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Busiest Bunker in the World

It lies coiled just left of the green on the fabled par-3 7th at Pebble Beach Golf Links

By: Ken Van Kampen

It lies coiled just left of the green on the fabled par-3 7th at Pebble Beach Golf Links: the busiest bunker in the world. It doesn't gape or yawn; it isn’t cavernously deep or fitted with wooden steps. It is 12 paces long by 10 paces wide and is shaped something like a horseshoe, with a short, slender tongue of grass in the bunker's center. It is one of five bunkers framing that pint-sized putting surface. And it is likely the busiest bunker in the world.

No. 7 at Pebble Beach is notoriously short—only 107 downhill yards, the shortest hole on any major championship venue. When the prevailing wind blows, from the right and lightly into your face, the 7th requires no more than a pitching wedge from most players.

It looks like a pushover, an easy par and a good chance for birdie—even to high handicappers. From the tee, which some claim points slightly to the left, the 7th green looks invitingly close. In fact, the hole is so short that it's possible to toss a ball onto the green, a tactic Pebble Beach caddies occasionally employ to illustrate the nearness of it.

Yet Pebble Beach marshals swear more players make 5 than 3. And among the nearly constant parade of players—Pebble Beach is open 365 days a year, with a daily tee shot full from top to bottom—an average of two players in every foursome find that bunker on the left.

“Of the 84 bunkers on the golf course, that’s the one that we pay the closest attention to, to keep a good playable surface in there,” says superintendent Tom Huesgen. “We give that bunker probably three times as much attention as any other.”

“Fear of going into the ocean,” says Jim Hiers, a baritone-voiced ex-Marine who has been a marshal for six years, “that’s the main reason people miss this green to the left.” Hiers' point is hammered home by every wave that crashes against the rocks jutting from the shore below No. 7. It’s difficult to block the Pacific from your mind as you prepare to play your shot—even as you focus on the the ball, the sound of crashing waves and the occasional bark of a sea lion are a continuous reminder of the dangers to the right. It’s natural, then, to err left.

The wind also makes a difference. The prevailing wind almost ensures that a pulled shot will find the bunker.

Yet for a bunker that receives so much attention, there's surprisingly little lore. It doesn’t even have a name. The most famous shot played on this hole came in the final round of the 1992 U.S. Open, when Tom Kite holed a pitch after hitting his approach left of the bunker.

But you might come away with your own story about the bunker left of the 7th green when you play Pebble Beach Golf Links. You might make an amazing sand save or even hole your explosion for a birdle. Or maybe not. Either way, the odds are good you’ll get the opportunity to try.

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