News & Opinion

Pebble Beach? Overrated? You’ve got to be kidding

Pebble Beach 5th hole
The green at Pebble Beach’s stunning par-3 5th hole underwent significant changes 22 years ago at the hand of a man who knows the place better than most: Jack Nicklaus.

John Hawkins and Mike Purkey acknowledge the undeniable, that Pebble Beach Golf Links features some of the game’s most stunning scenery, but they differ on the quality of the test

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Is Pebble Beach overrated or an American treasure?

Hawk’s take: The course has its quirks, and two of the holes (fifth and 14th) have been significantly altered in recent years, but that hardly obscures the notion that Pebble Beach is one of this nation’s great sporting landmarks. Whatever architectural flaws still exist are exponentially dwarfed by the staggering natural beauty of the grounds. And frankly, having played the course five or six times (in three different seasons), I actually think Pebble is a bit underrated.

From the sixth tee to the 18th green, there is just one hole (the 11th) that a critic justifiably could consider to be weak. Pebble’s tiny putting surfaces throughout the back nine make for difficult targets, strengthening many holes that some might consider unfair. And of course, there are postcards everywhere, culminating in eye-popping visuals at the end of both nines, but only after you’ve solved the riddles offered by Mother Nature on the front and the overlooked stretch of quality from the 12th through the 16th.

Without question, Pebble Beach is an American treasure, the place more tour pros would choose as the site of their final round than any other venue. Those guys don’t have to pay $500 to play it, but I dare say Pebble is worth every penny. Well, almost.

Purk’s take: There’s a lot that I love about Pebble Beach. It is one of the most visually stunning places in all of golf. It’s a rare treat to get the opportunity to play it or even walk around it.

Although Pebble Beach is regularly ranked among the best courses in the world, it’s really an eight-hole course. Holes 5 through 10 along with 17 and 18 make up what most people envision when they think of Pebble Beach. The rest of the holes are downright ordinary.

The par-3 fifth, which was created as a new hole by Jack Nicklaus in 1998, is worthy of Pebble. The par-5 sixth features a wildly uphill second shot; the short, downhill par-3 seventh might be the most photographed hole in the game; and the approach to the par-4 eighth green can’t be duplicated. The ninth and 10th are sublime seaside par-4 holes. The 17th, despite an unfair green, has been the site of significant golf history. The 18th speaks for itself.

About the only other hole anyone remembers is the par-5 14th, where the green needed to be blown up before some changes finally were made in 2016. As an eight-hole course, Pebble has no equal. Unfortunately, greatness is played over all 18.

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