PEBBLE BEACH, February 9, 2012 — As I inhale cypress mixed with salty ocean air and merge that scent with the sound of sheer metal slicing through air, pinnacled with a compressed thwack, I know that I am someplace special. So special, in fact, that to even take in the greatness of this particular merging of land and sea, one must pay upward of five hundred and fifty dollars, subject themselves to rain and wind, not to mention a reasonable amount of frustration.
I do not have the money to thoroughly subject myself to such a peculiar blend of tranquility and torture, so usually my journey to this magical place begins and ends with a glass of wine at The Lodge. This lodge of course, is located on the 18th hole of The Pebble Beach Golf Links.
From across Ocean Avenue in Carmel visitors can glance at Pebble’s 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th holes, which stretch regally out across a sheer Cliffside that drops savagely off into the Pacific.
For a fee of roughly ten dollars, tourists can drive the seventeen-mile drive across Pebble, catching fleeting glimpses of many of the peninsula’s eight courses.
For thirty dollars a person, in addition to the ten to simply get onto the property, members of the public can play a nine-hole, par three executive course called Peter Hay, which, though it sits near the famous coastal masterpiece and is owned by the same property, is a far cry from the majesty of it’s big brother.
This week, Pebble Beach is home to the AT&T Pro Am. While I am eager to watch Tiger’s return to the tournament after a ten-year absence, Bill Murray and his ridiculous hats defend his title, and Bill Belichik try and regain some dignity after The Patriot’s Super Bowl loss, what I’m most excited about are the practice rounds the days before the tournaments.
On these particularly glorious days, true enthusiasts can actually to grace the rolling grasses of three of Pebble’s most noted golf courses: Monterey Peninsula Shore Course, Spyglass, and, of course, Pebble Beach itself.
I take in each hole as I walk along. Number six, an epic par five leads out towards the water is arresting in its nuance and scale. I look across the ocean at the beach where for years I’d looked at the very spot I now stand. The enthusiasm and optimism of golfers as they play their last drive from eighteen towards the lodge.
Tiger plays a quiet, unwatched round at Monterey Peninsula. Mike Weir peacefully contemplates putts on a putting clock. And OU football coach Bob Stoops crushes a drive off of the second hole on Pebble. When watched like this, these titans become simply men playing a game.
Watching these talents in their element, apart from the throngs of screaming fans, somehow makes these legendary courses feels in a strange way, less magical and more real.
From now on, when I watch tournaments from the comfort of home, I will know that the place where these golfers are playing actually does exist and isn’t some surreal exit from reality. From now on these golfers won’t feel like characters in my favorite filmsset in mythical locations. Somehow I have an even greater apprecaition for the game of golf, which has become for me even more beautiful and challenging.
I’m thinking if I put away twenty dollars a month for thirty months, that I too could play this course just like these guys. And while I save, I’d have plenty of time to practice.
As I watch a young pro sail a drive from the tee box over the green on the seventh hole and into the Pacific, followed immediately by another ball meeting the same fate, that has me reconsidering. Maybe I’ll save ten bucks a month for six years. Two years at my skill level seems a little too soon to face off with this mighty merging of land and sea.
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