By Greg Wires
Pebble Beach Golf Club serves a really good flatbread. I had the Margherita. When you eat it outside at The Bench overlooking the famous 18th green, the view is splendid too. But you know that, because you’ve seen essentially that view whenever you’ve watched a televised tournament from the historic oceanside course.
There is also a very cool golf collectibles and memorabilia shop at Pebble Beach called Golf Links to the Past. Interestingly to me, when I met and talked to the shopkeeper I learned that he is originally from Minnesota. As such, a nice guy to talk to, as you would expect. He had a little interest in some of my own older clubs, pictured here. Included is a Schenectady putter, stamped with my birthdate as it's patent date.
Another thing I liked about visiting Pebble Beach - as our waiter told us - Pebble Beach is a public course, so we were able to walk the cart path, with golfers playing the 18th hole, down to the 17th green.
What I can’t tell you from my visit to Pebble Beach is much else about the golf course. Yes, Pebble Beach is a bucket list item for a lot of golfers. Maybe even for me. But a bucket list item needs to at least offer the opportunity for a satisfying fulfillment. That was not a realistic expectation during this visit. Not with the required $625 (or so) cost to play with total strangers, while taking notes and mentally composing a story. Bucket list enjoyment was unlikely.
When I contacted the media relations department about playing the course and using info gained firsthand for a story, while also proposing publishing several of their videos across our web and mobile platforms (i.e. Golf America, Golf California mobile app), media relations rep Katie Denbo was enthused, just not willing to offer a writers rate. In addition to saying “we'd of course be happy to work with you on that!" (her exclamation point), she attached two promotional press releases thinking you, our readers, would be interested. Just not willing to include any (non-cash) compensation for our time, effort and expenses, or even a discounted round of golf for yours truly. Too bad for the caddie, too. He was out the $125 I told her I would expect to have paid him. (In fairness to Ms. Denbo, she did offer to waive the required room rate, though told me the Inn was full anyway.)
I have only one close friend who has played Pebble Beach. Not surprisingly his was with a corporate outing with the company picking up the tab. My guess is a large percentage of rounds played there are not paid by the player. $625 ($495 fee + caddie + tip) is a lot of money to spend on four hours with unknown others. My friend who has played it claims it includes four great holes and 14 okay ones. I don’t know if he is correct. (Note: You are not required to use a caddie at Pebble Beach. You can rent a cart, walk and carry your own bag and even use a push cart, I believe. You can play Pebble for just the $495 greens fee.) Using a caddie is one of the great experiences we amateurs don't often do. I would not think of playing Pebble Beach without using one. They provide so much assistance with their knowledge and abilities. I usually use one whenever they are available.
When you spend some $820 Million on the property as the Palmer, Eastwood, Ueberoth group did in 1999 to buy Pebble Beach from a Japanese group, I guess you need to collect every dime you can. Heck - the mortgage payments alone must be deep into six figures per month, or something like that. Even Mr. Palmer’s retired dentist told us he pays the same rate, but he doesn’t offer any promotional considerations.
This visit was actually unplanned up until about a week before my inquiry. We were in the Golf America mobile app production van, doing some other work in Southern California. The vehicle is kind of a monster, nearly 28 feet long and sort of wide, but I decided to point it north on The Pacific Coast Highway, aka world recognized Highway 1. The drive is not for the faint of heart and is certainly more set-up for a Porsche 911, but I decided to take the chance - hoping to not take a plunge, but arrive eventually on the Monterey Peninsula. Following the 4.5 hour drive up the coast, we navigated 17-mile drive and though not necessarily easy in an RV, it was not that difficult and eventually we found a suitable parking spot in the Pebble Beach lot, just across the street from the 1st hole and adjacent shops and some very good flatbread.
As a final note, I hope Pebble Beach re-evaluates this:
-- Pebble Beach “unfortunately (is) not able to offer complimentary rounds of golf to our media.” Too bad. I’ve been there two times in 40 years and I will likely not see it again, at least while I’m doing Golf America, Golf California, Golf Minnesota, et.al. I may go and pay the required fee someday, but it will be with buddies, not strangers, not while working, and be an actual bucket list fulfillment. There are so many places to go and write stories about.