PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- I've said it a hundred times or more: There are three courses every avid golfer should have on their bucket list: Augusta National, the Old Course at St. Andrews and Pebble Beach Golf Links.
These are the most recognized, iconic venues in the world. We know all the holes, they have great history and, in the case of Pebble Beach, it's located on one of the most spectacular landscapes and seascapes in the world.
The best part is that Pebble Beach -- as well as St. Andrews -- is accessible by anyone. You just have to have the money. Augusta National? Good luck.
Of course, many say Pebble Beach, which play host to the U.S. Open for a sixth time in 2019, might as well be inaccessible as expensive as it is to play.
Which is why I'm going to break it down for you: It doesn't necessarily have to cost thousands of dollars to play Pebble, and you might be surprised to learn that the Pebble Beach green fee really isn't all that much higher than the Old Course (about $275 with a caddie), especially when you consider that you have to cross the pond (for our North American readers).
Pebble Beach green fee: Almost $500 and rising
Yes, the green fee for Pebble is $495, which it's been for the better part of the last decade, and it will go up to $525 starting Oct. 1, 2016. There was a time, of course, that it was quite affordable. Back in the '70s, you could play it for less than $100, but that was then.
Of course, the caveat is that the five-bill green fee is just the beginning. There's a requirement that you stay two nights at one of the Pebble Beach properties to get on Pebble Beach if you book it in advance of two days or more. But what many don't know is that you can book a tee time a day out without staying at Pebble Beach.
There's risk to that strategy, of course. If you're planning a trip to Pebble Beach and don't book in advance, you could get there and not be able to get a tee time. But if you're a single, and there are no events the following day, chances are pretty good you're going to get on. If you have a foursome, it's a little more dicey but not impossible.
Your strategy, believe it or not, might be to look toward some holidays. The guys in the golf shop tell me that holidays are usually more open than non-holidays. One of the reasons may be that people assume that's a bad time to come to Pebble Beach. Another reason is that people tend to do non-golf stuff -- family gatherings, for example -- on holidays, which opens up the tee sheet. Plus, it's less likely that Pebble Beach Golf Links would stage tournaments or events on those days.
Video: Matt Ginella's tips on how to play Pebble Beach
To be safe, book the complete Pebble Beach experience
Of course, if money is no object, I like the stay-and-play options. Spend the money, stay at the resort and play a couple more courses. Spyglass Hill is one of my favorites in the world, so that makes a great 1-2 punch. Add in the Links at Spanish Bay and the new Poppy Hills Golf Course, and you've really got something.
There are three options for staying at Pebble Beach -- the Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero.
The last one starts at $975 per night, excluding taxes and resort fees, but it's definitely the most opulent. The former mansion acquired by the Pebble Beach Co. in 1994 is an intimate, Mediterranean-style estate that features 24 private rooms and suites, each with wood-burning fireplaces, over-sized tubs and mostly king beds. Overlooking the first and second fairways of Pebble Beach Golf Links, Casa Palmero is just a few steps away from The Spa at Pebble Beach.
The next level is the Lodge, starting at $815 per night for a Garden View up to $4,100 per night for the two-bedroom Sloat Suite, and those digs, located along the 18th hole, are pretty special, too. Or you can stay at the relatively economical Inn at Spanish Bay for $695 per night for a Garden View room.
For the fall of 2016, Pebble Beach is offering two nights at the Lodge at Pebble Beach and rounds of golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Links at Spanish Bay or Spyglass Hill plus a $100 resort credit for $2,495. Or if you stay at the Inn at Spanish Bay, it's $2,095. Visitors booking this package also have the option of getting two more nights at 20 percent off plus a complimentary round at either Spanish Bay or Spyglass Hill.
But you might want to try a tour operator or agent as well. They don't get discounted tee times at Pebble, but apparently they work deals on the hotel rooms. They can often save you some money on packages that include multiple courses.
For example, I found a deal on the Internet offering a package that included two nights at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, one round each at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill for a little more than $1,900 per person, double occupancy. These deals change all the time, so your best bet is to look often.
As for booking your own reservations, call Pebble Beach at (800) 654-9300, even if you're just booking a round at Pebble beach a day out.
Editor's note: This story was updated on Sept. 7, 2016