PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - This summer ushers in an unprecedented run of championship golf on the famed Monterey Peninsula.
Think of all the history on the Pebble Beach Golf Links. The 1-iron by Jack Nicklaus that hit the flagstick on No. 17 at the 1972 U.S. Open. Tom Watson's chip-in on the same hole at the 1982 U.S. Open. The record 15-shot victory by Tiger Woods in 2000.
Ignore all that, for a minute. This next decade is, without a doubt, the "golden era of competitive golf" at Pebble Beach, starting with the 2018 U.S. Amateur on Aug. 13-19, the first of four high-profile championships run by the United States Golf Association, including the 2019 U.S. Open, the 2023 U.S. Women's Open and the 2027 U.S. Open. The women's open will be the resort's first.
Already hosting the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February and the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee, a Champions Tour event every September, it's a packed calendar for the country's most famous public course.
The entire resort is nearly ready to throw one whale of an extended party. An ambitious property-wide improvement project will be completed in time for the 2019 U.S. Open next June to celebrate the resort's 100th anniversary. The Am will serve as the appetizer to the main meal, the resort's sixth U.S. Open. Setting up the course for 312 of the best amateur players - many college players on the brink of pro careers - will provide vital intel for Pebble's first U.S. Open since 2010.
"Not very often in our history do you get the opportunity to have the United States Amateur and the U.S. Open (on the same course) in back-to-back years," said Ben Kimball, the USGA's tournament director for the U.S. Amateur. "I would be lying if I didn't tell you what we are going to see this August is going to tell us how we are going to prepare for June of 2019. We wouldn't be doing ourselves any justice if we didn't learn a lot by how the amateur players choose to play Pebble Beach and use it to our advantage."
2018 U.S. Amateur
The 118th U.S. Amateur will be the fifth (1929, 1947, 1961 and 1999) at Pebble Beach, the most notable being Jack Nicklaus winning in 1961. The last time the U.S. Amateur was played at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill Golf Course, the championship drew 9,720 entries, the most in championship history, a number that could be topped before qualifying starts around the country later this summer. The Am winner and runner-up will be fully exempt to return for the 2019 U.S. Open.
Golf fans can participate in the event three different ways. Walking the fairways of Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill without ropes will be a rare opportunity. Tickets cost $25 daily and $75 weekly.
New this year is the U.S. Amateur Challenge, where everyday golfers can compete in a tournament concurrent with the U.S. Amateur. Participants will play one round at Spyglass Hill and one round on the Links at Spanish Bay. The low 60 teams will advance to the final round at Pebble Beach while the rest of the field will play a second round at Spyglass. The entry fee of $5,500 per player includes three nights at The Inn at Spanish Bay, three rounds of golf and special amenities. For more information, visit the tournament website.
The USGA is also seeking more than 450 volunteers for assignments, such as walking scorers, marshals, standard bearers, transportation, admissions and more. Participants must purchase a Volunteer Apparel Package for $100, which includes one U.S. Amateur golf shirt, pullover and hat; a credential valid for all seven days of the championship; one guest credential; a meal voucher for each assigned shift; and one complimentary round and one $35 discounted guest round at the Del Monte Golf Course, the oldest course west of the Mississippi.
Upgrades at the resort
For those who haven't been to Pebble Beach in a while - or ever - there are some dramatic changes taking place.
Most noticeable is the Fairway One at the Lodge, a series of three two-story buildings along the left side of the first fairway of Pebble Beach. Each building, debuting in August of 2017, offers 10 luxurious guestrooms. Two standalone four-bedroom cottages were built with buddy trips in mind but can also service corporate functions and bridal parties.
All 454 guestrooms around the resort have been renovated. Expanded windows and outdoor patios and decks that have doubled in size enhanced the views of Stillwater Cove for guests staying in the 98-room Lodge. The addition of air conditioning and 55-inch HD TVs are welcome modern conveniences. All new furnishings and decorative touches are part of the transformation inside the rooms at the Inn at Spanish Bay.
Two former bank buildings near the visitor parking for the Lodge and shops at Pebble Beach are being transformed into a visitor's center, where guests can learn more about the history of 17-Mile Drive, which has collected a toll for more than a century; the resort and the surrounding Del Monte Forest.
The course itself at Pebble Beach has been tinkered with since the last U.S. Open as well, although the pros already know it well from the AT&T. Four greens (holes 9, 13, 14, and 17) and three tees (4, 6 and 12) have been rebuilt, a lost bunker left of the 13th green was reclaimed and the new driving range at the Pebble Beach Golf Academy & Practice Facility added in 2014 improves the preparation and logistics for players.
The emergence of a slew of strong modern resorts have stolen some of the limelight from Pebble Beach in recent years. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon. Streamsong Resort in Florida. Sand Valley Golf Resort in Wisconsin. Cabot Links/Cabot Cliffs in Atlantic Canada. They're all good, but the next decade should signal the triumphant return of golf's original king.