If Augusta National is the best-known golf course in the United States -- and I don’t think anyone disputes that, since all 18 holes are on display every April -- then Pebble Beach is certainly second. There’s no major annual golf tournament at Pebble Beach like there is at Augusta National (although Pebble Beach does host the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am every year on the PGA Tour), but Pebble Beach does have one thing that Augusta does not: access to the public.
When it comes to well-known golf courses in the United States, public access is a rarity. The most famous courses are generally the most exclusive courses. It’s a big deal when the U.S. Open is played at Bethpage Black or Pebble Beach, since the contest is typically held at a private club like Winged Foot in New York, Oakmont in Pittsburgh, or Congressional Country Club in D.C.
Not only is Pebble Beach the second-best-known golf course in the country, but it’s also a place where you can get a tee time. The famous 18th hole along the ocean? The most difficult short par 3 in existence? The less-than-100-yard 7th hole? You can play there.
But before you book your trip, be sure to keep these things in mind.
1. Be Prepared For Sticker Shock
We might as well get this one out of the way. Getting a tee time at Pebble Beach is possible, but it’s not cheap. As of this writing, a round of golf costs $550, and that doesn’t include cart or caddy fees, whichever direction you choose to go. If you’re planning on playing Pebble Beach, plan on it costing you $700 a day.
Even at that cost, Pebble Beach tee times still book weeks in advance. So if you’re planning a trip, you’ll need to book your tee times at least a month before you go. If you’re planning to play on a Saturday, consider booking two months in advance. Check this page for tee-time availability.
2. Know That Staying At The Resort Doesn't Get You A Discount
While you might want to stay at the resort (prepare your wallet if you do -- rooms at The Lodge at Pebble Beach cost between $900 and $7,000 per night), staying at the resort doesn’t guarantee cheaper golf fees. Golf doesn’t come with a stay at any of the Pebble Beach properties, and on-site guests don't receive discounts. Guests pay the same as members of the public. The only discount for resort guests is that cart fees are complimentary, so you save $45.
That’s not to say that staying on the property isn’t spectacular. If you want your experience to be as special as possible, a stay at the Lodge can put your trip over the top. The spa is incredible, the restaurants are fantastic, and the views of the course and the ocean can’t be beat. Just know that a stay is wholly separate from the golf experience and won't get you a tee-time discount.
3. Prepare For Rain Or Fog
This is the Monterey Peninsula, so the weather is constantly changing. There are times when the oceanfront is caked in fog but a mile inland there’s not a cloud in the sky. And there are times when a sunny day yields to heavy winds coming in off the ocean. If you’ve ever watched the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on television, you know that the PGA Tour players can be in short sleeves one minute and rain gear the next.
So if you’re playing Pebble Beach, it’s best to pack all of your rain gear. You’ll have your golf bag, so you don’t necessarily have to dress in layers, but make sure you pack for every weather occasion. I recommend packing a long-sleeved shirt, a rain jacket, rain pants that can be pulled on quickly, and several hats/visors.
Sometimes you’ll be gifted with a sunny day. Other times you’ll start in the sun, play through the rain and the wind, and arrive at the 18th in the sun. Just be prepared for anything.
4. Hire A Caddy
When playing Pebble Beach, you can choose a golf cart or hire a caddy. As of this writing, carts cost $45 per person ($90 for a two-person cart) and the caddy fee is $95 plus tip. If you don’t want to walk the entire course, get a cart. But if you don’t mind walking, I recommend getting a caddy.
For many people, Pebble Beach will be the most difficult course they play in their lives. It’s known for impossible shots over ocean cliffs and tiny greens. It’s also known for wind, and hiring a caddy can make your round much better. The caddy will be familiar with the winds around the course and how they can affect your shot, so when they tell you to hit a 6 iron instead of the 9 iron you’d normally hit from 125 yards, listen to them. Think of the caddy as your concierge for the entire round.
5. Don’t Try To Be A Hero On Holes 6, 7, And 8
Pebble Beach is known for its famous 18th hole along the ocean, but the golfers who play it come away talking about holes 6, 7, and 8. There’s a tiny peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean, and holes 6, 7, and 8 take you around the entire peninsula. Many golfers have watched PGA professionals on these holes make heroic shots across the ocean cliffs, trying to cut down the angle and go for the green. And when they try to do the same, well… let’s just say they don’t get the same results.
This is especially true of the 6th and 8th holes. The 6th hole features a second shot well uphill with the ocean cliffs on the right. Because of Tiger Woods’s famous shot at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, many golfers who should pitch back toward the fairway will attempt the same shot over the same tree. But, of course, they’re not Tiger Woods. The same is true of the 8th hole, where the second shot goes directly over the ocean. If your drive is not far enough forward, you won’t be able to reach the green over the cavernous divide. Many golfers go for it and fail.
So take a deep breath and listen to your playing partners or your caddy. When it comes to holes 6, 7, and 8, take it easy and play the correct shot. (And enjoy the view, of course!)
6. Eat At The Tap Room Afterward
You’ll want to soak in the experience once you walk off the 18th green -- there’s so much golf history in this one place -- so a post-round meal at The Tap Room is the way to go. It’s referred to as "the trophy room" and contains memorabilia related to the famous golfers who've played Pebble Beach over the years.
The food is great as well. It’s pricey -- after all, it’s a steakhouse near the 18th green at one of the most famous golf courses in the world -- but it’s worth it. A meal there is the perfect way to finish off your day.
7. Sneak In A Twilight Round At Spyglass Hill
The entire Monterey Peninsula is known for golf, and the famous 17-Mile Drive connects many of the best-known courses in the country. Some, like Cypress Point, remain private and impossible to play. Others, like The Links at Spanish Bay, are open to the public and can be played at half the fee of Pebble Beach.
Perhaps the best deal on golf in Monterey is twilight golf at Spyglass Hill. Spyglass is one of the courses used for the early rounds of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, so you’ll be playing a PGA Tour course. But the course also offers twilight rates (as many holes as you can play after a certain time). Regular tee-time rates at Spyglass are $395 per round, but twilight rates are $225.
So if you have a morning tee time at Pebble Beach and are looking to play 36 holes that day, taking advantage of the twilight rates is a great way to do that. Finish your morning round at Pebble Beach, have lunch, and then play Spyglass in the afternoon at half the regular rate.
Twilight times vary throughout the year based on when the sun goes down, so when you call to set up your tee time, check for the current start of twilight rates. Tee-time information for Spyglass Hill can be found here.
8. Enjoy The Rest Of What The Monterey Peninsula Has To Offer
If you’re spending a few days in the area, you should get out and explore everything Monterey and Carmel have to offer. There are wineries to try, quaint downtown shops in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and dozens of other places to explore.
Perhaps the most well-known attraction in the area (besides, you know, Pebble Beach) is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you could spend an entire day. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is at the end of what is known as Cannery Row, which features shops and restaurants that were once part of the fishing operations in the area. If you’re a literature buff, you’ll want to check out Cannery Row as well as the many other John Steinbeck-related literary landmarks in the area.
And wherever you are -- the beach in Carmel, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or the 18th green at Pebble Beach -- you’ll have a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a backdrop you’ll never forget.
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