You’ve got one day at Pebble Beach. And you want to see everything. We get it. You want to feel like you’ve fully experienced the most beautiful venue in the U.S. Open rota. So how do you make sure you hit everything you need to see?
Here are a few helpful tips:
The gates open at 6 a.m. Free shuttles from Cal-State Monterey Bay start up at 5:30 a.m. Set an early alarm – hey, greenkeepers are crawling the course by 4:30 a.m. – and beat the crowds to the course. No, you don’t need to stake out your turf out with a chair and speed-walk halfway around the course. Just get here early so you can fully immerse yourself in a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Shortly after you hop off your bus, you’ll pass through Fan Central. The main feature is the massive 37,000 square-foot Merchandise Pavilion, overflowing with 400,000 logoed souvenirs from some 40 brands. Pick out your favorites before they sell out – many are exclusive collector editions commissioned specifically for the championship. You can then check your merchandise or have it shipped home so you don’t have to lug it around the rest of the day – or trip.
Stroll through Fan Central. Grab a quick breakfast bite with an ocean view at Palmer’s Place, before wandering down to the bottom of Peter Hay Hill and the famous first tee at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Snag a tee sheet and mentally bookmark your favorite players and clusters of groups. Tee times start as early as 6:45 a.m., so you can catch a few players attempting to tame those first-shot U.S. Open nerves in the wrap-around bleachers. Behind the first tee, take a moment to study the history of golfing greats at the Pebble Beach Wall of Champions, and watch players roll putts on the sprawling practice green in front of the iconic Lodge.
Nine holes at Pebble Beach hug the inspiring coastline of Stillwater Cove and Carmel Bay. Your next stop should be walking straight to the water, around The Lodge, to the 18th green. Play won’t reach here until close to 9 a.m., but you can return to the towering bleachers later in the day if you want to root for bombers to daringly go for this green in 2. There will be action here until 7 p.m.
If you trace the coastline, you’ll hit No. 17 next, followed by Nos. 4-10.
Two of the most famous shots in U.S. Open history happened here – Jack Nicklaus tattooing the flagstick with a 1-iron to clinch the 1972 U.S. Open, and Tom Watson chipping in for birdie to take the lead at the 1982 championship. Soak in those moments and the sensational Stillwater Cove view.
From the sky, the peninsula populated by the sixth green, seventh hole and eighth tee cuts into Carmel Bay like an arrowhead. Climb the mountainous sixth hole and enjoy your view from the top of the world. As you look down from this heavenly perch, the most famous finish in golf unfurls in front of you on the other side of Stillwater Cove, and pristine and picturesque Carmel Beach dips into the Pacific Ocean behind you.
Arrowhead Point is the windiest spot on the course, but on calmer days, it’s difficult to imagine a better place in the world to watch golf.
The shortest hole in championship golf may also be the prettiest. It measured as tiny as 92 yards during the 2010 U.S. Open, but in 1992, it played twice that length, as pros couldn’t even hit the green with 6-irons while battling grueling gales. Arrowhead Point is the windiest spot on the course, but on calmer days, it’s difficult to imagine a better place in the world to watch golf.
The first seven holes at Pebble Beach are where contenders can make their run up the leaderboard and rattle off birdies. Nos. 8-10 are known as the Cliffs of Doom, one of the most notorious stretches of par-4s in championship golf. It begins with the eighth hole, an Evil Kenevil par-4 that jumps the Pacific Ocean to a green overhanging the other side of the cliff. Tracking approaches from the green is one of the most exciting shots at Pebble Beach.
The ninth and 10th holes send silhouetted golfers straight to Carmel Beach, a postcard scene that is a favorite of photographers throughout the week. Halfway up the 10th hole, you can also stop at a satellite merchandise tent and concessions at Harper’s – the perfect break for lunch.
Starting at No. 11, the course turns inland, but the back nine still offers plenty of ocean views. The most impressive is No. 13, which is just inland of No. 9. No. 14 could be an exciting stop in the right conditions – it’s a par-5 that can be reached in 2 by big hitters if the wind cooperates. It’s also one of the toughest par-5s in golf. In 2010, 14 players made triple-bogey or worse – matching the total produced by the entire front nine.
After No. 15, you can choose to follow No. 16 to the intersection of Nos. 4 and 17, taking you back to the ocean. Or you can cross the road and back-track to the second and first holes.
With more than 35,000 fans in attendance each day, tee boxes and greens can fill in 10 rows deep or more for marque groups. It will be a challenging and obstructed round if you want to follow every shot of your favorite player, especially if he is known by the gallery as one name.
The best strategy is to identify a wave of players teeing off within two hours of each other that you are interested in watching (make sure they are beginning their rounds on the same nine), find a hole with a mixture of scenery and drama, grab one of the 13,500 seats in the grandstands scattered across the course, camp out and enjoy some U.S. Open golf.
Looking for the most scenic grandstands? Those would be Nos. 6, 7, 8, 10, 17 and 18. Want to see the most birdies? Hang out between Nos. 3 and 7.
But then again, it’s the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Once the sun begins to set over Stillwater Cove and you make your way back up to Fan Central and the bus depot, be sure to soak in one last ocean view. Turn around at the top of the Grand Entrance, next to the merchandise pavilion, and appreciate one final elevated glimpse into Stillwater Cove.
Photography by Sherman Chu and Tom O’Neal