A round at Pebble Beach costs more than five Franklins. And it's worth every penny. A trip to this seaside paradise— host to five U.S. Opens, 70 Tour events and a million memories—takes careful thought and planning. After all, Pebble is more than one legendary track. So dive into our comprehensive guide and get on with the California dreamin'.
WHERE TO PLAY
Step in any direction on the Monterey Peninsula and you'll find a superb, scenic course. These aren't limited to layouts at Pebble Beach Resorts—Cypress Point and Pasatiempo are the two most exceptional exceptions—but each of these PBR tracks delivers a sublime experience.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Architects: Jack Neville and Douglas Grant (1919). Rates: $495–$565. Caddies are $80 per bag and highly recommended.
Is Pebble Beach pricey? Of course. The far better question: Is it worth it? Same answer.
No golf course in the world offers what Pebble Beach has, from its curving coastline and cliff-top setting above the Pacific Ocean to its entrancing, moody mix of sun and wind and fog. There isn't a more thrilling and spectacular stretch of coastal holes than Nos. five through 10. (They might be worth $100 apiece.) You return to the sea at 17 and, of course, at 18, for an oceanfront stroll on the most famous finishing hole in the game.
Jack Nicklaus helps explain why Pebble is worth every penny. "The scenery is incredible," he says. "You just don't get many opportunities to put a golf course on such a marvelous piece of property. [But] aside from aesthetics, [it's] a great test of golf. It's a wonderful, thinking-man's golf course… It forces you to use your head and tests your composure."
Small greens place a premium on solid iron play. Lush rough framing the fairway landing areas demands straight driving. Deep bunkers make for difficult recoveries from the sand. Targets are further shrunk by the coastal breezes that ask a player to use every type of shot and trajectory. In other words, Pebble may be a beauty queen, but it's also a complete test of golf. Mix in its walking-in-famous-footsteps appeal, and the only remaining question is, Why don't they charge more?
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (1966). Rates: $395–$435.
Whether you call them "Twilight" or "After Revenue" rates, as the Pebble folks do, the late-afternoon deal at Spyglass is a good value at $265. You might not finish your round, but the most memorable holes come early.
Overshadowed by its famous neighbor, Spyglass Hill would be the headliner almost anywhere else. Few of the world's courses offer a better blend of beauty and brawn. The library-quiet, 595-yard opening hole offers a striking ocean view from the crest of a fairway hemmed in by Monterey pines. Holes two through five zigzag through dunes and provide peeks at Pacific panoramas. Holes six through 18 are forested and mostly play uphill, making them a grind to walk and to score on—unless you're Phil Mickelson or Luke Donald, both of whom have scorched Spyglass for 62s.
The Links at Spanish Bay
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr., with Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum (1987). Rates: $280–$320.
With a Twilight rate of $160, Spanish Bay is the resort's best value if you seek linkslike fun along the ocean. Don't miss the kilted bagpiper, who blows his haunting tune at dusk.
The youngest sibling in the Pebble Beach family, Spanish Bay turns 30 this year. It's a birthday definitely worth celebrating. This visually stunning layout begins at the Pacific, romps through marshes and dunes, climbs into the woods and swings back to the sea. Set foot on the green at the par-5 first, where waves and sea spray serve as elemental distractions, and you will grin in amazement.
Del Monte Golf Course
Architect: Charles Maud (1897). Rates: $110–$150.
One of the region's best bargains is to walk Del Monte in the late afternoon for $45, plus a tenner for pull cart.
Touted as the oldest course in continuous play west of the Mississippi, Del Monte isn't a must-play, but it's surely a fun play. Befitting a layout of its century-plus vintage, the course is shoehorned into a pint-sized tract, its slender fairways bracketed by oaks. Bereft of water hazards, its defenses are found in its small greens, overhanging trees, coastal breezes and bunker minefields. Del Monte's old-fashioned virtues were sufficient to test the PGA Tour Champions in the First Tee Open from 2004 through 2013.
Peter Hay Golf Course
Architects: Peter Hay, Jack Neville, General Robert McClure (1957). Rates: $10-$30. The $30 rate is good for all-day play. Kids age 13-17 play for $10.
Named for the longtime Scottish pro at Pebble Beach, this itty-bitty nine-hole par-3 track—one of the area's best-kept secrets—is across the street from the Pebble Beach pro shop and first tee. With a handful of hills and nicely bunkered greens, it's perfect for a warm-up after a long flight, short-game practice, a late-in-the-day wager or, if you have youngsters or beginners tagging along, a starter track for golf's next generation. Sign up for Pebble Beach's Family Explorers Package and kids 12 and younger play for free.
WHERE TO STAY
The Monterey Peninsula is loaded with quality lodging options, but if playing Pebble is your prime directive—and your tee-time aspirations involve more than a slot for yourself—staying on-site is a must.
The Lodge at Pebble Beach ($815–$4,100)
Stay here if you're a traditionalist. Rooms are cozy and classically furnished, and you'll be situated in the heart of the resort—right on the Pebble Beach Golf Links, near the Spa, amid many enticing shops and the legendary putting green. Understand that you'll encounter your share of gawkers, those who want to stop off at world-famous Pebble for a beverage and a snapshot. But overall, the atmosphere is low-key country club and remarkable. You must have a meal or a cocktail at The Lodge's Tap Room, America's most famous 19th hole.
The Inn at Spanish Bay ($695–$4,010)
Located sufficiently off the beaten path of 17-Mile Drive to keep you from any encounters with looky-loos, this 30-year-old hotel has a younger vibe than The Lodge, larger rooms with modern bells and whistles, and an airy ambience. There's more of an ocean feel, too, with great panoramas and excellent access to beach paths and walking trails. The bagpiper at sunset, Roy's for meals, and cocktails around the outdoor patio fire pits add to the Inn's appeal.
Casa Palmero ($975–$3,105)
Upscale and intimate, with just 24 rooms, this resort-within-a-resort is located in The Lodge complex and along Pebble's first and second fairways. It's polished, quiet and close to the Spa and the Beach Club. Though you won't get much of an ocean view at this low-profile, villa-style dwelling (formerly a private residence), it's a welcome choice for many, thanks to its huge, beautifully appointed rooms (most with wood-burning fireplace, soaking tub and patio) and understated elegance.
Fairway One at The Lodge ($915–$2,570)
Set to debut in late summer 2017 is Fairway One at The Lodge, with offerings ideal for buddy trips and couples traveling in groups. The existing Fairway One house and an adjacent former private residence are being transformed into a complex of 38 guest rooms, comprising three two-story buildings of 10 spacious guest rooms each, together with two four-bedroom golf cottages, every one with a 1,000-square-foot living room. Each room in Fairway One—including a new 6,000-square-foot meeting facility—will have either fairway or partial ocean views.
Other Lodging Options
Beyond the boundaries of Pebble Beach Resorts, we recommend the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa ($300–$5,000), located on Cannery Row, along Fisherman's Wharf and just a short stroll to the Monterey Bay Aquarium; Quail Lodge & Golf Club ($175–$1,030), which sits inland in sunny, charming Carmel Valley and features an inspired course renovation from architect Todd Eckenrode; and, in the Santa Lucia Mountains, Carmel Valley Ranch ($300–$1,120), with a spirited and very playable Pete Dye design that runs along the Carmel River.
HOW TO BOOK TEE TIMES
You don't need to stay at a Pebble Beach Resorts property to play their namesake trophy course, but it's strongly advised: Guests at The Lodge at Pebble Beach or the Inn at Spanish Bay can reserve a tee time up to 18 months in advance. If you're staying elsewhere, call Pebble Beach Golf Reservations (800-877-0597) 24 hours in advance, starting at 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. weekends, and try your luck. Singles stand the best chance of getting out, but during the shoulder season and on foul-weather days in peak season, twosomes and foursomes are occasionally available.
WHEN TO GO
Temperatures are moderate year-round, with average daytime highs of 58 in December and January and 70 in August, September and October. For the best time to go in terms of access and affordability, the smart money is on November through March. Holidays are a slower time at Pebble, especially so between Christmas and the start of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in early February. Surprisingly, June and July aren't as jammed as the three months that follow, in part because the fog and heavy air linger longer at that time of year. July 4th weekend is a great time for an escape, with generally increased availability. For the prime months of August through October, book as early as possible. Even with top price tags, rooms go fast, and so do Pebble tee times.
WHAT YOU'LL PAY
For the ultimate late summer/early fall splurge, rack rates on one-bedroom rooms and suites at the Lodge range from $815/night for Garden View to $2,695/night for the Sloat Suite; two-bedroom accommodations range from $2,570 per night to $4,100 per night. Prices are comparable at the Inn, and slightly higher at the smaller Casa Palmero.
HOW YOU'LL SAVE
Sure, it's tempting to dip into Junior's college fund, but if you decide against it— yet must scratch the Pebble itch—there's good news. You can book the Fall & Winter Stay & Play Package, which runs through March 31 of this year. Included are two nights at either The Lodge at Pebble Beach or the Inn at Spanish Bay, one round on Pebble and one on either Spyglass Hill or Spanish Bay, a $100 Resort Credit and 20 percent off on a third and fourth night. And if you go that extra night or two, they'll thrown in a complimentary round at Spanish Bay. Package rates start at $2,095 for the Inn at Spanish Bay and $2,435 for the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
WHERE TO DINE
The Monterey Peninsula dishes out a wide variety of culinary experiences, from gourmet to drive-thru. However, to properly celebrate your day at Pebble Beach, have a meal that pairs well with the golf. Here are three superb area restaurants up to the task.
The Bench, Pebble Beach
This refined but relaxed restaurant in The Lodge at Pebble Beach overlooks one of the greatest finishing holes in golf, yet it opens with great starters on its menu, including Asian-style steamed pork buns. What follows isn’t shabby either, whether it’s the pan-seared salmon with cranberry beans, or the wood-grilled chicken with butternut squash and pecan sauce. Grab a seat at sunset. It’s a feast for the eyes and a whole lot more.
You’re apt to find oysters and abalone if you follow your wild tee shot into Monterey Bay. You’ll also come across them on the $150 prix-fixe menu at this smart, seasonally inspired restaurant, which draws on local bounty to produce such dishes as crab with green strawberries and mussel “frost,” and milk-fed pork with carrots and honey. The atmosphere is posh but unpretentious, and the cooking is as sharp as you’d like your game to be.
Although the French have yet to produce a major champion in golf, they have given the world plenty of culinary classics. Take frog legs Provençal, or veal medallions with wild mushrooms, or cassoulet, a satisfying medley of pork sausage, duck confit and white beans that’s the perfect belly-warmer when fog blankets the coast. Those and other smartly constructed dishes make up the menu at this graceful bistro, which gives you the option of a prix-fixe dinner or Gallic staples offered a la carte.