One of the unique advantages that the sport of golf has is its honest beauty. Places like Wrigley Field and Lambeau are wonderful because of the history that seeps out of the crevices and nooks around the buildings, but if aliens landed on Earth, they wouldn’t exactly find those places spectacular looking.
With golf courses, they would, and there’s no better example of this than the site of this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Ranked seventh this year by Golf Digest in its annual America’s 100 greatest courses, Pebble Beach is a spectacular plot of land where views are had and golf is played. Jack Nicklaus famously said, “If I had only one more round to play, I would choose to play it at Pebble Beach. I’ve loved this course from the first time I saw it. It’s possibly the best in the world.”
That’s some pretty high praise from the G.O.A.T. of the game, but what makes Pebble so amazing? Besides the views, it’s the fact that there is no signature hole. People love this one or that one more, and that is why this debate is so fun. Folks love to argue about their favorite golf course at Bandon Dunes, they love discussing the best course in the Open Rota, and they love talking about the holes at Pebble Beach.
So here are my rankings, from the best hole at Pebble to the not-so-best hole. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.
1. No. 8 — I’ve been lucky to play a lot of golf on some magnificent golf courses in my life, and I’m not sure I’ve ever played a par-4 better than the 8th at Pebble Beach. The tee shot is blind, bringing up memories of Prestwick, where the Open Championship began, and once you get to your ball you have arguably the best view in all of golf. The second shot is so remarkable that sometimes you forget what you’re even doing out on the course and you have to be reminded that among all this beauty is still your golf game, for better or worse. When you consider the layout, the views, and that second shot, I don’t see a hole being better at Pebble.
What better way to finish a day than with this view on the 18th.
2. No. 18 — One of the best par-5s in golf closes out your round at Pebble, and it’s hard to think of a better way to finish your walk than down the fairway of No. 18. Waves crashing, the cypress trees, the history connected with this hole . . . it is the perfect end to a lucky day.
3. No. 7 — It might be one of the shortest par-3s you’ll ever play, but it’s almost one of the most memorable, and of all the golf holes on this planet, none has been printed and framed more for a golf office than this one.
4. No. 6 — This uphill par-5 has a split fairway, a blind second shot and an introduction to the West Coast version of Amen Corner. It’s been years since I’ve played Pebble, but the approach shot over the slope is one that has been branded in my brain and one I won’t ever forget.
The 16th is underrated but fabulous.
5. No. 16 — Probably the most underrated hole at Pebble Beach, the 16th is one of the best designed on the property, and requires not only a precise tee shot over the island bunker but an exact yardage if you want to hold the green on your approach.
6. No. 17 — Another of the famous par-3s at Pebble, the 17th seems to be the hole where moments are made. From the Jack Nicklaus 1-iron to the Tom Watson chip-in, history is made on this difficult par-3, and a walk from 16 and 17 is one of the most serene on the property.
7. No. 14 — A beast of a par-5 with a green that is nothing to mess with, the 14th is the one par-5 at Pebble Beach that requires players to really think their way around the hole, from green back to the tee box. It’s mean, it’s fierce, but it’s so well designed that players can pick up a shot or lose two depending on where they place that third shot.
8. No. 5 — This is a par-3 that gets lost in terms of brilliance considering it shares a scorecard with 7 and 17, but it’s a great hole nonetheless. The added tee box allows it to be stretched over 200 yards, and depending on the wind can be a bail-out left of the green in hopes of just making a par.
9. No. 4 — I love short par-4s that require a game-plan (think 17 at TPC Scottsdale), and the 4th is one of those types of holes. The ocean is beating you up on the right side, a pot bunker is just waiting to doom your day, and while bailing out left makes sense, it isn’t an easy par from that side of the hole. It’s a hole I think doesn’t get enough credit for all the options it gives players, and it’s your first real glimpse at what is to come as you get closer and closer to the best stretch of holes at Pebble Beach.
10. No. 9 — I tend to get the 9th and 10th mixed up in my head, as they are fairly similar (ocean right, bunkers left, small target of a green if you do find the fairway), but I give the 9th a slight edge over No. 10 because of the gully short and left of the green. I’m not sure there is a tougher hole at Pebble, and I love that after you finish up the best hole on the course, you have to navigate this beast to finish up your front nine.
11. No. 10 — What I said about the 9th, just with a little less alcohol content.
12. No. 12 — Truly one of the more controversial holes at Pbble Beach considering how tough this green can be, the 12th is the one par-3 where you aren’t snuggling up next to the Pacific Ocean. But that doesn’t take away from how well constructed it is around the green. If you find the putting surface, par isn’t guaranteed, and anything wayward is a tough, tough up and down for even the best in the world.
13. No. 3 — No offense to the opening two holes at Pebble, but the third is your first real chance to understand why you forked over so much money to tee it up on this bucket list destination. A big mess left means a lot of people hug the right side, but the approach is no bargain.
14. No. 15 — Best known as the hole Tiger Woods holed out on during his amazing comeback in 2000, the 15th is the one hole over that closing stretch that can be forgettable.
15. No. 2 — A par-5 for the mortals and a par-4 when U.S. Opens are contested on this property, there is nothing particularly wrong with the second, it’s just the hamburger option at a five-star steakhouse. Also, it’s one of the few places around this golf course where you really feel like you should pick up a shot, and if you don’t, it can mess with your psyche as you get to some of the harder holes on the course.
16. No. 13 — I’ll say this about the 13th; it’s a very long par-4 that is tough and has some very nice houses alongside it, and if you make par here you should win a free drink in the Tap Room post-round.
17. No. 11 — You can’t build a golf courses with all 18 holes on the ocean (Cabot Links is about as close as it comes), and No. 11 is one of those holes that is there to reroute you around the property.
18. No. 1 — People will argue about these rankings I’m sure, but I will be shocked if someone argues about the opening hole landing in the 18th position.
Shane Bacon is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com’s golf coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @shanebacon.