First played in 1937, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour. While it is known for having the best star factor on tour, what also makes the tournament special is the stellar lineup of courses both past and present.
Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club
Framed by towering and pungent 90-year-old eucalyptus trees, this Max Behr design just north of San Diego hosted the Bing Crosby Pro-Am six times. Crosby came up with the idea for his “clambake,” which is exactly what they did on the beach for the tournament dinner, as way to give his Hollywood friends and other low-handicap golfers a chance to play with the 50 or 60 pros who wintered on the West Coast. With deep, sculpted bunkers, holes that crisscross a long barranca, and a nine-hole stretch of holes into the wind, the course provided a terrific test for pros and amateurs alike.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
It was a Monterey Peninsula Herald sports writer by the name of Ted Durein who convinced Crosby to restart the tournament at Pebble Beach after World War II, but as a member of Cypress Point, Crosby didn’t need much convincing to move his clambake north. The tournament became the first PGA event held over three courses, but the linchpin through all the years has been Pebble Beach where the holes, the locale, and history create perhaps the most memorable playing experience in all of golf.
Cypress Point Club
Often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Golf,” Cypress Point was a huge draw for many of the celebrities and pros. It was only through Crosby’s incredible pull that the ultra-private club relented in the beginning to be part of the rota. As Crosby’s good friend and fellow member Bob Hope once joked, “They had a membership drive at Cypress Point recently—they DROVE OUT 40 members!” So it didn’t come as a big surprise that the club politely bowed out of the tournament after the PGA Tour instituted a new antidiscrimination policy for tournament sites in 1990 following the Shoal Creek/PGA Championship controversy.
Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Dunes)
Seth Raynor was supposed to have designed the club’s first course in 1926, but he died during construction and Robert Hunter and Alister MacKenzie finished the layout. Tom Fazio and Jackson/Kahn Design just completed a major restoration on the course, which will reopen May 1. The front nine winds through the Del Monte Forest, while the back is reminiscent of Cypress as it plays through giant dunes and native scrub. The 177-yard 14th (above) on the other side of 17-Mile Drive resembles the 16th at Cypress, too, with the tee shot having to carry the crashing surf and rocks. A new 24-foot tall Cypress tree makes the hole even more spectacular than before.
Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore)
1965–1966, 1977, 2010–present
The late Mike Strantz put his significant signature on this course in 2003 when he redesigned this Robert Baldock design that dates to 1960. With six par fives and five par threes, the routing flows beautifully through grasslands and dunes. Memorable holes include the 311-yard 5th, a Cape-style hole with the Pacific backdropping the green and the Redan 11th with the ocean once again in view. The course reaches a crescendo at the double-dogleg par-four 15th with the Pacific and a rock outcropping enhancing the green site. The Shore Course’s cameo in 1977 was a result of Spyglass Hill being unplayable due to heavy rains.
Spyglass Hill Golf Course
Designed by a Robert Trent Jones Sr. and opened in 1966, Spyglass is the toughest course in the AT&T rota with 6, 8, and 16 among the hardest par fours on tour. The first five holes play through seaside dunes before the course turns inland into the tall pines of Del Monte Forest where small, elevated greens provide quite a challenge for both the pros and amateurs.
Poppy Hills Golf Course
The Crosby really took a hit when it had to replace Cypress with Poppy where a combination of narrow doglegs and large, severely undulating greens meant long rounds and high scores. Said Tom Watson before the first year: “We’ll spend forever on the greens looking over our third, fourth, and fifth putts.” But after a top-to-bottom renovation by original architect Robert Trent Jones II two years ago, the course is very much improved with wide-open fairways and more gentle—but still thought-provoking—greens.