Often described as the game’s greatest meeting of land and sea, a stroll around Pebble Beach Golf Links is matched by few other courses in the world. The lore of the venerable links, which turns 100 this year as it hosts the U.S. Open for a sixth time, adds to what makes this storied setting so special.
For decades, the Bing Crosby Clambake mesmerized golf fans—particularly those watching longingly on their TVs at home—with its breathtaking seaside routing. Add in Pebble’s major championship history, with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods walking away as champions, and it explains why it has become one of golf’s best championship venues. So what specifically makes Pebble Beach such a stern test? The mix of dramatic and daunting shots that golfers face over its 18 holes make one of our nation’s toughest tests. We’ve highlighted seven that are particularly notable, whether you’re a tour pro competing in the U.S. Open or an average joe playing a bucket-list round with your golf buddies.
The approach to the par-5 sixth hole:
After starting with three inland holes, a golfer’s walk up the fourth fairway is the first time the water is in real view. It’s not until the sixth hole, however, that the mighty Pacific finally comes into play. The pros will take on this par 5—with the severely uphill second shot—in two. With the drive or the approach, it’s best not let one fade out to the right, or else you will follow the fate of thousands of others tumbling down the cliffs.
The tee shot to the par-3 seventh hole:
This just might be golf’s most famous one-shotter. Pebble’s drop-shot seventh, at roughly 100 yards, can still require the pros to use a long iron when the wind is gusting.
The approach to the par-4 eighth hole:
Nicklaus calls the second shot to Pebble’s eighth hole the toughest approach in the game. He’s not likely to find anybody who has tried it who would disagree with him. If you get to the end of the cliff, you still have a full 190 yards left to get to the tiny, pitched green. Completing the eighth hole is to finish one of the best three-hole stretches anywhere in golf.
Back-to-back approaches at the ninth and 10th holes:
Some changes in the ninth fairway have narrowed the landing area, making the hole even more stern. Combine it with the 10th and you’ve got a pair of brutal 490-plus-yard par 4s along the ocean. The 10th green is the farthest point of the course before heading for home.
The approach to the par-5 14th hole:
Even after the green was expanded by about 3,000 square feet a few years back, the approach to the 14th remains one of the course’s toughest. Pebble’s greens are notoriously small, but the false front at 14 makes it nearly impossible to find a hole location toward the front of this green. The entire landing area in general on the putting surface is still quite tiny for a par 5.
The tee shot at the par-3 17th hole:
Nicklaus’ 1-iron tee shot in 1972 … Watson’s chip-in birdie in 1982 … the theater of 17th hole is always Hollywood-ready. The 17th requires a well-executed tee shot, and when there’s a championship on the line and a little wind blowing, players’ nerves will be tested to the max.
This is one of golf’s most famous par 5s and, arguably, the game’s best finishing hole. The tree in the middle of the fairway is iconic, and sets up the entire strategy of the hole. It’s easy to find yourself distracted by the beauty of this setting, but when you’re ready to hit it, your tee shot better be a good one—or else you can find trouble easily at this finisher.