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Playing Pebble Beach is long and pricy but worth it

Last Friday, I almost felt like I was dreaming.

While on vacation in northern California, I had the opportunity to visit the Monterey Peninsula — and to play golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links!

Pebble Beach has been named the No.1 golf course in America by Golf Digest Magazine, but unlike most of the world’s top-ranked courses this layout is not a private country club — it’s a public course, open for anyone willing to make a tee time … and pay the greens fees.

The one slight problem with this scenario is the actual cost of the greens fees. They’re exorbitant, to say the least. With that said, I swallowed hard — realizing this might be the only chance I would get to play what many consider the most beautiful course in the world — and paid a king’s ransom before heading to the first tee.

Pebble Beach’s first hole isn’t much to speak of — a medium length par 4 that’s lined with condominiums and other buildings associated with the club. Things open up after that, and by the fourth hole you find yourself ocean-side with some of the most amazing scenery imaginable.

Many of the holes at Pebble Beach are recognizable to ardent golf fans due to the annual PGA tournament held there, not to mention the five U.S. Opens and PGA Championship the course has hosted.

As I continued to the par-5 sixth, I was surprised by the rise in elevation when approaching the green. The view of a bright blue Monterey Bay was particularly impressive from this highest point on the course.

It was almost surreal to experience the course’s other famous holes — the tiny 100-yard par-3 seventh, a second shot on the eighth hole that requires a carry over the sea below and even the par-3 17th, where Tom Watson holed his famous chip-shot to win the 1982 U.S. Open.

After a front-nine score of 45, I finally settled down and needed a par on the last hole to break 40 on the back nine. The famous 18th hole requires a tee shot over the edge of the ocean, and to my surprise, I was able to squeeze a drive onto the fairway followed by a reasonable second-shot and a third that landed on the green. Two putts later and I was thrilled with a par on the last hole and a total of 84.

With most golfers, (including myself) soaking in all the surrounding scenery, the round lasted 5 ¢ hours, dreadfully long in most cases, but it didn’t matter much on that day. The entire experience was spectacular.

The conditioning of the Pebble Beach course was fantastic, however, the greens were kept at only a modest speed — about 10 on the stimp-meter. One of the biggest surprises was the size of the greens. Every one was about half the size of any green in our area. I was especially surprised by that.

With all this said, the biggest take away from my Pebble Beach experience — without a doubt was the amazing beauty of the course … a pristinely green golf course, framed by blue ocean, white sand and a rugged, rocky coastline.

As a famous poet once said, Pebble Beach is “the greatest meeting of the land and sea in all the world.”

Johnny Miller

Many golf fans are turned off by the self-braggadocio style of NBC golf commentator Johnny Miller. His strong criticism also turns off many current PGA Tour players when comments are pointed in their direction.

I have to admit that I’m not in that camp, as I’ve always enjoyed his commentary. Miller may “shoot from the hip,” but he’s always honest and his critiques are usually spot-on.

At 70-years old, Miller recently signed an extension with NBC to continue his run through the 2018 golf season. While some may disagree, I’m delighted that golf fans will get to hear Miller’s insights for the next several years.

Marking your ball

There was another mini-controversy last week concerning a possible rules infraction — this most recent incident involved how John Rahm marked his ball during the final round of the European Tour’s Irish Open.

While no penalty was issued in this particular case, there were many who felt that a rule was violated. Either way, it’s time for the game of golf to finally fix the rules and rid the game of these unnecessary distractions.

Ken Love covers local golf for the Mirror. He can be reached at gltr777@atlanticbb.net.