great deal to be said for hitting shots alongside and over crashing waves, for standing on the 17th tee and thinking about the 1-iron Nicklaus hit or Watson’s chip in, or for taking a photo with your Dad, the man who introduced you to the game, on the 18th tee box. I’ve played some wonderful golf courses in my life and I hope to play many more. I might play some golf courses that are in some way better. But I simply can’t imagine I’ll ever love a place as much as Pebble Beach.
California 1st Quintile