50 Words or Less
Pebble Beach Golf Links is arguably the most beautiful course on Earth. A solid challenge – particularly for your irons – that will create a lifetime of memories.
Pebble Beach needs no introduction. It’s routinely rated the #1 public course in the US and has hosted a wealth of prestigious championships. This is a course that every golfer wants to check off their bucket list, so in this review, I’ll give you an idea of what a round there is like.
If you’re looking for a less expensive round at Pebble Beach, check out The Hay HERE
Up the hill from Pebble Beach Golf Links is the Pebble Beach Golf Academy. A shuttle runs constantly between the two so that golfers can warm up at this world class facility before their round. As you would expect, there’s a huge driving range stacked with pyramids of premium TaylorMade golf balls. There’s also a short game area with two practice greens – one for chipping, one for bunker shots. I particularly like that the bunkers are deep and the greens are small, just like on the course. Finally, there’s a 4,500 square foot putting green.
Back at the first tee, there’s another very large putting green. This is great for staying busy in the final anxious minutes before your first drive.
Customer Service & Amenities
The experience of golfing at Pebble Beach is every bit as premium as you would expect. From the moment you arrive until you walk back to your car, the customer service is excellent. I want to give particularly high praise to the starter who kept everything on schedule while maintaining a calm, friendly atmosphere.
On the course, there are ample opportunities to refuel. There’s a snack tent that you can visit before holes four and seventeen. There’s also a full turn stand that you pass twice in the middle of the round. If that’s not enough, a beverage cart tours the course.
In terms of the post-round shopping experience, I’ve never seen anything quite like Pebble Beach. All those shops around the putting green are stuffed to the gills with every kind of logoed item you can imagine. From shirts to home goods to hats and beyond, you can find it here.
Caddie service is available at Pebble Beach Golf links and highly recommended. If you’ve never golfed with a caddie before, I have a primer on how to do so HERE.
Beauty & Scenery
Pebble Beach is the most beautiful golf course I’ve ever played, full stop. Like most golfers, I’ve seen it on TV countless times and played hundreds of rounds of Tiger Woods Golf there, but none of it prepared me. Pictures don’t do it justice. 4K doesn’t do it justice. The way the coast meets the cliffs is simply beyond words.
Beyond the overwhelming scale, pictures fail to convey the beautiful rhythm of a round at Pebble Beach. The first three holes are inland and build your anticipation. After your drive on four, you dive headlong into coastal views for the next five holes. The highlight for me is #6, but there are no wrong answers on this test. Holes eleven through sixteen take you back inland just long enough make you fully appreciate the majesty of the closing duo.
Check out Pebble Beach’s other oceanside course, The Links at Spanish Bay HERE
Your primary objective off the tee is staying out of the hazards. Driving it into the ocean or one of the numerous fairway bunkers is a one-way ticket to a big number. Despite all my PlayStation experience, I did not realize how many sand traps litter the fairways. Though the fairways are rather wide, you need to pick specific targets and drive it accurately.
One of the things that makes Pebble Beach play longer than the number on the card is that many holes do not require driver off the tee. The first, fourth, and eighth spring to mind as tee shots where – if you’re playing the right tees – a FW or hybrid is a better choice than driver.
On that point of playing the right tees, I would strongly advise you to be conservative. Pebble Beach has a sign recommending tees based on handicap and driver distance. Read it and abide by it. Even though the tips don’t seem overwhelming at 6,817 yards, the wind, elevation, and design make it play much longer.
Unlike its sister courses, Pebble Beach Golf Links provides golfers with a steady diet of benign lies. Not every fairway is driving range flat, but you have to get unlucky to find a dramatic stance. If you’re driving it accurately, you’ll be rewarded.
Similarly, the rough is not overly penal at Pebble Beach. You won’t have perfect control of your ball and you may draw a poor lie, but the rough shouldn’t keep you from a green in regulation.
The two ways in which Pebble Beach challenges your iron play are elevation and small greens. Most golfers are familiar with some of the most dramatic examples of elevation change such as the sixth, seventh, and eighth holes. While the other approach shots don’t jump off your TV screen the same way, they are far from flat.
Pebble Beach famously has the smallest greens on the PGA Tour, averaging just 3,500 square feet. You can play a very decent iron shot and miss the green, especially if you’re hitting a lot of mid or long irons. Even conservative target selection won’t save you when there’s only a few yards of room for error.
Finally, the most variable element – wind – deserves a mention. On a calm day, a strong ball striker can have a career day. However, if the coastal winds are up, every green in regulation is going to feel like a significant accomplishment.
If you’re looking for a stricter test of ball striking, check out Pebble’s sister course, Spyglass Hill HERE.
Greens & Surrounds
As with the approaches, the short game relies mainly on the tiny greens to provide the challenge. The surrounds are generally friendly with moderate rough and tame undulations. Most of the greens sit a little above the surround but not dramatically so.
If your ball finds grass, you should be able to make your next shot a putt. However, these greens are heavily bunkered and some of the traps are quite deep. Make sure to tune up your sand play before your trip so you can escape without too much damage to your card. You can try your best to avoid the sand, but a round without a bunker shot is quite a rarity.
Once you’re on the putting surface, the hard work is done. Because the greens are so small, you don’t need to worry about long lag putts. The greens are also subdued in their movements. I only had a couple putts where the read was more than a cup outside.
That same subtlety can be the one cause of confusion when putting. There are numerous holes where the surround makes you think a putt will break one way but the green is actually tilted in the opposite direction. Lean on your caddie, trust your feet more than your eyes, and you’ll make a lot of putts.
The recipe for success at Pebble Beach Golf Links is straightforward. You need to be smart and solid off the tee. Your approach shots need to be very precise. Outside of an unlucky spot in the sand, the short game and putting are uncomplicated.
What that doesn’t account for is Pebble’s secret weapon: nerves. If you’re anything like me, that opening tee shot – a lay up, literally and figuratively – will make your hands shake. Same for almost every shot on #6 and #7. By the time you’ve settled into the fact that you’re playing Pebble Beach, the birdie holes are largely gone and you’re holding on for dear life.
Also, one last time: get a caddie. They’re going to help you make a couple extra putts, lose fewer balls, and have a better time.
Is Pebble Beach worth the enormous price tag? We discuss HERE
#6 – Par 5 – 498 Yards
I can’t recall the last time that one hole separated itself so clearly as my top choice. The tee shot on #6 is the most stunning view on the course and was my unequivocal, “This is Pebble Beach” moment. I genuinely had a hard time drawing the club back. And the drive isn’t even the coolest shot on this hole – that would be the second which has to climb four stories to the upper level of the fairway.
#7 – Par 3 – 106 Yards
Is this choice cliché? Yes, but that doesn’t make it wrong. The view and the history turn this from a routine flip wedge to a hole that you desperately want to birdie. Like I did.
#16 – Par 4 – 400 Yards
My one unusual pick is the final hole before the course returns to the ocean. This hole demands a drive that travels the right distance. Too short or too long and your approach is going to be severely compromised by the pair of trees in front of the massive bunker.
Playing Pebble Beach Golf Links is an experience I wish every serious golfer could have. It’s the most beautiful course I’ve ever played, and it was one of the most memorable rounds of my life. If you have the opportunity to walk alongside all this amazing history, do not hesitate to do so.