News & Opinion

Where does Pebble Beach rank on your list of U.S. Open venues?

Pebble Beach 7th Hole
Pebble Beach’s 7th hole has mystified generations of golfers, who hit anything from a wedge to a driver based on the wind at the iconic seaside par 3.

Hawk and Rude take on Pebble Beach for this years U.S. Open

Long-time golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.

Where does Pebble Beach rank on your list of U.S. Open venues?

John Hawkins Headshot
John Hawkins

Hawk’s take: Shinnecock Hills, Oakmont, then Pebble. There’s a significant drop-off after that, so in this case, a bronze medal isn’t such a bad thing. Pebble Beach is an American treasure, a special place in one of the most beautiful parts of this or any other country, but its front nine is quite pedestrian, at least until you reach the par-5 sixth. From there, it becomes one of the finest golf courses ever designed.

The oceanside holes get all of the attention, but Pebble’s back nine as a whole is one of the best anywhere. Very underrated, or should I say, overlooked. Its diminutive greens demand precise iron play, and if the greens are in decent shape, which they should be in June, there’s no reason to expect anything less than a thrilling week. Especially with the stack of five-star storylines accompanying this U.S. Open.

That said, we’ve seen some recent duds at the Pacific gem. The 2010 gathering wasn’t exactly the 1975 Masters, and Tiger Woods trampled the field so resoundingly in 2000 that it remains the only golf tournament I’ve ever seen that ended on a Saturday morning.

History is cool, but mystery is better. Pebble Beach is due.

Jeff Rude Headshot
Jeff Rude

Rude’s take: First.

I recall David Fay, then USGA executive director, telling me in the mid-1990s that there were two U.S. Open “showstopper sites”: Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills. Can’t argue with him. And now we have them hosting the national Open in consecutive years, a treat.

There are plenty of other great ones. Oakmont, Merion and Winged Foot come right to mind. If I have a top five, there they are. Bethpage Black might be next out of a solid second-tier group.

If I didn’t have five senses and two eyes, Pebble might not be No. 1. But I do, and hence the famous resort course on the Monterey Peninsula clearly stands above the others to this observer who has covered a quarter-century of Opens in person. What’s more, legends tend to win there; the first four champions go by Nicklaus, Watson, Kite and Woods.

Oddly, somehow Pebble is underrated. It ranks No. 8 on the list of Classic courses (before 1960) published by Golfweek, my alma mater. To that, I say: Open your eyes and your history and coffee-table books and watch the upcoming Open.