Five things you should know before playing ... Pebble Beach

Five things you should know before playing … Pebble Beach

Take in the views while strolling through Pebble Beach, where Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open in 2000.
Jaime Squire/Getty Images

1. Get your scoring on early
Considering it has turned scores of the world’s best golfers into mush come U.S. Open time, Pebble Beach’s first six holes can easily be had. Two manageable par 4s (each less than 340 yards from the middle tees); two hazard-free par 5s (both under 485 yards); and a fairly straightforward par-3 (A Nicklaus design that’s much easier than the original opening three-par, #5) make for easy pars (and a few easy birdies) if you keep it straight off the tee. If ever a course started like a lamb and ended like a lion, this is the one.

2. Leave your slice at home
Pebble Beach is a course that renowned power-fader Jack Nicklaus dominated, but it doesn’t accommodate a slice. If you let the ball get away from you to the right on No. 1 and Nos. 4-15, you’ll be in for a very long day. Slices on 6 through 10 end up in the Pacific Ocean; slices on 11 through 15 end up O.B. If a stronger grip doesn’t reel in your banana ball, try making it weak (hands rotated to the left on the handle). It sounds opposite to reason, but this grip change often does the trick.

3. Practice hitting from uneven lies
When the course starts to show its bite on Nos. 9 and 10, two brutally long par 4s, you’ll find that even perfect drives leave you with a lie where the ball is below your feet. The natural fade associated with the lie is a double whammy: it’s tough to control and it points in the direction of the looming Pacific. Remember to aim left to accommodate the left-to-right curve and add a little extra knee bend at address so you don’t catch the ball thin.

4. Check the pin position on No. 14
This 565-yard dogleg right is a true three-shot par 5, so your wedge approach is critical. The large undulating green is one of the most severely tiered putting surfaces on earth, with a 15-foot drop from the upper back tier to the lower front tier. If your approach ends up on the wrong section of the green, it’s an almost automatic three-putt.

5. Adjust your handicap
Check that — forget your handicap. Rounds at Pebble are some of golf’s singular thrills, so for the day, play the course and not yourself. Very few golfers shoot their personal bests here. Take a look around, breathe in the salt air and enjoy the moment. This is especially key on the first tee box: It’s right next to the pro shop, and always under siege by tourists (with cameras!), hotel guests, and the members of at least three foursomes behind yours. It’s a pressure cooker, for sure, so it’s important that you remain calm and focused on the most important element of your round: It’s at Pebble Beach!

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