While virtually every year is Pebble Beach’s year, 2010 is, for the West’s (and the world’s) most revered and storied public golf course, its time to reign over 127 of its fellow West Coast layouts and Fairways + Greens Magazine favorites.
Who told us so? You, the readers, did.
In two months of online voting this spring, the largest crop of avid golfers in Hack-it-ology’s brief history chimed in on their favorite places to play golf from Hawaii to Utah and Southern California to Western Canada. They voted in four categories, 32 courses each as chosen by the editors and contributors of Fairways + Greens, based on course types — Ocean/Island, Mountain/Forest, Desert/Inland Links and Parkland/Valley. There was plenty of dogfighting in the middle rounds, with the round of 16 getting particularly tight; several courses squeezed onward by a slim single vote. But by the time the bunker sand settled and we had our final four (or “fore”), the candidates for the crown were not only deserving but at least half expected.
Pebble Beach. Shadow Creek. We-Ko-Pa Saguaro. CordeValle. A pretty strong hand right there, which means the ultimate winner had to really deserve it, had to have the mix of popular mojo, design bona fides, postcard-perfect setting and strategic challenge to put it over the top. And who can say Pebble Beach doesn’t make the cut in any of those categories?
Of course, Pebble wins going away in the history department. At age 91, it has embedded more memories into the American golfing public’s consciousness than perhaps any other course from coast to coast, except for Augusta National. And it probably helped that this year marks the return of the U.S. Open to the links on Stillwater Cove for the fourth time, with perhaps the greatest level of hype behind it yet. How would Tiger fare after a winter of discontent and uneven return to the sport he’s dominated for so long? Would Phil finally break through for the national trophy that’s been so brutally ripped from his hands time after time? Would one of this season’s young phenoms or a red-hot international star steal the show? The expected drama was still a week away as Fairways + Greens went to press, but no one would dare dispute one fact: No matter who stands with that hardware on the 18th green come Sunday afternoon, Pebble itself is the star, and will be as long as people are playing golf, in the West or anywhere.
Not that the grand dame doesn’t have some stiff competition these days — not only the three outstanding resort and semi-private courses that joined it in the final round, but dozens of others up and down the coast, over the sea in Hawaii and well inland, too. Bandon’s amazing trio (now a foursome) comes to mind, and to be honest, we more than expected one of those courses to go all the way this time. What about Edgewood Tahoe or Circling Raven or one of Pebble’s peninsula brethren, like Spyglass Hill or the Links at Spanish Bay, or Pasatiempo an hour’s drive north? And Chambers Bay up Tacoma way? They are all perennial contenders. Some will stand where Pebble now stands in the Hack-it-ology Hall of Fame. And there will be others.
But for this year, Jack Nicklaus’ favorite course, designed by two guys most casual golfers have never heard of (one of them another Jack, as in Neville), is King of the West. Long live the mystique. FG