By James A. Frank
In 2019, Pebble Beach Golf Links will celebrate its 100th birthday and host its sixth U.S. Open. To commemorate these milestones, each issue of LINKS Magazine and LINKSdigital between now and then will tell the unique story that is Pebble Beach. This is the first article in the series, but here are the second and third.
It all started with gold.
With the California Gold Rush of 1849 came prospectors, suppliers, con men, businessmen, and countless others who began shaping the country’s western coast. One of their early improvements was a railroad, which opened up valuable real estate and brought visitors to see the beautiful coastal landscape. To serve those visitors, they built hotels, among them the Hotel Del Monte, which opened in 1880, a luxury resort that introduced the world to a fabulous spot along the Pacific called Monterey Bay.
The hotel’s success included the construction of the region’s first public golf facility, the nine-hole Del Monte Golf Course, which opened in May 1897 (and expanded to 18 holes in 1903). The hotel’s owner—the Pacific Improvement Company—opened Pebble Beach Lodge on August 28, 1909: Built from native pine logs, the lodge featured huge stone fireplaces, log chandeliers, and its own electric power plant.
The lodge was meant to help generate sales of nearby housing lots, but without much success. That setback was one reason the company installed 30-year-old Samuel F.B. Morse—a distant cousin of the famed inventor—as manager in 1915, and he was able to entice San Francisco’s elites to buy on the peninsula. Morse also thought another golf course would help, and in 1916 the company approved his plan to build Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The course opened on February 22, 1919, and along with tennis, polo, and horse racing, helped the region flourish as a resort. Real estate sales also thrived, leading to the building of many grand homes and the formation of two private clubs, Cypress Point Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Morse wanted a professional golf tournament, and The Monterey Peninsula Open debuted in December 1926. In September 1929, the USGA held its first event in California, the U.S. Amateur. Both showcased Pebble Beach.
The Great Depression and World War II slowed things down, but as soon as the war ended excitement returned. In January 1947, Bing Crosby restarted a friendly tournament he used to hold, bringing it to Cypress Point, Monterey Peninsula, and Pebble Beach. Over the following 20 months, nearly a dozen significant golf events were played at Pebble Beach, including the state amateur twice and both the men’s and women’s National Amateurs.
The U.S. Amateur returned to Pebble Beach in 1961, but Morse died in 1969 short of his goal to land the U.S. Open. Shortly after his death, a deal was struck to bring the U.S. Open to Pebble Beach in 1972, putting the course and the Monterey Peninsula on every golfer’s bucket list.