During my first night at Pebble Beach Resorts, I met up with a group of good friends on the patio of The Lodge, the epicenter of the world-famous resort, where celebrities, professional golfers, and industry titans have long gathered to dine and talk golf. A bonfire crackled and hissed in a fire pit at the center of the table as the sun began to set. With the waves of Carmel Bay crashing in the background, I marveled with giddiness at the famed 18th green at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Could things get any better?
For someone like me who has grown up on the golf course, attended a host of PGA Tour events, and gets goosebumps just watching the drama of golf's Ryder Cup unfold, the answer was actually a simple "yes." The golf that awaited me over the next two days would not disappoint.
Pebble Beach enjoys an amazing and well-deserved reputation as one of the best places to play golf, cemented both by its history and its outstanding location. It also helps that, unlike many famed courses that hold top-tier golf events, the courses at Pebble Beach Resort are public, meaning that if you're willing to spend some coin, you can get a spot on the first tee.
The 7th hole at Pebble Beach, called "The Postage Stamp," is a short par-3 with a dramatic view of the ocean.
The mecca of U.S. golf
Many people think the golf experience begins and ends at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the signature course of the four 18-hole offerings at the resort. It's one of the most famous golf courses in the world, has played host to multiple U.S. Opens, and is what many golfers deem the mecca of U.S. golf. It's all personal opinion, of course, but after playing Pebble, I agree with the sentiment.
While the 18th hole is the course's most famous, lilting gently right to left — with its entire left-hand side framed by the Pacific Ocean — there's not a stretch of golf I've enjoyed playing more than holes 3–8 at Pebble Beach. Each hole features dramatic views of the water. Errant shots don't end up in a boring stand of trees; they can go hundreds of feet down to the beach below. The holes aren't incredibly difficult (they're considered relatively short by modern-day standards), but it can be a challenge to focus on hitting a pitching wedge to a small green when, between shots, you're staring out at majestic vistas and listening to the barks of harbor seals and sea lions frolicking somewhere in the surf below.
A tee time at Pebble Beach is more accessible if you're staying at the on-site hotel. But don't be discouraged — it's relatively easy to walk on, especially if you're on your own. A round will run you $495, plus a cart fee if you want to ride (the course is very walkable, however, which adds to the experience). You can also hire a caddie for $80, which is well worth the money, as that person can help you understand the nuances of the course and point out which celebrity owns which house along the fairways.
The 3rd hole at Spyglass Hill plays from an elevated tee, and the green is guarded by a huge sand trap.
Don't forget the other courses
There's debate among serious golfers as to whether Pebble Beach is the best course at the resort. Many say that Spyglass Hill is a better track. It's an argument that has legs: Spyglass has a number of amazing holes and, in some ways, plays more difficult than Pebble, with lots of elevation changes making it tough to judge distance. But in terms of a full experience, combining golf, history, and beauty, it's hard to judge Spyglass against Pebble, even though holes 3–5 offer incredible water views. And the third hole, a downhill short par 3, rivals Pebble's famous seventh hole in terms of breathtaking scenery.
Similarly, there's a lot to love about The Links at Spanish Bay, even though it doesn't provide quite as many dramatic views as Pebble Beach or Spyglass. Teeing off the first in the early morning mist and dew, with the ocean to your right, however, can transport you to the origins of golf in Scotland. Spanish Bay has a greens fee of $270, while Spyglass runs $395 per round.
A chef at Roy's cooks up authentic Hawaiian fusion food for hungry golfers and guests.
After the round
Even if you're not a golfer, there's a lot to love about Pebble Beach Resorts and the surrounding area. The food is fantastic, with numerous dining options within the famed Lodge itself. Celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi offers his Hawaiian-fusion cuisine at Roy's, one of the many top-shelf restaurants within The Inn at Spanish Bay.
The famed 17-Mile Drive winds through the area from Pacific Grove down through Del Monte and drops you on the doorstep of the beaches of Carmel, a perfect spot for an afternoon of exploration and relaxation. Another way to unwind is at the Pebble Beach Spa, a luxurious escape from golf, or by spending time at the resort's numerous shops, which sell everything from golf equipment to fine art.
I left Pebble Beach three short days after my arrival, never having been happier to check off a bucket-list item. There are many places that are worth what you pay for the experience. To me, Pebble Beach is near the top of the list.