What you can learn from the par-4 8th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links

June 15, 2019

Jack Nicklaus has said that the approach shot on No. 8 at Pebble Beach is the most magnificent second shot on the planet. Even if you’ve pegged your own favorite, there’s no denying that the one on No. 8—with its 180-yard-plus carry over the Pacific from a 100-foot-high cliff—is darn special. But despite the challenge and the camera-ready views, the real action on No. 8 happens once you step onto the green.

Like most of Pebble Beach’s putting surfaces, the one on No. 8 slopes back to front, breaks toward the Pacific Ocean and is smaller than you’d wish. Without pinpoint control on your approach, you may find your ball in a position where a one-putt is a pipe dream. On any approach—and this one in particular—consider plotting the sort of putt you’d like to leave.

While putt-make percentages tend to even out over the course of a season, some putts do prove easier to make than others. On average, uphill putts tend to be easier than downhill ones. If you’re a righty, right-to-left putts tend to fall more than those that break in the opposite direction. In fact, Dave Pelz estimates that from 10-12 feet, righties will miss left-to-right putts three to four times more often than right-to-lefters.

The lesson: Don’t simply pin-hunt. Make a plan, be aware of your surroundings, and look for good leaves, not hero shots. You never want to walk off a beauty fresh off a three-putt.

Let's grade the leaves on Pebble Beach's iconic 8th hole.

A: If you find the right-center of the green with the pin in the middle, top marks! Your reward is an uphill putt with a manageable right-to-left break. We smell birdie!

B: Your approach flew right over the stick and carried long. Length is an issue, and you’ve got some downhill to work with, but break is minimal. The secret on downhillers? Picture a second cup several feet in front of the real one, and make practice strokes while focused on the imaginary hole.

D+: Right-handers will miss three to four times more often on left-to-righters than on right-to-lefters. So if you’ve left yourself pin high but on the left edge of the green, watch out—a tricky downhill slider with up to four feet of break awaits. Human beings don’t make these.

F Thick rough? Above the hole? This short-sided miss on the wrong side has bogey written all over it (at best!)