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Iain Carter | 18:14 UK time, Thursday, 17 June 2010

Pebble Beach is unique among major championship venues and not just for its rugged beauty or supreme test of golf.

This stretch of 17-Mile Drive on the central Californian coast is perhaps the most unlikely setting for a leading sporting attraction. Immediately inland from the course the area is heavily wooded and space is at an absolute premium.

Every nook and cranny is taken to provide the Championship with its infrastructure. It's like packing your car for a camping holiday, with bits and bobs placed around the vehicle in whichever area they fit best.

As a result the media tent is a good 15-minute hike from the 18th green, parking is spread far and wide and an intricate bus system brings spectators, officials and volunteers to and from the course.

And no one minds the inconvenience - well ok, we in the media moan a bit but only because the extra hikes put deadlines in jeopardy - and the reason is this breathtaking course.

It is truly stunning. The first three holes are fairly unremarkable as they wend their way through the exclusive homes that line the fairways, but then you come to the short par-four fourth and from there it turns into a blockbusting spectacular.

The par-five sixth features a huge elevation to the green that television will not be able to do justice to, while Stillwater Cove takes a substantial bite out of the terrain. Then comes the tiny seventh that veers steeply downhill to a minuscule green on the water's edge.

Spectators watch the action on the seventh fairway and green.jpgThe seventh hole is the shortest but one of the most spectacular. Photograph: AFP

It may play less than a 100 yards at some stage this week - the hole measures 106 yards in the first round - and this is one of the great par threes of the world.

The course then stretches around Carmel Beach with a succession of unforgivingly demanding holes shorn of rough to prevent errant balls from heading towards the ocean.

It then swings inland for the homeward journey. The 14th has an impossibly small plateau green, the 16th a cunningly low-lying putting surface. Across the course the rough is shorter than usually associated with a US Open, apart from around the bunkers, which boast Denis Healey-like eyebrows of unkempt long grass.

Walking the course on the eve of the Championship we stumbled across Tom Watson on the ninth tee. What a treat it was to see the old master unleash a beautifully judged drive, drawn into the cross breeze before splitting the fairway. In these fast, firm conditions the 60-year-old is plenty long enough.

Tom Watson hits a shot out of a bunker during a practice round at Pebble Beach.jpgTom Watson won at Pebble Beach in 1982 and knows the course well. Photograph: Getty

And as this blog noted at the beginning of the week, we will always remember Watson for the 17th where he chipped in for birdie to win here in 1982. It's a fabulous hole, the grandstand is set to the right and you may not see it on TV, instead you will see an unencumbered putting surface in isolation.

Then there is the last, with the ocean that swallowed up Phil Mickelson's ball in the first round, all the way up the left. A brilliant closing hole which has the capacity to turn the destiny of the title come Sunday afternoon.

Logistically, this may be a challenging venue, but the course more than makes up for those shortcomings and it is little wonder that the USGA have already earmarked Pebble Beach for the 2019 US Open when the course will celebrate its centenary.

Watson, meanwhile, is playing the generation game over the first two rounds as he's paired with Rory McIlroy, 21, and Ryo Ishikawa, 18. When he saw the pairings Watson said he "started adding up the ages. Their combined age is 39, and I'm 60. I've got them by 21 years".

Therein lies one of the great attributes that golf can boast. It is a sport for all ages, shapes and sizes and in Pebble Beach it has the venue to demonstrate such qualities.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ishikawa is one of a number of pros that experienced the course at the Pro-Am back in February, which must give him something of an advantage, despite his tender years.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fabulous golf course, British open style weather, world class field.....should be a treat. Thanks for the course guide Iain and some of the favourites, personally I think that if Tiger doesn't win, it'll be an Englishman or an Irishman.

  • Comment number 3.

    I really like the way the galleries are hidden by the camera angles. It makes the coverage feel very intimate.
    The course is also very clever in the way it reins in the big hitters at this time of year.
    Hope Ian Poulter doesn't suffer too much from his late tee time Friday, the greens have been very difficult at the end of the round.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have played the course some 13 years ago. If there is a better place to play a round of golf anywhere in the world I don't know of it. Jack Nicklaus has been quoted as saying that if he only had one round of golf left that he could play then it would be at Pebble Beach. It truly is a phenominal golf course.

  • Comment number 5.

    Iain, what is going on with the greens? Is it just the type of grass that is making the surface so difficult to putt on?

  • Comment number 6.

    Good blog Iain. Watching the TV coverage last night Peeble Beach looks as close as it gets to a UK style links course, and for that reason it will reward those players who can plot their way around without giving shots away. Pleasing therefore to see some of the English lads get a good start as well as some other Europeans. Lets hope they can keep it up. Anyway its a stunning looking course, a real stiff challenge for the players and not a vuvezela in sight!

  • Comment number 7.

    I realise that I may be making myself rather unpopular by bringing up T***r, but just wanted to make one observation. I find it distasteful that while many are commenting in admiration on the beauty (and difficulty) of this course his comments about the putting surface sound just plain churlish. Neither Woods nor Mickelson had a good day on the greens, but contrast their appraisals of their days:

    Woods: "...these greens are just awful."
    Mickelson: "I just putted horrific."

    I accept that I don't have to play on the greens (and doubt I'd get within a foot of the pin after a three put) but why can't the fella learn? I would hold up golf and cricket to my kids as sports where the professional's conduct is a model to follow: no excuses, no tantrums, no passing the buck. Sadly, we don't get that from the most high profile golfer of any generation.

    The greens may be bad, who knows? But when you're being paid a princely sum to play on them, you should keep schtum. This is also about respect for the eventual winner of the tournament. Comments like this seek to put '*' against the winners name, as if he can only win on a course that is deficient in some way.

    Apologies for boring people with my rant.

    The course does indeed look an absolute gem. Have never been there and doubt I ever will, but its rugged beauty in comparison to Augusta is a metaphorical (and, I suspect, quite literal) breath of fresh air.

  • Comment number 8.

    Deep-heat, not boring at all, just depressingly accurate.


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