If you are a golfer, especially if you are a serious golfer, there is probably no more hallowed course (at least within an easy day’s drive of Sacramento) than Pebble Beach. Located on the Monterey Peninsula about 90 miles south of San Francisco, it is the annual site of the AT&T National Pro-Am (formerly the Crosby, so named after Bing Crosby) and not infrequently where the U.S Open is played (most recently in 2010).
And so, given the chance to play the course last weekend, we put our 30-something-handicap to the test and can report that while we still didn’t break 100, we had such a wonderful experience that we really didn’t care.
Part of the joy (indeed, a large part of it) of playing this course is its location. The course abuts right up to the rugged coastline of the region and looks out (from many of its holes) onto Carmel Bay (which lies just south of Monterey). The views it provides are therefore breath-taking, so much so that our playing partners on Sunday often seemed to be spending more time taking photos with their smart phones than lining up shots. And, since the course is located on the famous 17-mile drive, many multi-million dollar homes (more than a few looking like they must be high-priced hotels) can be seen on the hills surrounding the course. In other words, no matter where you look, the views are spectacular.
The course itself is challenging, if not treacherous in some instances. For example, at one point one of the players in our foursome found herself with a shot that would have put her at risk of a fall down a 100- foot cliff. Wisely, she chose to declare an unplayable.
But the difficulty of many of the holes is more than compensated for by the immaculate care that is taken in the maintenance of the course. The greens are really green and really fast, the fairways are lush and surprisingly spacious, and the bunkers have soft sand, the kind you can really blast out of. We found the roughs far less threatening than we feared they might be (and probably far-less punishing than they are when the course hosts major tournaments).
And then there is the overall experience of playing a round on the course. Professional caddies are highly recommended. Electric carts are available but are restricted to the cart paths that border each hole. We used a caddie ($80 per person plus a $20 tip) and were rewarded with helpful advice on just about every shot. In fact, by the end of the round, we felt we had actually improved our game in several areas just because of the advice our caddie provided (on putts and club selection in particular).
If there is anything not to like about Pebble Beach, it could be the weather, which can most definitely be nasty, with high winds and coastal fog not uncommon. But there can also be days like the one we enjoyed on this Sunday in July, when we played under a blue sky and basked in lots of sunshine. It was one of those days that the locals claim makes living in the area a pure pleasure.
And it isn’t cheap. Greens fees for a round are now $495 (not including the caddie fees). Our package included a $50 gift certificate that was good for merchandise at the pro shop or any of the many clothing and specialty shops at the resort. And, as you might expect, in using our gift certificate, we ended up spending much more than the certificate value, buying a nifty wool sweater and a classy golf shirt with the Pebble Beach logo on the front.
Of course, you get what you pay for, and when talking about a day of golf at Pebble Beach, the overall experience of playing this storied course was well worth it, the closest thing to Nirvana for a serious golfer.