Among the top 100 courses you can play the heavyweight contest comes down to Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill (notwithstanding Golf Magazine’s erroneous listing of Pacific Dunes Number 1). These two courses, situated within the magnificent boundaries of 17 Mile Drive, are unparalleled in their natural setting and are frequently the subject of debate between golf addicts such as myself. It is not uncommon for players to tell me they prefer Spyglass Hill. They are, of course wrong. Spyglass Hill is a top five course in my book, but does not compare with Pebble Beach. Here is the tale of the tape:
Par 3’s: Pebble’s short No 7 is better than Spyglass’s 15. Collectively, Pebble’s 5, 12 and 17, are better than 3, 5 and 12 at Spyglass. Except for Number 5, all of the Spyglass Hill’s par 3’s are short and downhill. (Advantage Pebble)
Best Par 5: Arguably Number 18 at Pebble Beach is one of the most dramatic holes in the world. I really like number 1 at Spyglass, but it is not in the same league. (Advantage Pebble)
Starting Hole: No contest, Spyglass Number 1 is terrific and Pebble Number 1 is pedestrian, although the tee shot in front of the large crowd can really get the adrenaline going. (Advantage Spyglass)
Finishing Hole: Again, no contest, Pebble 18 is the perfect way to end a round. The Spyglass Par 4 is just another long, uphill hole. (Advantage Pebble)
Toughest Holes: Subject to some disagreement, I think Pebble Number 8 is the most difficult on that course, with Spyglass Number 16 being a real bear. (Tie)
History: Pebble Beach is featured more often on the pro tours, and regularly hosts a major, giving this course the edge. (Advantage Pebble)
Walkability: I have walked Spyglass Hill several times, and it is a chore. Pebble Beach is the best walking course I know, with the caddies adding to the enjoyment. (Advantage Pebble)
Environment: Spyglass is a truly amazing place, however, Pebble Beach is much more photogenic; especially around Stillwater Cove. Generally Spyglass is only good for deer sightings, while Pebble also offers the aquatic animals, including sea lions, seals, otters and dolphins, as well as the occasional whale. (Advantage Pebble)
Surrounding Housing: (Usually prefer none). There are fewer homes visible on Spyglass, which is typically good, however, some of the most amazing real estate borders Pebble Beach. (Slight Advantage Pebble)
Condition: Both courses get excessive play but are typically in good condition. I find the fairways at Pebble Beach to be a bit thin, with better lies at Spyglass. (Slight advantage to Spyglass)
I love playing Spyglass Hill, however, a consideration of all relevant factors can only lead to the conclusion that Pebble Beach is the superior venue. (Note: I did not discuss cost, although both are very expensive). The good news is that you can play both during the same vacation. Packages sold through the Pebble Beach Resort will put you on both facilities and you can compare for yourself. For all you contrarians feel free to make your arguments on my Twitter account. They will be duly noted and ignored.
Weekly Observation: So much hand wringing over the Ryder Cup, but Europe had the superior players this year. The result was not a surprise. Not sure “Zinger” could have done any better as captain.
By Paul Laubach
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He is in the process of completing the story of his journey to play America’s top 100 courses. Please visit this website regularly for more (im)practical information.