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Why Pebble Beach Will Be More Fun Than Most US Opens

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IJune 9, 2010

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - MAY 09:  Aerial view of the 9th and 10th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on May 9, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Usually the US Open is played by golfers who become crabby after one practice round because the conditions are hard and will get worse. 

It’s what I call car-wreck golf because spectators seem to enjoy watching pros crash and burn—it's like watching the Indy 500. 

This year, there are going to be some changes to the rough, changes to a few holes, and slower greens.  Whether this will make golfers less crabby is yet to be determined.     

 

The changes will make for some fun watching because some of the rough is going to be gone.  

What, you say? Rough gone at a US Open?  

Yes, gone.  Not all of it, though.

 

The USGA has decided to shave the holes next to the ocean. We presume they will be shaved to fairway height, but won’t really know until we get there. 

 

Whatever length it is, there won’t be grass to stop an errant ball from trickling off the course and down onto the beach below the sixth, eighth, and ninth holes.

The sixth is where Tiger Woods hit that Paul Bunyan-esque shot out of the hay in front of the green in 2000.  If he hits it there this year, it will roll into the ocean.  The fairway is moved right and the grass is cut down.  So buh-bye banana ball. 

At the eighth, a drive that’s too long will take a nosedive off the cliff and into the rocks below. 

On nine, it’s hello iceplant and beach that await on the right.  That will test the old sand game.

 

There will be some other missing rough, too.    On a few holes at least, the rough between the fairway and fairway bunkers is gone.  A ball hit toward the bunker won’t hold up in the grass.   Oops!

 

Now to other features.  The shortest par four will be the fourth, at 331 yards.   It will have some graduated rough, penalizing off target shots, but drivable for those who want to take the chance (Can you spell Phil Mickelson?).

There is a new tee on the 13th hole, which adds 46 yards in length.   In addition, there are new tees on nine and 10, to allow the holes to play like they did years ago, according to the USGA.  

For all we know, that could mean 1929 when Bobby Jones lost in an amateur, and Pebble Beach was banished from the USGA’s vocabulary for about 40 years. 

Pebble’s Poa annual greens—bumpy baby broccolis—will measure 11 to 11½ on the Stimpmeter. While this measure is comparatively slow, the USGA is worried that if they get the green speeds higher and encounter wind, the balls could blow off the greens (Thank goodness.  Shades of Shinnecock still haunt the halls of Far Hills, NJ.).

If the wind is anything like the final round in 1992, it could be enough to blow the hair follicles out of your scalp.   

The 18th is one hole that remains as is, although they may move the tees up and back to provide interest and challenge and to tempt golfers to go for the green in two, when it plays shorter.  

“Eighteen is nearly the same hole as the last four Opens,” said Mike Davis, USGA’s senior director of rules and competitions.  

Well, except that the pine tree that was in the middle died, and the replacement hasn’t reached maturity.  Still with a par five finish, the 18th will very likely be pivotal the difference between a victory and a crabby second place golfer.   

For the fifth U.S. Open hosted at Pebble Beach, the course will play as a par 71 at 7,040 yards, and now you know why they lengthened the 13th  by 46 yards.  Hard to justify a US Open course under 7,000 yards in today’s game. 

The length is 250 yards longer than in 2000, and short by US Open standards, particularly compared to recent monster long courses like Bethpage Black and Torrey Pines. Heck, it’s so short, the whole thing is no more than a drive and a wedge. 

Just kidding, USGA, just kidding. 

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