If you’re planning a pilgrimage to this year’s U.S. Open Championship (or just dreaming up a Monterey golf getaway of your own), you’ll need either a caddy or this simple guide to the new lay of the land.TEN YEARS AGO, TIGER WOODS turned up for the 2000 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California and pummeled both the course and the competition. His 15-stroke win was his first Open triumph and the largest margin of victory ever recorded in a major golf event.
Now, a decade later, the Open is returning to Pebble Beach, the renowned layout on the Monterey peninsula, two hours south of San Francisco. But there’s no guarantee of another Open rout.
In case you haven’t heard, a lot has changed in golf.
For one thing, Tiger’s hairline has receded.
For another, the peninsula’s courses have been transformed.
The most notable difference is at Pebble Beach itself, where, under the careful watch of golf great Arnold Palmer, holes have been lengthened, bunkers refashioned, fairways rerouted and greens reworked, all in the name of steeling the course against the skill and power of the game’s best players — without spoiling the experience for the average guest.
Or, as Palmer himself put it: “The goal was to strengthen Pebble Beach while maintaining its timelessness.”
And yet Pebble Beach is just one of many marquee layouts along a scenic coastal stretch that’s known around the world as a path to golf nirvana. Tellingly, several of those courses have gone through upgrades too.
But don’t worry: Whether you’re observing or playing, this handy guide to the new lay of the land will have you covered.
PEBBLE BEACH GOLF LINKS
Built in 1919 by Jack Neville and Douglas Grant, Pebble Beach has never been a pushover, particularly when primed for a U.S. Open, a famously tough tournament that calls for narrow fairways and gnarly roughs. And yet in recent years, long-hitting Tour pros, armed with the latest space-age golf equipment, risked making some of the storied features of Pebble Beach obsolete. Once-imposing bunkers began to look like so many pretty decorations; big bombers simply blew their drives right past them. The same approach shots that once required long irons now asked for little more than lofted wedges. Stout par 5s shrank so much in scale, players treated them as everyday par 4s.
During any given round, Pebble Beach could still punish the game’s best players, not to mention the average weekend duffer. But this much was clear: The grand old course required a bit more snarl.
Enter Arnold Palmer. Working with the United States Golf Association, the governing body of the U.S. Open, Palmer began tinkering with the golf course, adding teeth to a layout that the modern era had threatened to defang.
By the time Palmer and the USGA had finished, only two holes at Pebble Beach had been left untouched: the testy par-3 12th and the ever-challenging par-3 17th. Every other hole on the course has undergone changes, some minor, some major. Among the most significant are these:
HOLE #2: Originally designed as a par 5, the hole will play as a 502-yard par 4 for this year’s Open, with a new tee box that adds another 15 yards in length. New trees planted farther up the fairway create a narrow chute for an approach to the green over a yawning barranca.
HOLE #3: A new back tee extends this dogleg par 4 by 15 yards and forces players to aim their drives over a freshly planted stand of cypress trees onto a slender landing area. It’s like trying to drop a marble on your driveway from the moon.
HOLE #6: In 2000, Tiger Woods reached this split-level par 5 with a driver and a 7-iron. Things won’t be quite so simple this time around. A large fairway bunker on the lower fairway has been replaced by five new bunkers, and they make the drive much tougher, tightening the landing area and forcing players to flirt more closely with cliffs along the right.
HOLES #9 AND #10: Already stout par 4s that are cut hard along the ocean, they’ve been lengthened by 50 and 49 yards, respectively. At nearly 1,000 combined yards from the back tees, the holes now play as the longest back-to-back par 4s in U.S. Open history.
HOLE #13: It’s now longer and brawnier, with a new back tee that adds 46 yards and turns a fairly meek par 4 into a monster.
HOLE #18: Curling in a crescent shape along the Pacific, this spectacular par 5 is widely regarded as the greatest finishing hole in golf. It’s also one of the most daunting drives, thanks to a new bunker that pinches the fairway on the right and the world’s largest water hazard on the left. Two newly planted trees also guard the landing area, impediments designed to give big hitters pause.
Green fees: $495, www.pebblebeach.com