Pebble Beach, a Camaro, and an MVP
Been awhile since you’ve seen a course review from me, hasn’t it? Well, I had this minor detail of getting married to attend to – so I apologize for the delay – especially considering I have some great stories to tell.
You may have seen a post last month about my first of two golf trips this past June.
What I haven’t talked much about was the second trip.
It all started in May when I received an email from the PR person for General Motors. It read something like:
We have a bunch of fleet vehicles we use for exhibitions and shows, and when they’re not tied up in those, we give them to members of the public to try out for a few days.
Any interest in taking a car? No strings attached.”
So the obvious answer here is “why not?!”
But I took it a step further and asked if I could take it on a road trip to check off some bucket list items: Drive a cool sports car up and down Highway 1 and play Pebble Beach).
She said I absolutely could, but the max I could have it for was a week. And while my request for a Corvette wouldn’t work out, she would be able to swing the next best thing:
A Chevy Camaros 2SS convertible.
I’ll take it!
Now I’ve never driven a convertible (or a car with over 400hp for that matter), but I was pretty excited for this.
As soon as it was dropped off at my house in Portland I hopped in and started the nearly 12 hour trek down to Santa Cruz to meet my friend Dan for our first of six rounds.
The itinerary went:
- Half Moon Bay Old Course
- Half Moon Bay New Course
- Spyglass Hill
- Pebble Beach
- Cal Club
I’ll write about all of those separately, but let’s just say during those first few drives I learned a couple things:
- The Camaro is a fun car.
- Like a really, really fun car.
- If planning a trip that involves tons of freeways, dozens of hours in a car, and a ton of golf stuff, I maybe should have opted for the Escalade.
- Driving op down on Highway 1 is a bucket list thing that’s totally worth doing.
Arriving at Pebble Beach
For as long as I can remember playing golf at Pebble Beach was one of those things that was so wildly out of the question, that I never considered for a second I’d actually do it.
This was before I became a hardcore golfer and got jaded to things like $495 greens fees.
Ok, I take that back, I’m not sure you can ever get jaded to a $495 greens fee.
We pulled in the night before and stayed at the Inn at Spanish Bay. The outdoor patio was absolutely gorgeous, and it was immediately becoming clear why this area was such a playground for the rich and famous.
We headed up to the Lodge for our dinner reservation.
We walked in, sat down, and immediately were pretty floored as we looked outside and saw the 18th green.
There it is. Right there in front of me. Pebble Beach.
It hadn’t quite sunk in that we were actually going to get to play the course, but it wouldn’t take long as we had a 6:50 tee time and wouldn’t get much sleep the night before.
I’ve found that playing golf courses like this is reminiscent of my 8 year old self preparing to go to Disneyland. Over the years I’ve kind of stopped having that nervous excitement that comes the night before a big trip or adventure.
However if I’m preparing to play a new course, all of those feelings come rushing back to me.
Pebble Beach First Impressions
For the most part in this article, I’m going to skip a lot of the history and stick to my experience. There are dozens of websites where you can read all about the history of the course and property, from people who do a better job with it than me.
We pulled up to the bag drop and headed to the pro shop to pay.
There’s still a part of you that thinks, “they aren’t really going to charge me $495 are they?”
And then they do, without giving any indication as though this should be out of the ordinary.
I was pretty disappointed, as one of the downsides to playing early was that much of the course was caked in fog – so we couldn’t really see a whole lot on the first hole.
And as someone who takes copious amounts of photos at all the courses he played, I was bummed I wouldn’t get one of those postcard shots of the course.
Dan opted for a caddie, and who we got wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
I was expecting a 60 year old lifer, who’d spent his entire life doing nothing but caddie at Pebble Beach (I think I spent a little too much time in Scotland).
What we got was a girl named Hayley who had just graduated from college.
And I say this without hesitation, she was the best caddie either of us had ever had – by a long shot.
Not only that, she was a ton of fun to hang out with.
I stepped up to the first tee with my hybrid in hand (who knew you couldn’t use driver on the first hole?!), and proceeded to top my ball directly into the right rough, giving me absolutely zero second shot, whatsoever.
An with that, we were off.
Pebble Beach: The Course
Now, obviously I know a bit about the course. The precarious short 7th hole, the historic par 5 18th, the cliff shot on 8.
But I didn’t know that much about the course. I hadn’t had a chance to go through my normal routine and obsess about it in the week before playing.
So I didn’t know for sure what to expect.
I’ve had many people tell me that Pebble Beach is overrated. That the ocean holes are world class, but the rest are kind of “meh”.
In my opinion, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There wasn’t a single hole I didn’t like, and while there were a few that maybe weren’t quite as strong as others (11 and 12 for me), it was definitely the inland holes that were the biggest surprise.
In particular 2-4 I loved. I hit a bit of a slice-y tee shot on 4 and didn’t think much of it.
And our caddie said “I think you’ll be good there.”
“Wait, what’s over there?”
Dan and I ended up both missing the cliff by a few feet. So word to the wise, when playing Pebble, remember that even if you can’t see it, there’s water out of bounds right 🙂
Once we got to six it really started to sink in…Pebble Beach!
After a couple opening bogeys, I’d rattled off three pars and was feeling great about life.
Our caddie said “If you want to play it like the pros, hit up on the ridge to the left to take the water out of play and give you a better angle.”
I did as I was told and ended up a couple football fields away from everyone else.
One of the marshals even rolled up to me and said “Smart play, but man, I’ve never seen anyone quite this far left.”
Around this time I decided to let my friends and readers in on the action and I started Periscoping the round(follow me, @seanogle) .
I bogeyed here, and then on the world famous 7th, I dumped it into a front bunker, had trouble getting out, and had to settle for a triple bogey.
The 8th wasn’t any better after I sailed one into the ravine – but at this point it didn’t matter. People wait their entire lives to play this course, and I was soaking up every second of it.
One thing we were very fortunate for was our pace of play. We were the third group out, played in just over 4 hours and never had to wait once.
I’d heard so many horror stories of 6 hour rounds, but we had no such experience.
Although in someways I guess it’s too bad, I could have gotten an extra 2 hours of entertainment for my money!
I could go through and do a hole by hole review of Pebble, but it wouldn’t do it justice. I can say without hesitation, that this was my favorite golf course I’ve played – which is kind of too bad.
I liked being able to go with something a little less obvious like Dornoch or Bandon Trails – but the fact remains, Pebble is world class in every sense of the word.
It has more spectacular ocean holes than any course I’ve seen, and the ones that aren’t on the ocean were better than advertised.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back to play again, but considering I still have a few more on the peninsula I need to hit, my guess is that it’ll be sooner rather than later.
- Biggest Surprise: How much I liked the inland holes
- Favorite Drive: Hole 3 – This is definitely not the popular opinion, but I love the risk reward tee shot over the bunkers on the third hole. Hole 6 is a close second.
- Toughest Green: Hole 14. You have to see it to believe it.
- Most Memorable Hole: Hole 7. I’m not sure there’s a more famous hole in all of golf – and it’s every bit as magical as I’d expected
- Favorite Shot: The approach on the 8th hole. Doesn’t get much better than that.
- Least Favorite Hole: Hole 11. After so many incredible holes, it’s a bit of a letdown. Felt similar to six at Spyglass in that regard.
Oh, and One Last Thing
After the round, Dan and I were sitting in the Tap Room having lunch (a must do on any trip, BTW).
There was a group of three next to us having lunch and we didn’t think much about it as we were reliving the incredible day we’d just had.
And they start talking about Scotland – and eventually mention Royal Dornoch.
Without even thinking about it, I turn to them and say “Oh man, you have to go to Dornoch if you head over there. I know it’s out of the way, but totally worth it.”
Then I realized who I’d just interrupted.
NBA MVP Steph Curry, and the owners of the Warriors Peter Guber and Joe Lacob.
But hey, you’re in a bar after a round of golf, talking to people is what you do…right?!
NOTE: Joe, should you ever see this, my offer for a round of golf still stands! ha