June 16, 2010

U.S. Open at Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach, located 117 miles south of San Francisco, is the most glamorous golf course in the rotation of the U.S. Open, which begins Thursday. The sixth hole is the uphill par five on the right side of the picture. The famous seventh is the tiny downhill par three that plays from right to left across the point of the peninsula. The spectacular eighth hole plays back toward the camera, with the second shot across a chasm (which my father almost fell into when we played it in 1973) You can click on the picture to get a bigger view. To decipher an aerial picture of a golf course, the crosshatched areas are the fairways of short grass, the light-colored ovals guarded by sand traps are the putting greens, and the light-colored rectangles are the tees.

The combination of sea cliffs and headlands level enough for a golf ball to stop rolling gives the course the combination of the sublime and the beautiful that Burke would have appreciated.

On the downside, the greens fee is supposedly $475, plus you really ought to take a caddy, who is extra. It's ridiculous to take a cart and find yourself restricted to the cart paths away from the ocean. My father and I paid $10 each to play in 1973 (walking, carrying our own bags), so demand to play famous golf courses has apparently increased somewhat over the years. After we finished #18 (below), it was low tide, so we poked around down in the tide pools to the left of the fairway and found enough golf balls in a half hour to pretty much make up for the cost of our greens fees. Evidently, the economics of the relative prices of manufactured items versus desirable real estate have changed somewhat over the years.

Also, you can't tell from the TV broadcasts, but many holes are lined, at least on the inland side, by houses (very, very nice houses, but still ...). My dad aimed so far away from the ocean on the 18th tee (the point of land at the bottom of this picture) that he bounced it off the front door of a zillionaire who lives to the right of the big fairway sand trap.

Also, on TV, as shot from the tower, the par 3 17th hole (the green is at the bottom right of this picture) looks like one of the most spectacular holes in the world, but in person it's pretty dull-looking.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve , you never played Pebble beach and you don't even play golf....oh yeah, and you're also an orphan.


Good Luck!!!


Dan in DC

eh said...

Diversity -- par 3, 4, 5 holes -- is what makes golf such a great sport.

Not to mention miniature golf, with the wide (i.e. diverse) array of impediments.

Chief Seattle said...

Evidently, the economics of the relative prices of manufactured items versus desirable real estate have changed somewhat over the years.

From a supply perspective there's three kinds of goods. Those that increase faster than population like manufactured items. Those that increase at the same rate as population like attractive mates (some would say recent experience in California proves this wrong) and those that increase slower or not at all, like land or historic works.

Anonymous said...

The biggest downside is that good golfers who do pony up the outrageous greens fees then suffer through one of the most annoyingly slow rounds they will ever play. The course is way too tough for most of the people who play it, so it can take six hours to get through -- a time that utterly wrecks whatever enjoyment you could possibly get from playing there.

The folks who own the course could improve the experience by restricting it to people with reasonable handicaps. (In theory such a move could increase revenue. If you speed up play you can get more people through on any given day. I assume, however, they're run a bunch of numbers and figured out they'd actually lose money by restricting the pool.)

The odd thing is that by objective measures, the course isn't that incredibly hard -- but objective measures ignore the astonishing fear that most golfers have of water. Most of the water at PB is far away from where anyone could conceivably hit it, but people still take extra precautions to avoid it, which means they're always in severe trouble on the landward side, like your dad.

691 said...

I believe that the cost to play is even higher. As the golf course is part of a resort, in order to play you have to be a guest of the resort. So tack on one night in a hotel room to the greens fee to get the true cost.

DCS said...

Pebble Beach (and the Old Course at St. Andrews) is for the golf fanatic what Jerusalem or Mecca is for those of conventional religious persuasions: a place where one can walk in the footsteps of the anointed ones. In the case of golf: Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and so forth.
Pebble Beach is stupidly expensive to play, but anyone can play there. I had the chance three summers ago and would love to go back some day. The walk along the cliffs is breathtaking, the mansions lining the course are awesome. If you take a local caddy, he can tell you who lives where since there aren't any signs.
The golf? Oh yeah: tough course. Not as tough for the recreational golfer as it will be for the Open, but a true challenge.

Luke Lea said...

Are you a fan of Updike's golf writing? Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

It's OK Steve. You deserve to write a self indulgent column every now and then. Ignore the nay sayers.

Albertosaurus

Stanley Ann Mugabe said...

Off topic - just thought iSteve readers would enjoy this hilarious spoof about Bibi Netanyahu's psychiatrist written by a guy named Michael K Smith.

Anonymous said...

I could give a shit about golf, but I could look at photos of the California Central Coast all day long. It sucks that it's largely become a playground for the rich, because the whole stretch of coastline from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara or so is God's own country. I am killing myself trying to become wealthy specifically so I can move my family there.

helene edwards said...

If you're a junior golfer associated with one of the junior golf programs, the fee is $5.00. Incredible.

Anonymous said...

from drudge: JERUSALEM – Tens of thousands of black-clad ultra-Orthodox Jews staged mass demonstrations on Thursday to protest a Supreme Court ruling forcing the integration of a religious girls' school.

Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, descent at a girls' school in the West Bank settlement of Emanuel don't want their daughters to study with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said about 100,000 people converged in downtown Jerusalem in support of the Ashkenazi parents.

Anonymous said...

Jack off the stick, in the howling wind on seventeen, with a one iron in 1972, was Pebble's most memorable moment? Or is it Tiger in 2000, or Watson's greatest shot from the fringe to beat Jack in 1982?

Anonymous said...

If you want to walk in Tiger's...er...footsteps you would probably have the option of going to the nearest pole dancing venue instead, probbly cheaper - in some respects.

David said...

>You deserve to write a self indulgent column every now and then.<

They're usually among his better ones.

Btw, that first photo is superior to many paintings hanging in galleries.

Here's Steve on golf courses as art. On what is art.

Anonymous said...

Stanley Ann Mugabe for a name, now that is funny!

OhioStater said...

The best part of the Pebble Beach area are the cypress trees: you only see them in Northern California (Golden Gate Park, et al), but they grow a certain way near Pebble, on a slant, thanks to the constant winds.

http://top100golf.blogspot.com/2006/01/cypress-point.html

Those pictures above come from the Cypress Point Club which is 1/4 or 1/2 mile from Pebble on the same coast line.

While the same man developed both, he made Pebble public and Cypress private, so its natural to ask which is "better".

Pebble has more holes on the water, Cypress Point has 3, but the Cypress water holes are epic, earning the name "the sistine chapel of golf".

Anonymous said...

Steve,
do you think Woods will ever get back to his best or is just plain tuckered out?

Rich

David said...

>Jews staged mass demonstrations on Thursday to protest a Supreme Court ruling forcing the integration of a religious girls' school [... They] don't want their daughters to study with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent<

Where are the Freedom Riders when you need them?

Jim O said...

Never played it (of all humans who own a set of clubs, I am the world's worst)but I snuck onto the couse once just to walk it. Beautiful place.
Too bad the Open will never return to my back yard, Bethpage Black, in my lifetime. Long Island is just crammed with guys like these.

Kevin B said...

14th is chewing 'em up. Tom Watson at 60 makes it all look easy.

Figgy said...

Steve, your buddies at GolfCourseAtlas.com agree with you re the 17th at Pebble Beach. They also say it's not strategic at all, which goes against the nature of the course in general, which doesn't, like many US Open courses, try to beat you with length and ridiculous difficulty. It's easy to build a tough par 3 if you make it long with a tiny green and ring it with traps and long grass. A sure sign of a not-so-greatly designed hole is when lucky shots wind up in better shape than well struck shots, and that's what happens often at the 17th. The 14th, for all its comical triple bogeys and such, still rewards a good shot. In my opinion, a better version of the 17th would be 30 yards shorter with an elevated green featuring much character in the undulations. That way it would be improved both visually and strategically from the current version. They'll never do that of course but I'd love to see it.

Having said that, I've become a convert of having Pebble on the US Open rota. Greatly strategic holes.

Mike said...

$10.00 in 1973 is $49.14 now according to the BLS.
So Pebble has increased its price 1000%!
All I can say is that what goes up must come down. Everyone who thought they were rich with stock prices and house prices are rapidly finding out they are not.
It will be interesting to see Pebbles prices ten years from now.

Anonymous said...

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said about 100,000 people converged in downtown Jerusalem in support of the Ashkenazi parents.


On July 1st, 1963, the USA had a population of 189,241,798.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr gave his "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd of 200,000.

As of December 2009, Israel had a population of 7,503,800 [and that inludes the Muslims and the Christians].


[100,000 / 7,503,800] * 189,241,798 = 2,521,946


I.e. the equivalent to 100K Israelis in 2010 would have been more than 2.5M Americans in 1963, or almost 13 times the number of people who attended the March on Washington.