By Alex Miceli
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Pebble Beach Golf Links always has been one of the top-rated courses in the United States.
Opened in 1919, the seaside masterpiece, site of this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, at times needs a touchup to its historic facade. The 14th hole was the latest to undergo such a restoration.
The green at the 573-yard par 5 was one of the smallest on the property that fronts Carmel Bay, at only 3,000 square feet. The odd design didn’t allow for puttable hole locations on almost half of the green. To many players, the 14th was difficult; to others, even unfair. In the past year, the green has been expanded to 3,800 square feet, allowing for more hole locations. The work was a collaborative effort among Arnold Palmer Design, the U.S. Golf Association and Pebble Beach Co.’s R.J. Harper, the executive vice president of golf, and Chris Dalhamer, the director of agronomy.
“I think that it was a good change,” Luke Donald said. “I've heard some of the locals like the charm of the old green. But really, they could never use any part out in the righthand side. Now you can. You feel like you can run it up.”
The renovation, which began after last year’s Tour event, used early 20th-century photographs of the Jack Neville-Douglas Grant design to help capture the historic contour of the greens. Architects took advantage of modern technology to improve playability of the hole. Among the changes: the green meets USGA specifications, a SubAir moisture-management system was installed and bunkers were renovated.
“It's a sensible green change,” Padraig Harrington said. “Be interesting to see how it would play in U.S. Open conditions when it's Stimping at 12 or more. I had a putt on the right side of 5 feet above the hole, and I wasn't trying to diddle it. I was trying to hit it. The greens are slow enough today, so it was very playable today. I was surprised how flat that area of the green is. I thought yesterday there was a bit more break in it, but today I was looking at it and it probably would be able to hold a pin at a U.S. Open.”
From a sampling of the 48 players who completed play in Thursday’s weather-suspended first round, the 14th played to a 4.667 stroke average, ranking as the second-easiest hole of the day. In four of the previous five Tour events here, the hole played to an above-par stroke average.